Boris Johnson faced fresh calls for his resignation from Conservative MPs on Monday night after it emerged that police are investigating 12 parties in Downing Street during lockdown, including one in his private flat.
The Metropolitan Police said they were examining more than 300 photographs from the events, including a “bring your own booze” gathering in the Downing Street garden the prime minister has admitted attending.
Cabinet office official Sue Gray gave Mr Johnson an “update” on her investigation into the parties, but said she could not publish her full report until after the police had done their work.
“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify,” she said.
“At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”
In a statement to the House of Commons Mr Johnson said he was sorry for what had happened, and he announced a reorganisation of Downing Street that will see a new office of the prime minister headed by a top-level civil servant.
But former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said he no longer had confidence in him, and Theresa May said the public had a right to expect the prime minister to know the rules, to understand them and to follow them.
“What the Gray report does show is that Number 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right honourable friend had not read the rules, or did not understand what they meant –and others around him – or they did not think the rules applied to Number 10. Which was it?” she said.
The events being investigated by police include Mr Johnson’s birthday party in the cabinet room and a Christmas party in 2020 and two parties in Downing Street on the night before Prince Philip’s funeral last year. The party in Mr Johnson’s flat was held hours after his former aide Dominic Cummings left Downing Street and has been described as a celebration of his departure.
Under questioning from MPs Mr Johnson refused a number of times to commit to publishing Ms Gray’s full report after the police investigation is completed. But he reversed his position when he met the entire Conservative parliamentary party on Monday night, telling them he would release all her findings.
Mr Johnson received a lukewarm reception from his MPs but it remained unclear on Monday night if the required number of 54 were ready to call for a no confidence vote in his leadership.
“They know better than anyone how unsuitable he is for high office. Many of them knew in their hearts that we would inevitably come to this moment. And they know that as night follows day, continuing his leadership will mean further misconduct, cover-up, and deceit.
“It is only they who can end this farce. The eyes of the country are upon them. They will be judged on the decisions they take now,” he said.
Separately, foreign secretary Liz Truss said she had tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday night and will miss a diplomatic trip to Ukraine on Tuesday. Ms Truss appeared in the Commons without wearing a mask on Monday, and later attended the parliamentary party meeting.