Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has suggested the public doesn't care about the lockdown parties scandal, saying the continued focus on the row is Westminster “navel-gazing”.
Raab, speaking on LBC on Sunday, complained the Partygate scandal has been a “distraction” from “national issues”.
Partygate has seen police probe 12 lockdown gatherings in and around Downing Street, with Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak having been fined for attending one of those events in June 2020.
The row, in addition to scandals involving certain Tory MPs - as well as the cost of living crisis - contributed to a difficult set of local elections for Johnson this week, with the Conservatives losing control of key councils and suffering a net loss of more than 400 councillors.
Recent YouGov research also found eight in 10 Britons consider Johnson a liar over Partygate.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Tory candidates in the local elections branded themselves as “Local Conservatives” in order to distance themselves from the series of Westminster scandals.
But asked about this, Raab said: “There’s no doubt that stuff in Westminster has been a distraction from the very positive message… things like Partygate and frankly any of the navel-gazing that we see where the Westminster village is talking about itself, to itself.
“Clearly Partygate has been a distraction from us focusing on the national issues.
“We’ve got to get rid of those distractions.”
Watch: Beer Starmer v Boris: have the tables turned?
Earlier on Sunday, Raab had rounded on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s personal lockdown scandal, centred around beer and curry with aides at a campaign event in Durham in April last year, when indoor socialising was banned.
Appearing on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Raab accused Starmer - who called for Johnson and Sunak's resignations following their fines - of “rank double standards that drive people crazy”.
“He needs to fess up and answer all of the holes in the account that he gave for that beer and curry event in Durham,” Raab said.