Voters are deserting Boris Johnson over the scandal of No 10 parties, with 70 per cent calling for him to quit and almost as many dismissing his Commons apology as bogus, an exclusive survey for The Independent reveals.
The rejection is revealed amid criticism of the prime minister for failing to say sorry personally to the Queen for parties held in No 10 on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last April.
Instead, an apology was delivered by a member of staff in a telephone call – as Mr Johnson remained in his Downing Street flat, despite the extraordinary new evidence of Covid rule-busting.
The leader of a grassroots Tory group told The Independent that the party’s MPs must now find the stomach to force out “the worst prime minister of my lifetime”.
John Strafford, chair of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, called the partying as the Queen prepared to mourn “disgraceful”, adding: “It is down to the arrogance of the prime minister that these things happen.”
The survey, by Savanta, found that 70 per cent of voters want Mr Johnson to resign – a record high figure – with just 21 per cent backing him to stay in power.
Just as worryingly for the embattled leader, 68 per cent did not consider his apology – in which he claimed he did not realise a “bring your own booze” gathering in his garden was a party – to be genuine.
A clear majority of respondents said the “cover-up” of the parties was worse than the staging of the lockdown-busting events, by 56 per cent to 32 per cent.
Some 63 per cent said they did not trust Sue Gray’s inquiry to uncover whether rules were broken – as experts point out that her remit is simply to set out the facts, not reach a verdict.
Yet another party was uncovered, prompting the former head of the government unit drawing up Covid rules to apologise for a Cabinet Office leaving drinks during 2020’s Christmas lockdown.
The crisis was reignited with the revelation that two leaving events were held on 16 April – the day before Prince Philip’s funeral – for the prime minister’s communications chief and for his personal photographer.
The second party involved loud music, a DJ and a staff member sent to the Co-op store on the Strand to fill a suitcase with bottles of wine, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Drinking carried on in the No 10 garden into the early hours of the morning, witnesses said – and one person broke a swing belonging to Johnson’s infant son, Wilfred.
James Slack, the former head of communications, apologised for his leaving do, admitting: “This event should not have happened at the time that it did.”
In its response, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No 10 has apologised to the Palace.”
But he refused to say if the prime minister knew about the events – and it was unclear exactly what No 10 had said sorry for, as it refused to say what was meant by “this” and if they were “social events”.
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “Boris Johnson should apologise personally to the Queen for the offence he’s caused her and millions around the country mourning for loved ones.”
And Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “This shows just how seriously Boris Johnson has degraded the office of prime minister. The Conservatives have let Britain down.”
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said he was at his country residence Chequers on 16 April last year and had not been invited to the events.
But, in evidence of a growing grassroots revolt, Mr Strafford said: “The MPs need to act to get rid of him. The 1922 Committee should have a vote of confidence and say ‘out you go’.”
Andrea Thorpe, chairman of Maidstone and The Weald Conservative Association, attacked “one calamity too many”, saying: “People have just now had enough. They feel let down.”
The Sutton Coldfield Conservative Association unanimously passed a motion calling on the prime minister to stand down. A Tory has won the constituency in every election since its creation in 1945.
Tory MPs have said they want to “wait for Sue Gray”, with the investigation by the senior civil servant expected to conclude as early as the end of next week.
They will come under fiercer pressure from constituents to push the number of letters submitted to the 1922 Committee past the threshold of 54 needed to trigger a no-confidence vote.
But Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, asked about Mr Johnson’s position, said: “He has apologised, I think we now need to move on and talk about how we are going to sort out issues.”