oris Johnson has hinted that he considered resigning over the partygate scandal.
However the Prime Minister said he did not believe it would be “responsible” for him to leave his post in the wake of a cost of living crisis and war in Europe.
In an interview with internet forum Mumsnet on Wednesday, the Mr Johnson repeated his apology for the boozy gatherings held in Downing Street and across Whitehall during the pandemic.
When questioned about attending a lockdown leaving party where he was pictured giving a toast in front of a table strewn with wine bottles, he said that he was simply doing what was “right for a leader in the circumstances” and it was at a “time when we had to keep moral high”.
He also defended his “miserable” lockdown birthday party in the cabinet office and said he was “surprised and taken aback” to receive a fine for attending the gathering in June 2020.
Mr Johnson added: “If people look at the event in question it felt to me like a work event, I was there for a very short period of time in the Cabinet Office at my desk and, you know, I was very, very surprised and taken aback to get an FPN but of course I paid it.
“I think that on why am I still here, I’m still here because we’ve got huge pressures economically, we’ve got to get on, you know, we’ve got the biggest war in Europe for 80 years, and we’ve got a massive agenda to deliver which I was elected to deliver.
“I’ve thought about all these questions a lot, as you can imagine, and I just cannot see how actually it’d be responsible right now – given everything that is going on.”
When told that some believe he has lost the trust of the people, the Prime Minister replied: “Let’s see about that.
“I’m not going to deny the whole thing hasn’t been a totally miserable experience for people in government and we’ve got to learn from it and understand the mistakes we made and we’ve got to move forward.”
Leading Conservatives have clashed over whether Mr Johnson will face a leadership challenge as soon as next week.
Rumours that rebel Tory MPs would soon reach the threshold to force a confidence vote have been “whipped up”, Dominic Raab said.
The deputy prime minister insisted it was “unlikely” Mr Johnson would face a leadership challenge in the coming days.
However, Tory peer Lord Hayward said MPs representing the “gravel drive, Waitrose shopping areas” of the South East had been spooked by the party’s poor results in the local elections last month.
“What is striking since the recess is the majority of the people who are putting in letters are ones who had local elections in their constituencies,” the elections expert told Sky News.
“In the local elections the Tories did reasonably against the Labour party in the Midlands and the North. But they did far worse than expected in parts of London and in the South East. In the middle class, what is described as the gravel drive, Waitrose shopping areas.
“That has clearly unsettled MPs who went out with their associations to campaign.”
A further 20 have publicly questioned Mr Johnson’s leadership following the publication of a damning report into lockdown parties in Downing Street. More than half of the MPs who have come out against the Prime Minister represent London, South East or South West constituencies. Among them is former Cabinet minister Dame Andrea Leadsom, who criticised Mr Johnson for a “failure” of leadership.
But an ally of Mr Johnson told the Standard: “The last thing the country wants is a Tory leadership election, a narcissistic, self-indulgent beauty contest that distracts everyone from the critical task ahead of getting Britain through extremely tough economic times.”
It comes as Mr Johnson faced criticism from his ethics advisor Lord Geidt who suggested that the Prime Minister’s fine for breaching lockdown rules at his birthday party may have broken the Ministerial Code.
Lord Geidt said a “legitimate question” had arisen as to whether the fixed penalty notice might have constituted a breach of the “overarching duty within the Ministerial Code of complying with the law”.