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Boris Johnson today suffered the first Government resignation following this week’s release of the damning Partygate report.
Paul Holmes quit his Home Office role as he lashed out at the ‘distasteful’ and ‘toxic’ culture in Number 10 that Sue Gray’s report uncovered.
The Eastleigh MP, who had been a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Home Secretary Priti Patel, claimed there was now ‘a deep distrust in both the Government and the Conservative Party’ due to the Partygate scandal.
His resignation came at almost the same time as the Prime Minister insisted he was confident he retained the backing of his party in the wake of Ms Gray’s 37-page document.
Mr Johnson also pointed to his ‘pretty vintage and exhaustive answers’ on the Partygate report earlier this week, as he swerved further questions on the details of Ms Gray’s findings on a visit to Stockton-on-Tees.
But the the PM has been warned he is still not out of danger over Partygate. And a new poll revealed Labour have opened up their largest lead over the Conservatives since the start of the Ukraine war.
Eastleigh MP Paul Holmes quit his Home Office role as he lashed out at the ‘distasteful’ culture in Number 10 that Sue Gray’s report uncovered
Boris Johnson today insisted he was confident he retained the backing of the Tory party in the wake of Sue Gray’s report
Mr Holmes is one of the Tory MPs first elected to Parliament in 2019, as part of Mr Johnson’s landslide election victory.
He previously worked as a special adviser to Theresa May’s deputy, Damian Green, as well as ex-education secretary Damian Hinds.
In a statement on his website announcing his resignation, Mr Holmes said he had been ‘shocked and angered’ by the revelations about Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street.
He revealed the ‘distress’ of the last few weeks had caused him to decide to ‘focus solely’ on his efforts as an MP and to relinquish his role as a ministerial aide.
The 33-year-old also said it was ‘distressing’ that his work on behalf of his Hampshire constituents ‘has been tarnished by the toxic culture that seemed to have permeated Number 10’.
‘I am disappointed that all of this has taken a great deal of time away from the good work that Government has been doing and should be continuing to do, including dealing with the issue of the cost of living, focusing on our economic recovery and delivering for the people of Eastleigh and the wider country,’ he added.
Although Mr Johnson this week declared he had been ‘vindicated’ by Sue Gray’s report into Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street, there is continuing angst among Mr Johnson’s MPs about the senior civil servant’s findings.
Ex-Cabinet minister Sir Robert Buckland, a former top law officer, told Mr Johnson he was ‘wrong’ to claim it had been his ‘duty’ as PM to attend boozy leaving dos for Downing Street staff during the pandemic.
The ex-justice secretary also put the PM on notice that MPs would be eagerly awaiting the results of a further investigation into whether Mr Johnson lied to the House of Commons, when he previously insisted all Covid rules had been followed in Number 10.
Following the publication of Ms Gray’s report – which found Downing Street parties had lasted until 4am, drunken attendees had thrown up, and there was even a fight between staff – five Conservative MPs have called for Mr Johnson to quit.
A new survey by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, conducted immediately following the release of Ms Gray’s report, found Labour had opened up a nine-point lead over the Tories
Sir Keir Starmer has now seen his party enjoy a poll lead over the Tories for almost six months, with Labour having retaken the lead in December when the Partygate scandal first erupted
Ex-Cabinet minister Sir Robert Buckland told the PM he was ‘wrong’ to claim it had been his ‘duty’ to attend boozy leaving dos for Downing Street staff during the pandemic
However, despite the PM’s defiance, many Tory MPs are likely to be spooked by a growing poll lead for Labour following the release of Ms Gray’s damning 37-page document.
A new survey by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, conducted immediately following the release of Ms Gray’s report, found Labour had opened up a nine-point lead over the Tories.
Sir Keir Starmer’s party moved to 40 per cent support (up one point from the polling firm’s last Westminster voting intention survey) while the Tories fell two points to 31 per cent.
This is Labour’s largest lead since Russian began its brutal invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Sir Keir has also now seen his party enjoy a poll lead over the Tories for almost six months, with Labour having retaken the lead in December when the Partygate scandal first erupted.
The Liberal Democrats, who are aiming to take a number of ‘Blue Wall’ seats off the Conservatives at the next election, rose two points to 14 per cent and reached the highest voting intention score Redfield & Wilton have recorded.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s personal approval rating has also fallen to its lowest level since Russia’s invasion began by plummeting eight points to -28 per cent.
Sir Keir’s own approval rating has rebounded slightly but remains negative at -4 per cent.
Appearing on the BBC’s Question Time programme last night, Sir Robert said the PM was ‘wrong’ to claim it had been his ‘duty’ to say farewell to Downing Street colleagues at leaving dos throughout the pandemic.
‘We have seen that report, it was pretty damning and she (Ms Gray) didn’t pull her punches at all, as I thought she wouldn’t – she’s a very independent-minded person,’ the former Cabinet minister added.
‘She produced a very thorough and hard-hitting report.’
Sir Robert said he had given the issue of the PM’s position in No10 ‘a lot of anxious thought’ but pulled back – for now – from joining those Tory MPs calling for Mr Johnson to resign.
He added he ‘accepted’ Mr Johnson’s denial that he had deliberately lied to MPs over Partygate.
‘I asked him direct question on Wednesday, I asked him whether he’d deliberately lied to the Commons,’ Sir Robert told the programme.
‘He denied that he deliberately lied to the Commons. He’s given me a direct answer and I accept that answer.’
But Sir Robert also put Mr Johnson on notice that he would be keeping a keen eye on the findings of the Commons’ Privileges Committee, which is due to investigate whether the PM lied to Parliament.
‘What I would be interested to see is what happens with the Privileges Committee, who are going to look at that very issue,’ he added.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, the Privileges Committee chair, today confirmed he will stand down to allow the inquiry to go ahead.
He previously said he would recuse himself from the role as it was “important that the House be seen to proceed fairly without any imputation of unfairness” following his public criticism of the PM over Partygate.
Harriet Harman, the former Labour deputy leader, has been lined up to replace Mr Bryant as chair.
If the Privileges Committee finds Mr Johnson in contempt of Parliament, it could recommend he is forced to apologise, suspended from the Commons, or even expelled.
Any sanction would need to be approved in a vote by all MPs.