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Should Boris Johnson resign? New Forest MP Sir Desmond Swayne to 'reflect on it further'

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A NEW Forest MP has given lukewarm backing to the Prime Minister after his apology in the House of Commons for attending a party at Number 10 during lockdown.

At question time today (Wednesday), Boris Johnson said sorry about the "bring your own bottle" drinks function he turned up to on 20th May 2020 – but claimed he had thought it was a work event.

His statement sparked calls from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for the Prime Minister to stand down.

Sir Desmond Swayne (photo: parliament.tv)
Sir Desmond Swayne (photo: parliament.tv)

When Sir Desmond Swayne, a Conservative, was asked by the A&T whether Mr Johnson should resign after his explanation, the New Forest West MP said he would need to "reflect on it further".

Sir Desmond said: "It was a fulsome apology. We will need to reflect on it further and assess it in the light of the full report of the inquiry, when we see it."

Mr Johnson has urged MPs to wait until the report is published by senior civil servant Sue Gray who is investigating a string of alleged rule-breaking events in Whitehall.

Mr Johnson told the Commons: "Number 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

"When I went into that garden just after six on 20th May 2020 to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.

"With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.

"I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies."

The A&T has also asked for reaction from Tory MPs Julian Lewis, of New Forest East, and Chris Chope, of Christchurch.

During an urgent question on the same issue in the Commons on Tuesday, Sir Chris asked: "Why cannot all the dirty linen be washed at once? Why are we getting this drip-feed of parties?

"Surely the civil service must have known that there was a party on 20th May and should have referred that already to the inquiry."

Responding for the government, Paymaster General Michael Ellis said he made a "good point", adding: "The reality is that we have a number of dates that have come out at different times.

"That will presumably have the effect of delaying matters, but we have commissioned the terms of reference of the investigation, which I told this House about on 9th December."

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