Scottish Tory leader withdraws call for Boris Johnson to resign over Partygate

Scottish Tory leader withdraws call for Boris Johnson to resign over Partygate
‘Backbone of a jellyfish’: Move reduces threat to prime minister’s position

The Partygate threat to Boris Johnson’s position has receded after Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross withdraw his demand for the prime minister to resign.

The Moray MP was the highest-ranking Conservative to call for Mr Johnson to go after a spate of allegations of lockdown-breaching parties at 10 Downing Street during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He was branded a “lightweight” by Johnson loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg, but won the backing of his group of MSPs at Holyrood.

But he today said that the international crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “not the time to be discussing resignations”.

The humiliating climbdown came just hours after it was confirmed that Mr Johnson will attend next week’s Scottish Tory conference to speak to delegates about the war in Ukraine.

It makes more remote the prospect of reaching the threshold of 54 MPs’ letters required to trigger a no-confidence vote in Mr Johnson’s leadership, even if the ongoing Metropolitan Police inquiry results in a fine for the PM.

Opposition parties derided Mr Ross for his decision, accusing the Scottish Conservative leader of having “the backbone of a jellyfish”.

Mr Ross said: “The middle of an international crisis is not the time to be discussing resignations, unless it’s the removal from office of Vladimir Putin.

“There will be a time and place to debate Partygate but, as even [Labour leader] Keir Starmer said at the weekend, we should put that on pause while there is war in Europe.

“It’s essential that we all fully support what the UK government is doing.

“In light of Russia’s appalling actions, the government and prime minister need our backing, and they have mine and the whole Scottish Conservative party.

“We should all be focused on what we can do to help the Ukrainian people in any capacity.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “We are right to be defending democracy in Ukraine, but that doesn’t mean we stop doing democracy at home.

“This is a prime minister that has broken his own laws and shown contempt for the people of the UK.

“Douglas Ross should not be using the Ukraine crisis to go back on his principles.

“He knows Boris Johnson is not fit to be prime minister.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said: “Douglas Ross and the Scottish Conservatives have the backbone of a jellyfish.

“Their limited welcome betrays a deep embarrassment that they are lumbered with a prime minister that they are ashamed of because of his double standards over parties in Downing Street.

“It is difficult to change prime minister in the midst of an international crisis when we should be focusing on assisting the people of Ukraine, but he should have been gone long before now.”