(Bloomberg) --

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing criticism from some of his Conservative Members of Parliament, after pictures emerged of him drinking at a Downing Street gathering when the UK was under lockdown.

The photos, published by ITV News on Monday, show Johnson proposing a toast with a group of at least nine people next to a table laden with bottles of alcohol and party food. They were taken at an event for Johnson’s former communications chief Lee Cain on Nov. 13, 2020, ITV said.

The images have put a renewed focus on the so-called partygate saga, which has rocked Johnson’s premiership for months. While the pressure had receded as attention shifted to Russia’s war in Ukraine, there is still residual anger in the Tory party even if the threshold to trigger a no-confidence vote -- 15% of Conservative MPs -- still looks unlikely for rebels to overcome.

Read more: Johnson Faces Final Verdict on ‘Partygate’ as Threat Recedes

Roger Gale, a long-standing critic, reiterated his demands for Johnson to resign, arguing that the prime minister had misled Parliament. Peter Aldous, speaking on GB News, also renewed his call for Johnson to go. Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross, who has called for Johnson to quit before retracting, said that “to most, these pictures seem unjustifiable and wrong.”

Resignation Calls

“It’s absolutely clear that there was a party, that he attended it, that he was raising a toast to glass one of his colleagues,” Gale said on Times Radio. “Honorably, there is one answer.”

For Johnson, the issue is not the views of Gale and others who have made clear their position on his leadership. The question is how many minds will be turned in his party by the images and the publication this week of the internal investigation into partygate by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

Four Conservative MPs, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted Johnson would be okay, saying it was time to move on from the saga and focus on other things. Two others said the photos will create problems for him.

The immediate challenge for Johnson is how he can reconcile the photos with his various statements. In December 2020 -- after the photos were taken --Johnson said in the House of Commons that “all guidance was followed completely” in 10 Downing Street.

Asked specifically about the November event for his former staffer, he said: “I’m sure whatever happened the guidance was followed, the rules were followed at all times.”

Read More: The Partygate Scandal: What Boris Johnson Has Said So Far (2)

Misleading statements -- if they are made deliberately -- are considered a breach of the ministerial code and are normally a resignation matter. Johnson also faces a parliamentary investigation into whether he has lied about the scandal and that inquiry will begin once Gray’s report is published.

Key Statement

“The Cabinet Office and the Met Police have had access to all information relevant to their investigations, including photographs,” Johnson’s office said in a statement, responding to the photos. “The Met have concluded their investigation and Sue Gray will publish her report in the coming days, at which point the prime minister will address Parliament in full.”

Speaking during the government’s broadcast round on Tuesday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he is “disappointed” by the events in Downing Street but that the prime minister had apologized.

Johnson has made clear he is not planning to step down. But the scrutiny over partygate is not going away. The Times newspaper reported Johnson used a meeting with Gray this month to suggest she abandon full publication of her report on the grounds that the police had already investigated the events. 

London’s Metropolitan Police is also caught up in the political storm, after it failed to explain why the prime minister avoided fines for attending events where others received penalties. 

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