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Boris Johnson has been described as a “dead man walking” by a senior Tory following his admission that he attended a party in Downing Street during lockdown.
During an appearance at PMQs on Wednesday, the prime minister apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of No 10 for 25 minutes during England’s first lockdown in May 2020.
Johnson acknowledged the public “rage” and said senior official Sue Gray should be allowed to complete her inquiry into parties at Downing Street “so that the full facts can be established”.
However, senior Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale said it was already clear that Johnson misled parliament and that politically he was a “dead man walking”.
Gale, a longstanding critic of the prime minister, said he did not expect Johnson to resign and it would fall to the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee – the so-called “men in grey suits” – to decide his fate.
He told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “We now know that the prime minister spent 25 minutes at what was quite clearly a party. That means that he misled the House.
“I fear that it is now going to have to be the work of the 1922 (Committee) to determine precisely how we proceed.
“If you look at the Twittersphere after prime minister’s question time today, it sounds to me I am afraid very much as though politically the prime minister is a dead man walking.”
Watch: Johnson apologises and admits attending No 10 'bring your own booze' event
Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings twisted the knife further and said the PM’s excuse that he thought the event was within the rules was “bulls**t”.
Cummings, now a prominent critic of the PM, said he had objected to the invitation sent by No 10’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds because it was obviously a social event, not work.
On Twitter he said that Johnson’s “technically within the rules” excuse was because the alternative was to admit that he had broken the rules and resign.
Reynolds invited colleagues to “socially distanced drinks” on 20 May 2020 to “make the most of the lovely weather” – urging them to “bring your own booze”.
He admitted that he attended the 20 May, 2020 gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff”, adding that he “believed implicitly that this was a work event”.
Johnson has faced growing Tory anger over the situation and Cabinet minister Simon Hart acknowledged it is damaging the party and the running of government.
“There’s a lot of frustration and bafflement about all of this, and I completely understand,” the Welsh secretary said.
“I’ve not met anybody who is not deeply, deeply conscious of the effect that this has on people’s attitudes to not just the political party … but the government and the smooth running of the nation.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the prime minister to resign and highlighted the case of Hannah Brady, whose father Shaun died aged 55 after contracting COVID.
Starmer explained how Johnson had met Brady in the same Downing Street garden where the lockdown-busting party was held.
Watch: Starmer demands Johnson apologise to daughter of COVID victim he met in No 10 garden