Perthshire Conservative MSP says prime minister’s position is “untenable” following Sue Gray report

A Perthshire-based Conservative MSP has stood by her belief Boris Johnson should resign over Partygate.

Local Tory representative Liz Smith’s views echo local SNP MPs Pete Wishart and John Nicolson’s calls for the prime minister to go.

The politicians spoke out following this week’s publication of the Sue Gray report.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz said her position has not changed – unlike Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and fellow Conservative Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser.

Ms Smith said: “My position has not changed since December when this issue arose. I said then the prime minister’s position was untenable and continue to believe this.

Conservative MSP Liz Smith fully understands why people are angry and frustrated over COVID breaches

“What has happened has undermined trust between the office of the prime minister and the general public, and I fully understand why people are angry and frustrated.”

In March Douglas Ross withdrew his calls for the prime minister to resign. Murdo Fraser – who had also previously called for Boris Johnson to go – backed Mr Ross in this.

On March 10 Mr Fraser tweeted: “This is the right move at this time. It would be deeply irresponsible to seek to change prime minister when the international situation is as it is.”

Approached this week – following the publication of Sue Gray’s report – Mr Fraser said he did not wish to comment.

Earlier this month two local Tory councillors said Partygate had an impact on the Conservative vote. The Conservatives lost four seats in Perth and Kinross Council in the May 5 elections and control of the council to the SNP, who overtook them to become PKC’s largest political group.

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Conservative councillor Chris Ahern said: “I do think Partygate had an impact not just in Perth and Kinross but nationally as can be seen by the numbers.”

Blairgowrie and Glens Conservative Councilor Bob Brawn agreed.

He said: “All accepted that we were not partying but working to support the community in exceptional circumstances. However, Partygate was and remains headline news.

Murdo Fraser MSP changed his mind over Boris Johnson
Murdo Fraser MSP changed his mind over Boris Johnson

“Having vented their anger on the doorstep, I think most gave their support, but the statistics show that some undoubtedly stayed away.”

Senior civil servant Sue Gray investigated 16 events in and around Downing Street where the police found there to have been numerous breaches of COVID rules – rules the Westminster government had put in place.

In her report she said “some of the behavior surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify”.

She added: “At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”

She criticized the “excessive consumption of alcohol” and the “failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times”.

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart called the prime minister’s response to the report this week in parliament “utter drivel”.

As part of his response, the prime minister apologized to MPs on Wednesday and said: “I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch.”

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Addressing parliament Mr Wishart said: “Rarely in my 21 years in this house have I heard such utter drivel than what we have been presented. I’m trying to find words to capture what the prime minister said – disingenuous, delusional, slippery, self-serving, (and I know I can’t say dishonest in this place) no attempt at remorse, all somebody else’s fault. Surely if he was half the man he thinks he would summon that self-respect and just go.”

SNP MP Pete Wishart
SNP MP Pete Wishart

Commenting on the report Ochil and South Perthshire MP John Nicolson issued this statement: “The Sue Gray report makes for shocking reading. It’s clear that Boris Johnson floated the rules.

“Not once or twice, but consistently throughout the lockdown. And he created a culture at 10 Downing Street where others were encouraged to disobey the rules. While the rest of us made sacrifices and people weren’t able to be with their loved ones in their final moments, he held parties.

“It’s time Boris Johnson resigned.”

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell has joined calls for the prime minister to resign.

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell
Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell

The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP said: “This report is damning and lays bare the utter contempt the prime minister has for the general public.

“At a time when people in Perthshire and across the UK were making unbelievable sacrifices, Boris Johnson and his entourage were living it up, breaking the rules, and laughing about it, time after time.

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“The prime minister’s behavior is bad enough on its own. But, his constant and repeated lying to him, to parliament and the public, cannot be tolerated.

“Boris Johnson must be held to account for this appalling behaviour. He can no longer remain in post.

“If Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross wishes to salvage any remnant of self-respect, he must end his pathetic equivocation and resubmit his letter calling for Johnson to go.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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