PMQs will return this week to its normal Wednesday slot and is heavily anticipated. Boris Johnson will attempt to address the latest scandal that revealed the proposal for a Downing Street party during lockdown
The Prime Minister’s job looks increasingly under threat as he faces pressure to resign and the possibility of a tough PMQs today.
But Boris Johnson is unlikely to make a separate statement before the usual proceedings begin, but may address the controversy at the start of his turn; Downing Street is currently under investigation by civil servant Sue Gray over reported lockdown parties at government HQ.
A recently leaked email showed that on May 20, 2020, the PM’s private secretary Martin Reynolds sent an email to around 100 staff inviting them to “socially distanced drinks” in the No.10 garden.
Such gatherings were banned at the time and around 30 to 40 people are believed to have attended. Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie are alleged to have gone to the party.
PMQs is often a raucous affair as the government and opposition face off over the issue of the day, but today’s edition has the potential to be even more so due to the palpable anger of MPs in the house.
What time is PMQs?
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PMQs is back at its normal time of 12pm and can be expected to last around half an hour.
The PM has so far refused to deny that he was at the May 20 party and is expected to address the allegation at the start of PMQs.
Fury in the Commons is clear, and an urgent question called on Tuesday by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner did little to ease the anger, as the questions meant for Johnson were instead answered by Paymaster General Michael Ellis.
DUP MP Jim Shannon broke down in tears as he asked a question hoping the government would ensure “full and complete disclosure”, revealing his mother-in-law had died alone during the pandemic.
Several Tory MPs have broken ranks to express their dismay at the recent scandal.
One Cabinet member told of their hopes that an apology to the House will be enough to calm the anger.
They said to The Times : “It’s not terminal yet — there’s still room for humility and a heartfelt apology. We’re f***ed unless we resolve it. Everyone knows this thing happened; nobody is disputing that.”
In response to one disgruntled constituent on Twitter, Plymouth Moor View MP Johnny Mercer said: “I’m sorry. It’s humiliating, and does not reflect the majority of my colleagues who at least try and lead by example.”
Will Keir Starmer be at PMQs?
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Starmer’s six questions are likely to have plenty of ammunition. The email scandal is the latest in a string of recent controversies involving his government.
Civil servant Sue Gray is investigating four events in 2020 which the PM is believed to have attended:
- May 15: Garden party at No10 in which Boris and Carrie Johnson were pictured in the garden with wine, cheese and more than a dozen other people. No10 said this was an outdoor work meeting.
- May 20: Second garden party at No10 with more than 100 staff told to ‘BYOB’ by top civil servant Martin Reynolds.
- November 27: Leaving do Sources told the Mirror 40 to 50 people crammed into a room in No10 to see off top aide Cleo Watson.
- December 15: Christmas quiz The Prime Minister was pictured on screen, sitting beneath a portrait of Margaret Thatcher, as he read out questions. The PM was pictured flanked by two colleagues, one wearing a Santa hat, while the other was draped in tinsel.
How can I watch PMQs?
PMQs is also broadcast live on Parliament’s YouTube channel.
The PM’s position was further weakened in December 2021 as, in the wake of a video released of former government adviser Allegra Stratton laughing about a party at Downing Street, the Conservatives lost a by-election in North Shropshire.
The Liberal Democrats took the seat that had been a Tory stronghold since 1832, after the previous MP Owen Paterson resigned after he was found to have lobbied the government on behalf of two companies.
The PM hoped to rip up the ethics rules in the House of Commons in order to save Paterson, but was forced to abandon the plans.