Angry former Scottish Tory politicians say Prime Minister Boris Johnson is destroying his own authority over the No 10 Christmas party scandal – and leaving party members in “despair”.
Adam Tomkins, who was in Holyrood until the May election, and former MP Peter Duncan said colleagues from the back benches to government in Westminster have their heads in their hands.
They spoke out after the prime minister issued a grovelling apology in the fall-out from a leaked video showing Downing Street staff laughing about a Christmas party held at No 10 last year during lockdown.
Mr Tomkins and Mr Duncan decided to air their anger in broadcast interviews on Thursday morning after Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross refused to accept a BBC Radio Scotland invitation to be interviewed.
‘The despair in Tory ranks is palpable’
However, Mr Tomkins defended Mr Ross and former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who have both spoken out against the prime minister since the row erupted.
And today's "we'll investigate what we've spent a week saying didn't happen and discipline staff for rules we continue to say weren't broken" was pathetic. As a Tory, I was brought up to believe in playing with a straight bat. Believe me, colleagues are furious at this, too. 2/2
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonPC) December 8, 2021
He said: “Douglas Ross is entirely right.
“There is no question that any minister, even the prime minister, who knowingly misled parliament is expected to resign.
“The despair in the Tory party ranks is palpable.
“The prime minister is eating away at his own authority.
“It is not interesting to speculate how long he will survive, but it is important because the Covid pandemic is not yet in the past.
“We still face further potential dangerous and lethal waves and we need to continue to take it seriously to safeguard the NHS.”
He continued: “Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson are putting as much distance as they can between themselves and No 10 because they are serious politicians who understand the weight of what they have to carry.”
Mr Tomkins, who was an MSP for Glasgow between 2016 and 2021, said people need to wait for the conclusion of the formal inquiry.
‘Fury’ in the Conservative Party
Mr Duncan, who served as MP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale from 2001 to 2005, said the fall out was a “misstep in crisis handling”.
He said: “There is fury amongst all the Conservatives.
“There is frustration and despair in the way the government is functioning at its heart.
“It is simply inexplicable.”
He claimed a series of blunders are causing despair.
“Douglas Ross is not the only MP to have his head in his hands,” he said.
“If this significant, appalling incident happened, it is a misstep in crisis handling in government.
He said the best way out of a crisis is to “stop digging” a hole.
“Despite some very competent people, I don’t see the evidence of basic man-management at the heart of government you would expect to see,” he continued.
“One of Boris Johnson’s problems is there is no such thing as Johnsonism that gels him, his government and the wider society behind it, there is just a transactional belief he can deliver an election victory.
“This is not the time to mess around given the seriousness and the prime minister needs to pull together and start to deliver basic competence over the next two weeks.”