FORMER prime minister Theresa May has led a Tory backlash in the House of Commons as Tory backbenchers criticised Boris Johnson for his role in rule-breaking gatherings at Downing Street.
Mr Johnson was asked by one angry Conservative backbencher if the PM “thinks I’m a fool” after giving an emotional account of attending a funeral for his grandmother during lockdown.
The Prime Minister gave a statement in the House of Commons after Sue Gray’s partial report into the gatherings, which pointed to leadership failures in No 10 and the Cabinet Office.
Ms May, who was ousted by Mr Johnson in 2019, pointed to the Sue Gray report and criticised him for not adhering by the rules his Government set.
She said: “The Covid regulations imposed significant restrictions on the freedoms of members of the public. They had a right to expect their Prime Minister to have read the rules, to understand the meaning of the rules and indeed those around him to have done so too and to set an example in following those rules.
“What the Gray report does show is that Number 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right honourable friend had not read the rules or didn’t understand what they meant and others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to Number 10. Which was it?”
Mr Johnson replied: “No, Mr Speaker, that is not what the Gray report says “I suggest that she waits to see the conclusion of the inquiry.”
Later Tory backbencher Andrew Mitchell told the PM that he no longer has his support.
He said: “Ever since he joined the party’s candidate list 30 years ago, until we got him into Number 10, he has enjoyed my full-throated support.
“But I am deeply concerned by these events and very concerned indeed by some of the things he has said from that dispatch box, and has said to the British public and our constituents.
“When he kindly invited me to see him 10 days ago, I told him that he should think very carefully about what was now in the best interests of our country and of the Conservative party, and I have to tell him he no longer enjoys my support.”
In reply, Mr Johnson said: “Great though the admiration is I have of him, I simply think he is mistaken in his views, and I urge him to reconsider upon full consideration of the inquiry.”
Tory MP Aaron Bell told the PM about attending his grandmother’s funeral in May 2020.
He said: “She was a wonderful woman as well as her love for her family, she served her community as a councillor and she served Dartford Conservative Association loyally for many years.
“I drove for three hours from Staffordshire to Kent, there were only 10 people at the funeral – may people who loved her had to watch online.
“I didn’t hug my siblings, I didn’t hug my parents. I gave a eulogy and then afterwards I didn’t even go to her house for a cup of tea. I drove back three hours from Kent to Staffordshire.
“Does the Prime Minister think I’m a fool?”
The PM said: ”No. I want to say how deeply I sympathise with him and his family for their loss.
“All I can say is again that I’m very, very sorry for misjudgments that may have been made by me or anybody else in No 10 and the Cabinet Office and I can only ask him, respectfully, to look at what Sue Gray has said and also to look at the conclusion of the inquiry.”