Ruth Davidson has said the Downing Street Christmas party controversy is ‘not defensible’, but doesn’t think that it will bring down Boris Johnson.
The former Scottish Conservative leader insisted that prime ministers have a duty not to mislead Parliament.
And she said there is “fury” on the Tory benches, as she suggested “this is a system, not a bug”.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Davidson also expressed sympathy for Allegra Stratton – the Prime Minister’s former spokesperson who resigned after a leaked video emerged which showed her joking with No 10 aides about a ‘fictional’ lockdown party.
“I actually felt pretty sorry for Allegra Stratton because, one, she did the honourable thing, she resigned immediately, gracefully, with genuine remorse,” Davidson told the programme on Thursday.
“But two, in the video that you saw, she’s not laughing at the party occurring, she’s laughing because she has no idea how to answer it and because she is not able to, and isn’t prepared to, lie and say that something that occurred, didn’t occur.
“And the thing that happened in the House of Commons yesterday I thought was a preposterous response.
“The genuine line of the Government yesterday was that something we have told the country didn’t occur for an entire week is now going to be investigated and I will discipline anyone who broke rules that I am continuing to say were never broken and have not been broken and we’re never going to find them being broken.
“And it makes no sense and people can see that.”
She added: “There’s fury within the Tory benches because this is a system, not a bug.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross on Wednesday indicated that Johnson should quit if he is found to have misled MPs.
Asked whether there are people within the Conservative party who want Johnson to go, she said: “You’ve already heard from the current leader of the Scottish Conservatives saying that if it’s found that he lied to Parliament, he should go.
“He said that on the record on camera yesterday.”
Pressed on whether she believes Johnson should go, she said: “I don’t know what level of involvement he had.
“You talked about Number 10 and it being his house, yeah but there’s two or three floors and a bomb-proof blast door.”
Davidson continued: “As you know, I’m not one to defend the Prime Minister, but actually the layout of Number 10, if 30 people gathered round a desk with cheese and wine and secret Santa, actually, if the Prime Minister was up the stairs, two flights up and behind a bomb-proof blast door, actually he might not have at the time.”
The former Scottish Conservative leader said that the affair had been handled “appallingly badly”.
She said: “I think there are a bunch of 25-year-old civil servants working in Downing Street right now who probably feel dreadful about all of this.
“It won’t have been something that just occurred, it will have been something that’s grown and grown and grown.
“But you know what, there were wards full of doctors and nurses that were also working hard and they weren’t having cheese and wine and drinks.”
Davidson continued: “I’m not defending this and I said yesterday it’s not defensible, none of this is defensible on any level, and I’m not trying to defend it and lots of people are not trying to defend it.
“What they are really angry at is one, that it happened, but two, that the handling of it has been so appallingly bad.
“To just make everybody now focus on who did what to whom, when actually what we should be focused on is there’s a whole bunch of new rules, we’re into a different phase, we have to get the booster message out there, all of that’s being lost and that’s the most important.”
Davidson indicated that Johnson should have deal with the issue a week ago when the story first emerged, but cast doubt on any prospects that he would tender his resignation.
“I think any prime minister has a duty not to mislead Parliament,” she said.
“But I don’t think this is going to take down Boris Johnson, I don’t think that for a second.
“Even if you just look at the timing, I mean we’ve got Christmas coming up, his baby’s due very soon so he’ll be on paternity leave, there’s going to be a firebreak of at least a month there and then we’ll all have moved on, that’s the way news cycles work.
“So even on practical terms, I don’t think it’s going to bring him down.”
Davidson added: “If he’d wanted this to all go away, he should have dealt with it at the nub.
“This could have all gone away, this all could have gone away last week in the same way that Barnard Castle could have gone away 12 weeks before it did when he first got the phone call.”