Calls for Boris Johnson to quit over ‘partygate’ are ‘bonkeroony’ says Gove

Communities Secretary Michael Gove said it is “bonkeroony” to suggest Boris Johnson should have to resign over lockdown parties in Downing Street.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to stand down if he is fined for breaching Covid regulations after he was filmed last year drinking beer with staff in a party office in Durham.

While many in Westminster believe he had little choice after police reopened their investigation, the vow is also being seen as a way of putting pressure on the Prime Minister, who has already received one fixed penalty notice.

However, appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Gove insisted Sir Keir’s decision does not affect Mr Johnson’s position.

While acknowledging the public anger over repeated rule-breaking in No 10, he said the Prime Minister deserves to be judged “in the round” for the way he dealt with the Covid crisis.

“For anyone who has suffered during Covid, the thought that others broke the rules is undeniably painful and difficult,” Mr Gove said.

“But it is also the case that the Prime Minister was responsible for a series of very, very big decisions during the Covid crisis that meant we handled it better than many other countries.

“The idea that the Prime Minister should resign is bonkeroony. It is just not appropriate.

“That doesn’t diminish for a moment the pain that people endured and the fact that mistakes were made.

“I think it is entirely fair to say that you deeply regret that things went wrong, that people do deserve to learn lessons, that there should be full acknowledgement, contrition and apologies, but that it doesn’t merit the resignation of a sitting Prime Minister.

Conservative Party Spring Forum
Michael Gove said it is ‘bonkeroony’ to suggest Mr Johnson should quit (PA)

“Whatever Keir Starmer wants to say or do, that is a matter for him.”

Asked during a visit to Sweden if he was acting “dishonourably” by remaining in No 10 in the light of Sir Keir’s pledge, Mr Johnson refused to be drawn.

“We have tried to move beyond all that,” he told a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

“I think we are trying to focus on the issues that really matter, not least Ukraine.”

While Mr Johnson has so far resisted calls to stand down, many Tories remain deeply unhappy over events in No 10 and the pressure could increase if he is fined again.

His position could also come under threat if the final report of Sue Gray, the civil servant who investigated Covid violations in Whitehall, is – as some fear – highly critical when it is published once police inquiries are complete.