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Douglas Ross: Boris Johnson must quit if he misled Parliament over Christmas party

Boris Johnson with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross during a previous visit to Moray

Boris Johnson must resign as prime minister if he misled MPs over a Christmas Party at Downing Street, according to Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

The Moray MP said there was a “party of sorts” for staff at Number 10 on December 18 last year and there should be “strong action” against anyone found to have broken Covid rules.

“If the prime minister knew about this party last December, knew about this party last week, and was still denying it, then that is the most serious allegation,” Mr Ross said.

“There is absolutely no way you can mislead parliament and think you could get off with that. No one should continue in their post if they mislead parliament in that way.”

Mr Ross’s intervention – the strongest yet from any Conservative politician – comes after his predecessor as Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, described attempts to explain away the party as “not remotely defensible”.

And in another major development, the PM’s former spokeswoman Allegra Stratton stepped down from her current role for the government.

A leaked video from a practice press briefing filmed four days after the Number 10 party shows Ms Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield, along with other aides, joking about whether it took place.

It features senior staff laughing about the “cheese and wine” evening, including reports it included alcohol and a Secret Santa present-giving.

Mr Johnson apologised for the footage during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday but insisted there was no party and no Covid rules were broken.

‘Absolutely’ against Covid rules

Mr Ross said that from what he had seen “there was a party of sorts” and the prime minister has changed his story on the matter.

He said: “Clearly what we have seen over the last 12 hours or so with the video emerging, there are serious questions that need to be answered.

“Now, looking at what I have seen, there was a party of sorts.

“I don’t think you can get away from that, and there are questions to be answered on why that was allowed as it was absolutely against the guidance this time last year.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross is also an MSP.

Mr Ross said he was was not involved or invited to the party.

The Moray MP previously stood down as a Scotland office minister after the prime minister’s top aide, Dominic Cummings, travelled to Barnard Castle during lockdown.

He said: “Everyone made sacrifices last year; people didn’t meet in the same way at Christmas time, they didn’t see their families as they would normally. They followed the guidance in what was a united effort to get through this pandemic.

“If the people within Downing Street didn’t follow their own guidance then the appropriate action, and strong action, must be taken.”

The public deserves answers

Mr Ross said he still has confidence in the prime minister but noted statements he made last week “seem to be very different to the statements he is making this week, and the video evidence that has emerged since then”.

He repeatedly refused to say whether the row could – or should – cost the prime minister his job.

“That’s a really serious issue for everyone involved in whatever happened at Downing Street last December,” Mr Ross said.

“I am not shirking from this. The public deserve answers.

“They view this extremely dimly, they are understandably angry about the fact this has, in some way, been hidden since last year.”

Meanwhile, his predecessor Ms Davidson made her anger clear on social media.

She wrote: “None of this is remotely defensible.

“Not having busy, boozy not-parties while others were sticking to the rules, unable to visit ill or dying loved ones. Nor flat-out denying things that are easily provable. Not taking the public for fools.

“And today’s ‘we’ll investigate what we’ve spent a week saying didn’t happen and discipline staff for rules we continue to say weren’t broken’ was pathetic.

“As a Tory, I was brought up to believe in playing with a straight bat. Believe me, colleagues are furious at this, too.”

Scottish Conservatives say ‘serious questions’ must be addressed

A number of other senior Conservative figures have expressed anger at the handling of the situation and called for answers.

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie said he agrees with the assessment of his party leader Douglas Ross.

“The Government must act to address these serious questions,” he said.

“At a time when it’s entirely possible we may face more restrictions, the public needs to know that those at the top are following the same rules so we can focus on saving lives and protecting our NHS.”

Andrew Bowie, MP for Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has not publicly commented on the party but postponed his own Christmas drinks hours after Boris Johnson faced calls to quit.

Mr Jack had invited members of the media to Queen Elizabeth House in Edinburgh on December 16, where he would have expected to be quizzed over his support for the prime minister.

However, his plans were dropped on Wednesday morning. Mr Jack’s office confirmed they had decided to “postpone next week’s media drinks till the New Year”.

Mr Johnson apologised for the leaked video during prime minister’s questions and tried to head off a furious backlash by announcing a government probe into the celebration he had earlier denied happened.

Mr Johnson also appeared to turn focus on his own staff by telling MPs he is “furious” at the footage.

He told MPs: “I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.

“But I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken, and that is what I have been repeatedly assured.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the prime minister’s apology “raises more questions than answers”.

Mr Johnson looked down and shook his head as Sir Keir questioned whether he has the “moral authority” to ask people to abide by any further coronavirus restrictions.

In one pointed intervention, the Labour leader described how the Queen “sat alone when she marked the passing of the man she’d been married to for 73 years”.

“Leadership, sacrifice – that’s what gives leaders the moral authority to lead,” he said.

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