The Prime Minister was asked by North East Fife and Liberal Democrats MP Wendy Chamberlain whether “he would agree it’s now the right time to resign”, after Mr Johnson had insisted that “nobody told me that what we were doing [at the Downing Street garden party] was against the rules” and he believed he was attending a work event.
Mr Johnson responded: “No, Mr Speaker. But what I can tell her is that as I said to the House last week, I apologise sincerely for any misjudgements that were made and she must contain her impatience and wait for the inquiry before she draws any of the conclusions that she’s just asserted.”
A group of Tories who won their seats in Mr Johnson’s 2019 election landslide appear to have lost faith in the Prime Minister, after he admitted attending a “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street garden during England’s first coronavirus lockdown.
But allies of Mr Johnson have pleaded for him to be given more time as Tory MPs plotted to remove him from No. 10 over the partygate row.
The question was posed at PMQs over Mr Johnson’s defence as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed Bury South MP Christian Wakeford to the Labour Party, saying: “The Labour Party has changed and so has the Conservative Party. He and anyone else who wants to build a new Britain built on decency, security … is welcomed in my Labour Party.”
Facing loud jeers from the Conservative benches as he tried to ask his first question, Sir Keir accused the Tory MPs of having “brought their own booze” to Parliament.
Mr Wakeford defected from the Conservatives to Labour on the brink of PMQs, telling Mr Johnson that “you and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves”.
Sir Keir asked why Mr Johnson thought his latest defence around the “bring your own booze” party would be believed.
The Prime Minister said: “We must wait for the outcome of the inquiry, but … if we’d listened to the right honourable gentleman about Covid restrictions, which was the substance of his question, then Mr Speaker we would have been in lockdown … if we listened to [him], we would have stayed in restrictions, which would have done huge damage to the economy.
"Because of the judgments that I’ve taken and that we’ve taken in Downing Street, we now have the fastest growing economy in Europe.”
Addressing the defection of Mr Wakeford to Labour, Mr Johnson said: “The Conservative party won Bury South for the first time in generations under a Prime Minister with an agenda of uniting and levelling up and delivering for the people of Bury South. And Mr Speaker, we will win again in Bury South at the next election.”
A series of gatherings in No. 10 and Whitehall are being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray, and Tory MPs were urged by ministers to wait for her report before deciding whether to move against the Prime Minister.
But reports have suggested the threshold of 54 letters from MPs that would launch a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister could be reached on Wednesday.
Mr Johnson’s net favourability rating has meanwhile dropped a further ten points to -37, according to a polling company.
A Savanta ComRes survey found the PM was the least favourable of all the politicians tested. His net score represents a fall of 23 points since November, and 29 points since this time last year, it said.