PM should stay on despite Sue Gray report, Scottish Tory leader says

·4 min read
PM should stay on despite Sue Gray report, Scottish Tory leader says

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has said Prime Minister Boris Johnson should stay in post despite Sue Gray’s report.

The senior civil servant’s report, released on Wednesday, gave details of gatherings at which officials drank so much they were sick, sang karaoke, became involved in altercations and abused security and cleaning staff at a time when millions of people across the country were unable to see friends and family.

Ms Gray said “senior leadership” within Number 10 should “bear responsibility” for the culture which led to parties being held during 2020 and 2021.

In a statement to the House of Commons following its publication, the Prime Minister said he was “humbled”, but attempted to play down his personal involvement, which resulted in the Met Police issuing him with a fine before the report was released.

He was then backed to stay in post on Wednesday by Mr Ross, who cited the need for stability at the top of government as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I’ve said previously, that the Prime Minister’s position was untenable, and I’ve only changed that because of the situation in Ukraine,” the Scottish leader told the PA news agency.

“Sadly, since the report has been published, the situation in Ukraine has not changed.”

Mr Ross previously submitted a letter of no confidence to the backbench 1922 committee when the partygate scandal broke, but rescinded it following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

Despite his assertion the Prime Minister should stay in post, the Moray MP said the report was not a “line in the sand” and the Privileges Committee could change his mind if it finds the Prime Minister knowingly misled MPs.

“That is the most serious conclusion they could reach,” he said.

“If they reach the conclusion that the Prime Minister deliberately and intentionally … went to the House of Commons to mislead people, then the ministerial code is actually very clear.

“The expectation is that the Prime Minister or any minister should stand down and I think that’s absolutely vital that the Privileges Committee are now given the opportunity to look at every single piece of evidence, everything that was said, everything that was done, every picture that’s available and crucially interview everyone they need to to get to the bottom of this because this is a very serious accusation.”

Mr Ross met with his MSPs in a regular group meeting on Wednesday before he faced the media, where he said he was faced with a “range of views”.

Tory MSP Finlay Carson told ITV Border that, if the report had been written about him, he would “consider my position”.

Boris Johnson speaking at a press conference
The report was released on Wednesday (Leon Neal/PA)

“There’s a range of views across the UK party and across the party as a whole,” he said.

“These issues divide opinion, and I understand that people listening to this or reading what I’ve said – some will agree with me, some will disagree with me.”

Despite the split in the party, Mr Ross said he was confident he could hold onto his job.

“We have a very strong group of MSPs, who are the only party in here challenging the SNP week in, week out,” he said.

Despite his commitment to stand by the Prime Minister, the Scottish Tory leader said he was “angry” when he read the report.

“I’m angry about what happened when I was being told to follow the rules, and everyone else was being told to follow the rules,” he said.

“I’ve been angry by the way this has been handled, originally dismissed and then issues, you know, having to be dragged out or people.”

Some among the Scottish Tory party were less equivocal than Mr Ross, with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack declaring the Prime Minister had his “full support”.

“I understand that people are angry about what happened in Downing Street,” Mr Jack said after Mr Johnson’s statement to the Commons.

“The Prime Minister has apologised again today and made clear that he takes full responsibility for what went on in No 10.

“Lessons have been learned and changes have been made within No 10.

“The Prime Minister has my full support. He is tackling the rising cost of living at home and leading the international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Now, we all need to get behind him and back him in dealing with these important issues.”

Mr Ross also drew the ire of opposition politicians, with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar calling on him to “grow a backbone” and re-submit his letter to the 1922 Committee.

Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said this was a “defining moment” of Mr Ross’ leadership while SNP MSP Graeme Dey saying the Scottish leader would call for the Prime Minister’s resignation if he had a “shred of credibility left”.

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