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Douglas Ross admits Boris Johnson should quit… but only after Ukraine war is over

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in Downing Street.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in Downing Street.

Douglas Ross has been urged to “salvage any remnant of self-respect” and call for Boris Johnson to resign, after a damning report laid bare a culture of excessive drinking and Covid rule breaking in Downing Street.

The Scottish Conservative leader appeared to shift his position once again on Wednesday as he said the prime minister should stand down when the war in Ukraine is over.

But Mr Ross’s political rivals said he should “grow a backbone” and make moves now to help boot Boris Johnson out of Number 10.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

A long-awaited report from senior civil servant Sue Gray into the so-called partygate scandal earlier found Mr Johnson and his staff repeatedly held gatherings during the pandemic, despite it being against the law.

It said many events “should not have been allowed to happen” and senior leadership “must bear responsibility for this culture”.

‘We seem to have got away with it’

There was evidence of excessive drinking, with wine spilled on walls, one staff member being sick and two more becoming involved in a “minor altercation”.

Ms Gray noted “multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff”.

She found senior figures ignored multiple warnings that the gatherings were against Covid rules and appeared at times to take action to hide them from the public.

This includes a December 2020 Christmas quiz where staff were asked to leave via the back exit to avoid press photographers.

On another occasion, Mr Johnson’s key aide Martin Reynolds ignored a request to cancel a “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street garden as it posed “somewhat of a comms risk”.

Mr Reynolds, who has since left Downing Street, later told an unnamed adviser “we seem to have got away with” it.

Flip flopping over call to quit

Mr Ross had called for Boris Johnson to resign when his involvement in the partygate scandal first emerged.

But he reversed that position just days before the prime minister appeared at the Scottish Conservative conference, citing the war in Ukraine as his reason.

Speaking on Wednesday following the publication of the Sue Gray report, Mr Ross insisted the prime minister does not have his “unqualified support”.

He said: “I did say the prime minister’s position was untenable back in January and the only thing for me that’s changed since then is the war in Ukraine.

“I understand and accept some people don’t agree with that position.

“As recently as yesterday, we heard from President Zelensky about the crucial phase we’re in at the moment and how he’s seeing more and more attacks in Mariupol, how that city is being destroyed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross at the Scottish Conservative Conference

“I want to ensure that we continue to have as much support for President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine, and I don’t think we provide them with that support if we de-stabilise the UK by removing the prime minister and going into a very long election battle to find a replacement.”

After being asked repeatedly if Boris Johnson should resign when the war in Ukraine is over, Mr Ross said: “Yes, then I think he should step down.”

‘He needs to grow a backbone’

Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar was among those urging the Scottish Tory leader  to resubmit a letter of no confidence to help spark a leadership contest.

Mr Sarwar said: “If he fails to call for Boris Johnson to go, then his claim to be the defender of the United Kingdom is blown out the water.

“He needs to grow a backbone and boot out Boris Johnson.”

ernie ross
Labour’s Anas Sarwar.

SNP MSP Graeme Dey said Mr Ross risks “losing control of his own party” after Alexander Stewart, Maurice Golden and Brian Whittle called for the PM to quit.

“Boris Johnson’s actions are disgraceful,” Mr Dey said.

“If Douglas Ross has a shred of credibility left, he will agree that the prime minister’s time is up and he will call for his resignation.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton described it as a “defining moment” for Mr Ross’s leadership as he too called on him to “grow a backbone”.

Greens MSP Gillian Mackay said if Mr Ross “wishes to salvage any remnant of self-respect, he must end his pathetic equivocation and resubmit his letter calling for Johnson to go”.

PM ‘takes responsibility’ but doesn’t quit

Mr Johnson said he “overwhelmingly” believes he should remain in office despite public anger over partygate.

He said he takes “full responsibility” for the scandal but sought to play down his personal involvement in the gatherings on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: “I understand why people are indignant and why people have been angry at what took place.”

But pressed whether he ever considered resigning, he responded: “I overwhelmingly feel it is my job to get on and deliver.

“No matter how bitter and painful that the conclusions of this may be – and they are – and no matter how humbling they are, I have got to keep moving forward and the Government has got to keep moving.”

DEREK HEALEY: Will changing his mind on Boris Johnson be Douglas Ross’s biggest mistake?

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