JACOB Rees-Mogg has defended Boris Johnson after the prime minister apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of Number 10 in May 2020.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Mr Johnson said he “believed implicitly that this was a work event”.

He said he attended the May 20 gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff” but said, “with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them”.

The prime minister recognised anger from the public and said: “I know the rage they feel with me and with the Government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.”

He added an inquiry led by senior civil servant Sue Gray is examining the situation, but he accepted “there were things we simply did not get right, and I must take responsibility”.

After yesterday’s PMQs, cabinet ministers including Nadine Dorries, Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, and Dominic Raab publicly defended the prime minister, while Priti Patel and Kwasi Kwarteng reportedly backed him in a WhatsApp group for Tory MPs.

Speaking on Times Radio yesterday, Commons leader and North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “I think the prime minister has got things right again and again and again.

“But like us all, he accepts that during a two-and-a-half-year period, there will be things that with hindsight would have been done differently.”

The prime minister has faced calls for his resignation from Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and several Westminster Tory MPs.

Somerset County Gazette: APOLOGY: Boris Johnson addresses the House of Commons during yesterday's PMQs (Image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor, PA Wire)APOLOGY: Boris Johnson addresses the House of Commons during yesterday's PMQs (Image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor, PA Wire)

Speaking to STV News yesterday, Mr Ross said: “I said yesterday, if the prime minister attended this gathering in Downing Street on May 20, 2020, he could not continue as prime minister so, regretfully, I have to say his position is no longer tenable.”

The Moray MP added: “If the prime minister was there, and he accepted today that he was, then I felt he could not continue.

“What we also heard from the prime minister today was an apology and he said with hindsight he would have done things differently, which for me is an acceptance from the prime minister that it was wrong and therefore, I don’t want to be in this position, but I am in this position now, where I don’t think he can continue as leader of the Conservatives.”

According to reports, Mr Ross has been backed by almost all Tory MSPs.

In Westminster, they were supported by Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet), Caroline Nokes (Romsey and North Southampton), and William Wragg (Hazel Grove).

In his Radio Times interview, Mr Rees-Mogg said Conservative MPs who have called for Mr Johnson to resign are “people who are always unhappy”.

He said: “They are people who have never really supported the prime minister, two of the ones you mentioned have always been quite strongly opposed to him, and therefore you would expect them to be relatively grumpy, and so that’s not surprising.”

The Commons leader added: “I think they are fundamentally mistaken, and they are misjudging where we are and what the prime minister has succeeded in doing.”

In an appearance on Newsnight, Mr Rees-Mogg described Mr Ross as “quite a lightweight figure” within the Conservative Party.

The prime minister’s future will depend on the number of letters of no confidence submitted to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs.

He will not reveal how many letters have been received unless a figure of 15 per cent of Tory MPs is reached, which would trigger a confidence vote.

Somerset County Gazette: PM: Boris Johnson leaves the House of Commons after PMQs (Image: Stefan Rousseau, PA Wire)PM: Boris Johnson leaves the House of Commons after PMQs (Image: Stefan Rousseau, PA Wire)

A total of 54 letters would be required for this to happen with the current parliamentary make-up.  

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the prime minister to resign, as did the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.

It is understood that the inquiry into the alleged lockdown-breaching parties held in Downing Street and Whitehall being carried out by Ms Gray will not be ready before the end of next week.

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