Boris Johnson’s defence was ‘ridiculous’ but enough for him to survive – until next week

The prime minister said he thought the party was a ‘work event’ and he was sorry, which got him through his 45 painful minutes in the Commons, writes John Rentoul

Wednesday 12 January 2022 15:05
<p>It was significant that not a single Tory MP asked a critical question about lockdown-breaking parties</p>

It was significant that not a single Tory MP asked a critical question about lockdown-breaking parties

The first Conservative MP I spoke to after Prime Minister’s Questions said they thought Boris Johnson’s defence was not enough to save him. Admittedly this MP is not a supporter of the prime minister, but they were convinced that the “emails and the messages” between Tory MPs will be negative: “How can he survive another PMQs like that?”

The prime minister has handed great power to Sue Gray, the civil servant investigating the possible breach of lockdown rules by Downing Street parties. He may think that he is safe because he knows that an impartial civil servant will not want to bring down an elected politician, but the danger for him is that her report will be inconclusive and therefore questions will continue to be asked, and Tory MPs will increasingly decide that the game is up.

Johnson did the only thing he could today, which was to say that he believed the drinks in the Downing Street garden was a “work event”, but that he should have realised it was a bad idea and “sent everyone inside” – and to apologise profusely. After that, he had two answers to every question, which was to repeat his apology and ask people to wait until the inquiry had reported.

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