‘Sort it out, Boris, or step aside and let someone else sort it out’ says Tory Donor

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The Prime Minister is under intense pressure after revelations of an aide’s “bring your own booze” invite to No10 staff when gatherings were banned.

But support for the PM is still strong within the Conservative Party after delivering Brexit and winning the war against Covid, it was said.

Mr Johnson has been pressed to make clear whether he attended a boozy gathering in the Downing Street garden while lockdown restrictions were in force.

Senior Tories are desperate to refocus the Government on the Covid recovery amid expert predictions the UK is the closest of any country in the northern hemisphere to exiting the pandemic.

But several Tories yesterday joined the chorus of critics urging him to clarify the lockdown party position, without waiting for the result of a Cabinet Office inquiry into the allegations.

And a snap opinion poll by Savanta Comres suggested the row was seriously damaging his authority, with two-thirds of voters wanting him to quit.

Mr Johnson and his aides were last night thought to be working on a strategy to take the heat out of the row when he faces Prime Minister’s Questions today.

And one minister insisted: “The Prime Minister is going nowhere.”

But anger intensified yesterday after a Downing Street official confirmed that the PM’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds is staying in his role, despite sending an email inviting more than 100 people to “socially distanced drinks” in the No 10 garden.

He said guests should “bring your own booze” to the gathering on May 20 2020, when lockdown rules were in force across the country.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross led Tory criticism of the PM over the row.

Mr Ross said: “I’m angry. I think that reflects what people across Scotland and the UK are feeling right now.”

And he urged Mr Johnson to be clear about whether he attended the party immediately rather than wait for the report by an official inquiry headed by civil servant Sue Gray.

Mr Ross added: “Nothing would undermine what Sue Gray is trying to do, for the Prime Minister to come out and answer a very simple question – was he at the party or not?

“It’s definitely going to come up at Prime Minister’s Questions tomorrow, so why not come forward, right now, and tell the public – was he at the party or not?”

In a further warning shot, the Scottish Tory leader said: “I’m in no doubt that any member, whether the Prime Minister or otherwise, who deliberately misleads Parliament, cannot continue.

“They would have to resign and I’ve said that before now.”

Tory donor John Caudwell said last night: “Sort it out, Boris, or step aside and let someone else sort it out so that the Tories aren’t wiped out at the next election.

“It’s the perceived arrogance, hypocrisy and rule-breaking that is impossible to justify.

“Each one of these new revelations gives greater force to the accusation that areas of the Government think it’s one rule for them, one rule for the rest of us. This is disastrous.”

Antony Mullen, leader of the Sunderland Conservatives, said: “I think Martin Reynolds should have been sacked and I think Boris Johnson will inevitably have to follow him.

“I can’t see how he can continue. I think this is such an atrocity. I can’t see how he can survive.”

Tory MPs overwhelmingly stayed away from a Commons clash over the issue following an Urgent Question tabled by Labour.

In a worrying sign for the PM, no cabinet ministers attended the debate to show their support.

Paymaster General Michael Ellis, the junior minister ordered to answer the Urgent Question, endured a torrid 80 minutes of opposition attacks during the session.

He told MPs: “The Prime Minister is going nowhere. The Prime Minister retains the confidence of the people of this country and he did so two years ago with the biggest majority in decades.”

Mr Ellis repeatedly said the allegations were being investigated.

A string of opposition MPs tore into the PM over the row, many citing heart-rending stories of constituents and relatives forced apart from loved ones by obeying lockdown rules.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “There’s no need for an investigation into the simple central question today – did the Prime Minister attend the event in the Downing Street garden on May 20, 2020?

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“This was organised in advance, so did the Prime Minister know about the event beforehand and did he give his permission for it go ahead?”

DUP MP Jim Shannon choked back tears when speaking about the death of his mother-in-law. He said: “In Northern Ireland we reached the milestone of 3,000 deaths due to Covid just last week. Including my mother-in-law, who died alone.”

Sir Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, said Mr Johnson will now want to prove to his critics that he is up to the job.

He said: “I think the Prime Minister needs to spend the next six months restoring trust in No 10 and making some good and strong decisions. I think that is the challenge for him.

“I think the Prime Minister is a fighter and he’ll want to prove to his doubters that he is up to the job.”

Meanwhile, a Downing Street insider has claimed aides were “furious” that the drinks took place and that senior members of staff tried to have the event called off.

Senior political staff intervened to prevent more social events at No 10, such as leaving parties, going ahead, according to reports last night.

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