Boris Johnson branded 'pathetic' at PMQs after accepting he broke Covid laws

How did Boris Johnson fare at PMQs after another partygate apology? Daniel Hewitt reports

Boris Johnson has been branded a "pathetic" leader who "never takes responsibility for his words or actions" by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, in a feisty session of Prime Minister's Questions.

The PM admitted he had broken his own coronavirus laws but again rejected calls to step down - a stance Sir Keir compared with that of other members of the government, whose resignations over Covid breaches Mr Johnson accepted.

"Why does the prime minister think everybody else's actions have consequences except his own," the Labour leader asked.

Sir Keir said in the Commons: "Allegra Stratton laughed at breaking the rules. She resigned. The prime minister then claimed he was furious at her behaviour and accepted her resignation.

"Professor Neil Ferguson broke the rules. He also resigned. The prime minister said that was the right thing to do."

Mr Johnson took a bullish tone at PMQs as he defended his government amid intense criticism but appeared to have abandoned the contrition shown on Tuesday when apologising to MPs for breaking the law.

The prime minister is seemingly not worried by a vote in the Commons tomorrow - Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks breaks down Wednesday's developments

The PM accused his opposite number of being stuck in a "time warp" for asking more questions about the partygate scandal, saying "we had this conversation yesterday".

Sir Keir said the prime minister was providing "strange answers" for someone who yesterday "claimed to be making a humble apology".

"Does the prime minister actually accept that he broke the law?", Sir Keir asked, to which the PM said "yes".

Mr Johnson is heading to India after PMQs, meaning he will miss a major vote on Thursday looking at whether he broke the ministerial code by misleading Parliament with his claim from last year that he always obeyed all coronavirus rules.

The vote, which the government is expected to win, is being viewed by many as a referendum on whether the partygate scandal as damaged the prime minister's leadership beyond repair.

The opposition has been granted a vote to decide whether Mr Johnson lied to MPs when he insisted in December 2020 that all Covid rules were followed in Downing Street during the pandemic, a claim which was disproven when he was issued a £50 fine for attending his 56th birthday celebration in June 2020.

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If the vote is successful it will trigger a Commons investigation into whether the PM did lie to the Commons, but Mr Johnson will be meeting Indian counterpart Narendra Modi as MPs decide whether there should be a third probe into his conduct.

The PM was dealt a huge blow on Tuesday - despite repeatedly apologising for breaking his own Covid laws, a senior Tory backbencher told him he was no longer “worthy” of being prime minister, as did numerous opposition MPs.

Mark Harper - a former Conservative chief whip, who has previously said he was waiting for the police to conclude their partygate investigation before deciding if Mr Johnson should go - said the PM's conduct was "indefensible".

The MP for Forest of Dean joined backbench colleagues Nigel Mills and Craig Whittaker in calling for his leader to go - they are among the only Tories MPs to demand a resignation since the the PM was confirmed by police to have broken the law.

Most of the others have either supported the prime minister, saying the war in Ukraine means he should stay in post - or remained quiet on the issue, a position that will not last beyond Thursday's vote.

Another backbencher is calling for Mr Johnson to resign, but not until the Ukraine crisis is over.

Neil Hudson, who joined Parliament in 2019, said the prime minister should face "serious consequences" for breaking coronavirus laws and his position "is not tenable in the long term".

"I do not think in the current international situation in Ukraine it would be prudent nor responsible to actually change the leadership", he said, as he urged Mr Johnson to "outline a timetable for a transition to a leadership contest when the international situation permits".

The opposition is extremely unlikely to win Thursday's vote because of the huge Tory majority, but Tories who have not publicly revealed their stance on Mr Johnson will be forced to either support him or not.

Conservative councillors will be hoping Tory MPs vote the way their constituents want in order to avoid the party being decimated at the local elections in May.

The wording of Thursday's motion being tabled by Labour and other opposition MPs was not yet clear, but was expected to refer Mr Johnson for investigation by the Commons Privileges Committee.

The committee has the power to summon reports and documents, meaning MPs could request a full version of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry into lockdown breaches as well as photographic evidence.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner said the PM had crossed a "red line" and should go for the sake of the integrity of the democratic process in the UK.

She described the prime minister as a "serial offender" who believes "the law doesn't apply to him", adding: "It's reckless to continue to keep him office when we know he's not fit for the job."

Mr Harper revealed he had submitted a letter to the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives, calling for a no confidence vote in their leader.

A no-confidence vote in the prime minister is triggered if 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady has 54 letters from Tory MPs. The number submitted is a closely-guarded secret.

Watch Boris Johnson repeatedly apologise to MPs for his partygate fine: