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Boris Johnson vows to 'fix it', as Conservative MPs pile on the pressure after partygate report

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/31/2022 cneilan@insider.com (Catherine Neilan)
Boris Johnson in the House of Commons. Parliament TV © Parliament TV Boris Johnson in the House of Commons. Parliament TV
  • Sue Gray's investigation into lockdown-busting parties found "failures of leadership" in Johnson's government.
  • Johnson told MPs he was sorry and vowed to "fix it" through changes to the way his office is run.
  • But Labour leader Keir Starmer said Johnson had taken "us all for fools."

Conservative MPs have piled pressure onto Boris Johnson after Sue Gray's damning report into partygate attacked "failures of leadership" under his tenure.

The Prime Minister told Parliament he would "look in the mirror and learn", telling a standing-room-only Commons chamber, he was sorry, but added: "It isn't enough to say sorry." 

Johnson said he accepted Gray's findings "in full," particularly her call to "learn from these events and act now."

As a result, the prime minister unveiled changes to the way Downing Street and the Cabinet Office run, creating a new Office of the Prime Minister, with a new permanent secretary, to lead Number 10 — a plan that had been toyed with for many months. 

The civil service and special adviser code of conduct would be reviewed and updated to ensure those codes are properly enforced. 

Johnson said he would announce steps in the coming days about other improvements, including to mend the "vital connection between Number 10 and Parliament."

"I get it — and I will fix it," he said. "I know what the issue is, it is whether this Government can be trusted to deliver and I say yes we can."


Video: I'm sorry and I'll fix it, says UK's Johnson after lockdown party report (Reuters)

But Labour leader Keir Starmer said Johnson "took us all for fools" by routinely breaking the rules he had set.

He said: "He held people's sacrifice in contempt; he showed himself unfit for office. His desperate denials since he was exposed have only made matters worse."

Starmer said the prime minister had "fallen back on his usual excuse – it's everybody's fault but his," as he called for him to "do the decent thing" and resign. 

"Of course, he won't, because he is a man without shame. Just as he has done throughout his life, he has damaged everyone and everything around him."

However the prime minister came under more pressure from his own MPs. 

Theresa May, Johnson's predecessor, said the public "had a right to expect their prime minister to have read the rules, to understand the meaning of the rules" but that Downing Street was not following regulations it expected others to follow. 

Labour MPs erupted as she added: "Either my right honourable friend had not read the rules, or didn't understand the rules, or didn't think the rules applied to Number 10: Which was it?"

However Johnson shrugged of his one-time boss, saying she must wait for the conclusion of the police investigation.

Andrew Mitchell, a Conservative MP and former minister, said Johnson had "enjoyed my full-throated support" until now but, urging the prime minister to consider what is in the best interest of the country, said: "He no longer enjoys my support." 

Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group and a former chief whip, said the question was "whether those who make the law obey the law". 

He called on Johnson to publish the Gray report "immediately and in full" after the police inquiry was concluded, but the prime minister said he would "take a decision" at a later point.

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