Douglas Ross has refused to call for Boris Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister in the wake of Sue Gray’s ‘partygate’ amid concerns over ‘destabalising the Western response’ in Ukraine.
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives told STV News the PM’s departure for Downing Street “would only help Vladimir Putin” but acknowledged the investigation into law-breaking parties during lockdown was “very damaging”.
The report found Johnson attended at least eight of the 16 gatherings included within the scope of the investigation between May 2020 and April 2021 and pointed out “failures” in leadership from senior government officials.
Images showed him toasting with a can of beer in the cabinet room alongside cabinet secretary Simon Case and chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The PM insisted he would bear “full responsibility” for the parties, telling the Commons during PMQs that he had been “humbled” by experience and had learned his lesson.
Ross failed to join calls from opposition parties and a handful of Johnson’s own MPs for his Downing Street departure immediately, but denied he was handing Johnson a “free pass” over the findings in the report.
He said: “I think the report is very damaging. It outlines many of the issues that we already knew about, there’s new pictures and there is new information. It is right the Prime Minister has apologised.
“The situation in Ukraine changes things for me. Since the conclusion of Sue Gray’s report, that situation has not resolved itself.
“Just yesterday, President Zelenskyy was speaking about how we need more support from Western allies and of course the UK has been one of the strongest allies singled out.
“It’s not a free pass but I do think it’s a serious issue that we have to have in context with this. It doesn’t take away from the report, what’s been said and the anger the public have.
“Removing a Prime Minister while we continue to support these efforts in Ukraine would only destabalise our efforts and those of the people of Ukraine and that would only help Vladimir Putin.”
When asked whether, if the conflict was resolved, he would back calls for Johnson to leave, Ross said he refused to deal in “hypotheticals”
“We are in a situation where the war has been going for several months,” he said.
“I’d like to trust a Conservative Prime Minister and on issues such as Ukraine and the vaccine rollout, I do trust him.
“But he has serious questions to answer on this and the privileges committee will look at that.”