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Boris Johnson wrong to attend lockdown party, says Grant Shapps

Boris Johnson was wrong to attend a party in lockdown but that does not mean he should resign, a minister said.

The prime minister was fined for breaking Covid laws but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had not acted “with malice or intent”.

Opposition parties have said Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak must quit after being fined on Tuesday, reports BBC.

But cabinet ministers have backed the pair and only one Tory MP has publicly called for Mr Johnson to stand down.

The Metropolitan Police have so far issued more than 50 fines over lockdown-breaking parties in government buildings, with more expected to come.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Shapps said Mr Johnson was “mortified” and “incredibly embarrassed” at having been fined.

The PM, his wife Carrie, and Mr Sunak paid £50 fixed penalty notices for attending a surprise birthday party for Mr Johnson in Downing Street on 19 June 2020 – when social gatherings of more than two people inside were banned by law.

The prime minister can only be removed by a vote of no confidence in Parliament, or by his own MPs organising a leadership contest, neither of which is likely to happen at this stage.

More than 70 Conservative MPs have expressed their support for the PM since he was fined, including some who have previously called for him to go.

Mr Shapps said the prime minister should have left the party, adding: “It was wrong. He’s apologised, he’s accepted responsibility.

“I don’t seek to justify it, but I also know that it wasn’t done with malice or intent – even though it should not have happened.”

And Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said Mr Johnson should not resign as PM, even if he is fined again.

Speaking to BBC Wales, he added: “The principles are the same, whether it’s going to be one fine or two”.

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak had “dishonoured” their positions, and the sacrifices made by the public to stop the spread of Covid and must now go.

The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, and Welsh government leader Mark Drakeford are also demanding resignations.

A group representing Covid-bereaved families said there was “simply no way” either man could continue in their job, calling their actions “truly shameless”.

Amanda McEgan, whose daughter Isabel died during the pandemic, said the prime minister’s conduct during the lockdowns made restrictions on the 19-year-old’s funeral “more hurtful”.

All cabinet ministers have publicly backed Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak, apart from Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is responsible for policing in England and Wales. A source close to her told the BBC she supports the PM but can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.

Nigel Mills is currently the only Tory MP known to have said publicly that Mr Johnson should go, telling BBC Radio Derby: “I don’t think his position is tenable”.

Others who called for him to resign earlier in the year, including Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, have now said they don’t think he should.

But a previous leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson disagreed, saying: “The prime minister should walk now.”

Baroness Davidson said Mr Johnson had presided over “a culture of persistent law breaking” in Downing Street, while telling Parliament and the country “that no laws had been broken”.

She added that if she was an MP, she would have submitted a letter to the backbench 1922 Committee, calling for a vote of confidence in the prime minister.

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said the PM and chancellor had “insulted the millions of people who faithfully followed the rules”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “This is a government in crisis neglecting a country in crisis.”

Speaking on Tuesday, the prime minister said he accepted “in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better” from him.

He claimed the party he was fined for attending was “brief”, lasted “less than 10 minutes” and it “did not occur” to him it would breach the rules.

But he added: “Of course, the police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.”