Tory MPs claimed it was a “waste of everybody’s time” to discuss Downing Street party allegations in the Commons as they launched a staunch defence of Boris Johnson.
They argued Russia’s military build-up on the Ukrainian border was among the issues which deserved greater attention, minutes before a planned statement from the Prime Minister on this exact topic.
Their claims came during an urgent question tabled by Labour following the decision by the Metropolitan Police to investigate potential breaches of coronavirus laws at a “number of events” in Downing Street and Whitehall.
Conservative MP Giles Watling (Clacton) described the urgent question as a “vexatious waste of everybody’s time” but was forced to withdraw his claims by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who decides upon the urgent questions.
Stuart Anderson, Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West, also highlighted Russian aggression towards Ukraine.
He claimed: “Every time the Opposition call for our Prime Minister to resign, does my right honourable friend agree that we’re only strengthening (Vladimir) Putin’s hand and destabilising negotiations?”
Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis replied: “He is quite right to focus on what matters around the world and indeed to the Prime Minister of this country.”
Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh earlier said: “When European stands on the brink of war and there is cost of living crisis can we please have a sense of proportion over the Prime Minister being given a piece of cake in his own office by his own staff.”
His comment included a nod to Downing Street admitting Johnson had a birthday celebration inside No 10 during the first lockdown.
Graham Stuart, another Conservative former minister, said he welcomed Scotland Yard’s investigation and also noted “you can see the absolute terror on the benches opposite”.
He went on: “They know they are up against the Prime Minister and the Government, which has brought youth unemployment to its lowest ever level.
“A Government and a Prime Minister… led by the Prime Minister, that has brought us the AstraZeneca vaccine, has the most successful booster programme in the world and that is why, opposite, absolute terror that we should focus on policy in this place, focus on the priorities of the British people.”
‘In cahoots with the media’
Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson (Workington) also accused the Opposition of being “in cahoots with media to undemocratically depose this Prime Minister.
“Not because he is an electoral liability for us, but because he is an electoral liability for them.”
But SNP MP Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) highlighted the case of a university student fined £100 for having a gathering of 11 people during the pandemic, and questioned the actions of those in Downing Street.
Ellis replied: “Her constituent would either, in order to have been fined, have to admit wrongdoing or been found guilty in a court of law on the evidence before that court, so the situation is completely different – no such state of affairs exists as far as No 10 is concerned and the Prime Minister.”
SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) quoted food critic Jay Rayner, who had tweeted: “As the great Julia Child once said, a party without cake is just a meeting. Mr Johnson’s staffers supplied a cake. Ergo, it was a party.”
Docherty-Hughes asked Ellis if he agreed with this.
Ellis replied: “If whilst at work someone eats a cake for 10 minutes I don’t think conclusions can be drawn on that, so he is putting the horse before the cart or cart before the horse, whatever the phrase.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey repeated his call for the Prime Minister to resign, telling the Commons: “It’s clear this Government is now in total meltdown.”