The party net was closing on Boris Johnson from his own party tonight as livid Tory MPs broke cover, a billionaire donor slammed him and Tory voters said he should quit.
MPs blasted an e-mail from the PM’s top aide to 100 No10 staff in May 2020, saying “we” invited them for ‘BYOB’ drinks to enjoy the “lovely weather ”.
And as the Prime Minister repeatedly refused to deny attending the bash himself, some MPs suggested he could have to resign high office.
Tory MP Nigel Mills said: “I can’t see how anybody who organised a party or willingly chose to attend one can stay in any position where they’re setting Covid policy for the rest of the country.
“If he knew it was a party and chose to attend, I’m not sure how he can hold a position in that situation.”
Scots Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the PM should quit if he was found to have misled Parliament by insisting no rules had been broken. He said: “If the Prime Minister has misled Parliament, then he must resign.”
And Sir Charles Walker – vice chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee which organises Tory leadership contests – gave the PM a six-month ultimatum. He told Channel 4 News: “I think the next six months will be very important for him.
“Six months is a very long time in any prime minister’s life and you have just got to get a lot more decisions right than you get wrong. So it has to be very good six months and a good shift.”
Tory MP Derek Thomas added: “If the inquiry or the Metropolitan Police find that the alleged activities were illegal and that the PM knew this, or was involved, then I think he should consider his position.”
“We’ve had enough,” another Tory MP told the Mirror. “He’s tarred us all with the same brush”.
Former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life Sir Alistair Graham told Times Radio: “It’s difficult to see how the Prime Minister can survive this”.
It’s thought Mr Johnson could make a statement at the start of Wednesday’s PMQs after going into hiding today about whether he attended the party.
Billionaire Phones4U founder John Caudwell, who donated £500,000 to the Tories ahead of the 2019 election, blasted the chaos-hit PM.
He told the BBC : “Sort it out, Boris, or step aside and let someone else sort it out so that the Tories aren’t wiped out at the next election.”
And a brutal Savanta/ComRes poll found 66% of Brits said Mr Johnson should resign following the parties furore.
Those calling for the PM to go included 42% of those who voted Tory in 2019 – up nine points since last month.
A second poll of 5,931 British adults by YouGov found 56% of respondents said the PM should resign. 27% said he should remain and 17% didn’t know.
Bookies slashed the odds on the Prime Minister having to step down this year, with Paddy Power cutting theirs from 5/6 to 8/11.
Mr Caudwell said he had “never been puritanical about lockdown restrictions” but “the perceived arrogance, hypocrisy and rule breaking is impossible to justify”.
The donor, who spoke out against sleaze and party allegations over Christmas, said the impact is “disastrous”.
He added: “Each one of these new revelations gives greater force to the accusation that areas of the government think it’s ‘one rule for them, one rule for the rest of us’.”
Keighley MP Robbie Moore said answers were “needed quickly” and that if any rule breaches had taken place “the strongest possible disciplinary action” should be taken.
He added: “The email from Martin Reynolds infuriates me. I have no idea what these people were thinking.”
Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said the allegations were “impossible to justify and defend”.
He added: “For some of the people who imposed those damaging laws to have been ignoring them will be a bitter pill to swallow for those who faithfully followed them even at huge personal cost.”
Former Tory attorney general Dominic Grieve claimed the PM was a “serial liar” who should be ousted from office.
Sunderland Tory leader Councillor Antony Mullen said Mr Reynolds should be sacked and the PM would “inevitably” have to follow him out the door.
“I think this is such an atrocity, I can’t see how he can survive,” he added.
In response to a tweet from a constituent, whose wife works in a hospital, about the scandal, Tory 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.
“Thank you for your sacrifice and your wife’s work. I will always represent you above all else.”
Tory MP Bob Blackman said: “People are rightly furious…I am clear that those who set the rules must abide by them or face the consequences.”
Tory MP Caroline Nokes said: “I have no words that can adequately express how angry I am at the “don’t do as I do , do as I say” attitude that appears to have prevailed in Downing Street.”
Conservative former minister Sir Christopher Chope asked: “Why can’t all the dirty linen be washed at once? Why are we getting this drip, drip feed of parties?
“Surely the civil service must have known that there was a party on May 20 and they should have referred it already to the inquiry.”
After the Mirror first revealed five weeks ago that lockdown-breaking parties had taken place, he told MPs that “all guidance was followed completely in No10”.
It follows the emergence of a bombshell email showing a senior aide to the PM inviting more than 100 No 10 employees to an evening gathering on May 20 2020.
The party means Whitehall enforcer Sue Gray is now probing at least six events, four of which were attended by the PM, with her report expected to be published next week.
The Met Police is in contact with the Cabinet Office about the claims although no formal investigation has been launched.
The Good Law Project has issued formal legal proceedings against the Met for their failure to investigate last year’s Christmas parties.
In the email, leaked to ITV News on Monday, the PM’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds said staff should “make the most of the lovely weather ” and urged them to “bring your own booze”.
Witnesses claimed about 40 staff attended the event, including Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie – and there were long tables laden with drink, crisps, sausage rolls and other picnic food.
Outdoor gatherings were banned at the time under England’s tough lockdown laws.
No 10 said the PM was standing by Mr Reynolds – and refused to confirm whether the PM had been at the bash while Ms Gray’s inquiry is ongoing.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner accused the PM of “hiding behind” the Whitehall investigation.
“His absence speaks volumes. The public have already drawn their own conclusions,” she said.
“There is no need for an investigation into the simple, central question today.
“Did the Prime Minister attend the event in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020?
“It won’t wash to blame this on a few junior civil servants. The Prime Minister sets the tone.”
In the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Johnson should resign, claiming he was “not being truthful” about his knowledge of the various parties.
Responding to opposition calls for Mr Johnson to resign in the Commons, minister Michael Ellis told MPs the Prime Minister was “going nowhere”, adding that he “retains the confidence of the people of this country and he did so two years ago with the biggest majority in decades”.
Health Minister Edward Argar told the BBC: “I can entirely understand why people who’ve lost loved ones, or people who’ve just had their lives hugely disrupted by these restrictions, are angry and upset by these allegations.”
Hannah Brady, of the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, whose father’s death certificate was signed on the day of the “socially distanced drinks”, wrote to the Prime Minister calling for him to say whether he attended the event.
She said: “It is a matter of common decency and respect for not only us or the British people, but the office you hold as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to tell us whether you attended this flagrant breach of the Government’s own rules.”