Paul Holmes, the Conservative MP for Eastleigh, has quit his role as a ministerial aide to the home secretary, citing the “deep mistrust” of government created by its handling of the Partygate saga.
Holmes said that the findings of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into the controversy had left him “shocked and angered” and that his constituency work had been left “tarnished by the toxic culture that seemed to have permeated Number 10", and that he now wished to channel all his efforts into his role as an MP.
First elected to the House of Commons in 2019, Holmes had served as parliamentary private secretary to home secretary, Priti Patel, since September last year.
Gray’s report, published in full on Wednesday, suggested that Covid rule breaches within Downing Street were widespread and able to happen with implicit permission from Number 10’s leadership.
The report has also raised fresh questions over whether Boris Johnson deliberately misled MPs over the parties having taken place and the nature of the gatherings.
In a statement confirming his resignation from his government role, Holmes said that dealing with Partygate had diverted the attention of ministers from the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
He also said that some of Gray’s findings about cleaning and security personnel being mistreated by Downing Street staff were “disappointing and unacceptable”, and indicative of a “distasteful” culture behind the famous black door of Number 10.
Holmes added: “It is clear to me that a deep mistrust in both the government and the Conservative Party has been created by these events,” before going on to explain that he wanted to “focus solely” on his constituency work.
The Sue Gray report was released this week after the Metropolitan Police finalised its own four-month long inquiry, which saw 126 fines issued to 83 individuals for 12 parties that happened over 2020 and 2021 while lockdown laws were in place.
While Holmes has not joined the voices calling for the prime minister to step down, four more Tory MPs have called for Johnson to go since Sue Gray’s report emerged.
The PM has told the media that he is confident he has enough support from within the Conservative party to remain in the Downing Street hot-seat, with 18 Tories having so far submitted letters of no confidence to the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, as per the BBC.
A total of 54 letters would need to be handed to the committee by Tory MPs to oust the PM by forcing a leadership contest.
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