Nicola Sturgeon says “time is running out” for the Prime Minister – with a Commons committee considering if he misled Parliament over partygate branded “quite a significant turning point”.
The Scottish First Minister said while Boris Johnson may “try to cling on” to power at Number 10, the forthcoming investigation by the Privileges Committee could be a pivotal moment in his premiership.
She said: “I think time is running out for him. It feels to me that the events of yesterday turned things into a question of when and not if.”
Her comments came after a chaotic day at Westminster saw ministers forced to abandon plans to try to delay a vote on the inquiry in the face of a threatened Tory revolt.
Nicola Sturgeon Russell Cheyne
Instead, MPs nodded through an opposition motion referring Mr Johnson to the committee.
Mr Johnson reportedly intervened personally to drop a Government amendment after six junior ministers threatened to resign.
Ms Sturgeon, speaking after the launch of the SNP’s election manifesto for May’s local council elections, said allowing the inquiry to go ahead was “the right decision for the House of Commons to take”.
The Privileges Committee will not begin its probe until after the Metropolitan Police has completed its investigation into breaches of Covid regulations in Whitehall.
But Ms Sturgeon said: “The fact that the Tories had to U-turn at the last minute in terms of their instruction to their own MPs, I think, is very telling and is a sign that support appears at long last – and it’s overdue – to be ebbing away from the Prime Minister within his own ranks.”
The SNP leader continued: “I think the Tories in Westminster have got a big question to ask themselves because every day they allow Boris Johnson to remain in office right now they become complicit in all of the wrongdoing that he stands accused of.”
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon speaks during the launch of the SNP party manifesto at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock Russell Cheyne
Saying she thinks the “vast majority of the country” want to see Mr Johnson ousted as Prime Minister, Ms Sturgeon claimed he will “continue to put his own interests ahead of the interests of his party – and, more importantly, ahead of the interests of the country”.
She insisted: “Yesterday felt to me like quite a significant turning point. He will try to cling on, there is no doubt about it.
“He will try to wriggle off the multiple hooks that I think he is on. He clearly has no shame. He clearly has no respect for Parliament, for democracy, for the institutions that our democracy depends on.”
The Prime Minister has already received one fine – as has his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak – over a birthday gathering in No 10 and there are fears more could follow.
The motion passed by the Commons on Thursday said Mr Johnson made statements that “appear to amount to misleading the House” when giving past assurances Downing Street complied with coronavirus laws.
The committee will consider whether he is in contempt of Parliament for intentionally misleading the Commons – a breach of the ministerial code traditionally considered a resignation issue.
However, Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns said there is “no question” of the Prime Minister stepping down – insisting Mr Johnson is entitled to support from his party after leading the Tories to an emphatic general election victory in 2019.
“There are a number of colleagues across Parliament who have never really supported the Prime Minister,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“If the Prime Minister stepped off Westminster Bridge and walked on top of the water they would say he couldn’t swim. That is a fact.
“The reality is that it is only two years ago since we won a majority of 80 seats, the biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.
“What the Prime Minister is saying is, ‘I led you to that victory, I have got business I want to do’.”