Call for Johnson to go for ‘partygate’ is ‘bonkeroony’, Gove
British communities secretary Michael Gove said it is “bonkeroony” to suggest prime minister Boris Johnson should have to resign over lockdown parties in Downing Street.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has pledged to stand down if he is fined for breaching Covid regulations after he was filmed last year drinking beer with staff in a party office in Durham.
While many in Westminster believe he had little choice after police reopened their investigation, the vow is also being seen as a way of putting pressure on the prime minister, who has already received one fixed penalty notice.
However, appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Gove insisted Mr Starmer’s decision does not affect Mr Johnson’s position.
While acknowledging the public anger over repeated rule-breaking in No 10, he said the prime minister deserves to be judged “in the round” for the way he dealt with the Covid crisis.
“For anyone who has suffered during Covid, the thought that others broke the rules is undeniably painful and difficult,” Mr Gove said. “But it is also the case that the prime minister was responsible for a series of very, very big decisions during the Covid crisis that meant we handled it better than many other countries.
“The idea that the prime minister should resign is bonkeroony. It is just not appropriate. That doesn’t diminish for a moment the pain that people endured and the fact that mistakes were made.
“Whatever Keir Starmer wants to say or do, that is a matter for him.”
Asked during a visit to Sweden if he was acting “dishonourably” by remaining in No 10 in the light of Mr Starmer’s pledge, Mr Johnson refused to be drawn.
“We have tried to move beyond all that,” he told a joint news conference with Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson. “I think we are trying to focus on the issues that really matter, not least Ukraine.”
While Mr Johnson has so far resisted calls to stand down, many Tories remain deeply unhappy over events in No 10 and the pressure could increase if he is fined again.
His position could also come under threat if the final report of Sue Gray, the civil servant who investigated Covid violations in Whitehall, is – as some fear – highly critical when it is published once police inquiries are complete.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson needs to “stop talking” and “let us see the action” in dealing with the cost-of-living crisis, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Ms Sturgeon said it is “not enough” for him to say the Queen’s Speech was about helping people to mitigate rising costs “when there was nothing in the speech that would actually deliver that”.
Ms Sturgeon said the steps taken so far by the UK government to assist households “fall way short of what is needed”.
She added: “There is an urgency here. People are struggling right now to feed their children, to heat their homes, and we know it’s going to get worse.”
Mr Johnson has come under fire over a lack of short-term measures in the Queen’s Speech to help people facing soaring costs. In response, he warned the Government cannot “completely shield” people from the rising cost of living.
Ms Sturgeon has suggested removing VAT from energy bills, increasing social security benefits and offering direct support to low-income households.