Boris Johnson is facing yet another backlash for using the Ukraine tragedy as a “shield” to protect himself from his domestic struggles.
On Tuesday, the prime minister insisted that he did not know he was breaching his own Covid rules as he finally faced MPs in the Commons a week after being handed a police fine.
Amid unease on the Tory benches, with former chief whip Mark Harper telling Johnson he is not “worthy” of leading the country, the prime minister wrapped up his apology for his Met fine with Vladimir Putin’s “barbaric onslaught against Ukraine”.
He went on to suggest that the “angry and disappointed” British public had given him an “even greater sense of obligation” to lead the country’s response to the conflict.
He told MPs: “I respect the outcome of the police investigation, which is still under way, and I can only say that I will respect their decision-making and always take the appropriate steps and, as the House will know, I have already taken significant steps to change the way things work in No 10.
“And it is precisely because I know that so many people are angry and disappointed that I feel an even greater sense of obligation to deliver on the priorities of the British people, and to respond in the best traditions of our country to Putin’s barbaric onslaught against Ukraine.”
A number of Tory MPs followed suit by referring to the war in Ukraine, causing Labour MP Jess Philips to suggest Johnson “seeks cover” by leaning on the invasion, which is “shameful”.
Social media seemed to agree with her assessment.
Labour stepped up calls for Johnson to resign on Wednesday, saying it was clear the prime minister lied to Parliament over lockdown parties in Downing Street.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner said he had crossed a “red line” and should go for the sake of the integrity of the democratic process in the UK.
Rayner said Johnson must be held to account for his conduct, which she described a “reckless and dangerous”.
“We need a prime minister people have trust and confidence in,” she told Sky News.
“It is a red line – if the prime minister of this country believes they can break the Ministerial Code, lie to the British public and get away with it, then frankly all bets are off for our rules and democratic process.
“This prime minister thinks the rules don’t apply to him and that is reckless and dangerous. Nobody is indispensable and nobody is above the law in this country.”