DORSET MPs have responded after the Prime Minister apologised over his attendance at the Number 10 drinks party - with one describing it as "abject".

Boris Johnson admitted at Prime Minister's Questions he had attended the gathering in Downing Street in May 2020, when it was forbidden to socialise outdoors with more than one person.

Sir Christopher Chope

His apology was described as “abject” by Sir Christopher Chope, who told BBC News the controversy represents a “really serious problem” for the government.

He said: “I’ve never heard such an abject apology from a government minister in my 30 plus years in this place.

“I think that when somebody makes an apology like that, reasonable people accept the apology – obviously with the caveat that there is a continuing enquiry.

“But in the short term, I think that this is a monumental relief to myself and lots of other colleagues because we didn’t think he’d be able to carry on if he didn’t answer the basic question of whether or not he was there.

“This is a really serious problem for our government because what it seems to show is that there’s a feeling amongst the civil service and ministers that at the top you can behave in a completely different way from the people to whom you should be responsible.”

Sir Robert Syms

Meanwhile, Sir Robert Syms, MP for Poole, told the Echo: “He was apologetic all the way through and that was the best way to handle the situation.

“The real problem is, we don’t really know what happened. The way some of those who have a downer on the PM explain it, you’d think there was a ballroom dance or disco taking place. If the communication had said you’re welcome to use the garden for a cup of tea, we may not be talking about this. But simply the fact they said bring a bottle gives the suggestion it was a frivolous event.

“What he said today should have been said a month ago when the issue came up."

Bournemouth Echo: Number 10 Downing Street Number 10 Downing Street

He added: “Myself and my colleagues have followed the rules religiously but if you as PM say follow the rules, you have to stay whiter than white. You have to stay out of trouble.”

Simon Hoare

North Dorset MP Simon Hoare told Sky News: “As I understand it, and this is a third-hand understanding, this was a party organised to say, in the first instance, welcome back Prime Minister.

“He had been in hospital, I think I’ve got the timeline right, and recuperating at Chequers.

“It was also a way of saying thank you to Dominic Raab for holding the fort.

Asked whether Mr Johnson can survive to the next election, Mr Hoare replied: “I don’t know.”

Conor Burns

Far more optimistic was Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns. He told BBC Radio 4: “I can put my hand on my heart. I have known Boris Johnson well for a long time. I was his parliamentary private secretary in the Foreign Office, I was at his side during the leadership election.

“I have absolute confidence and belief in Boris Johnson and he is determined to restore the trust.”

Tobias Ellwood

Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood told the Echo yesterday: “It is clearly not the exemplary behaviour we would expect to see. And it has triggered a lot of understandable anger given the hardship the nation was experiencing at the time.”

We approached all our MPs for comment following Prime Minister's Questions. Only Sir Robert Syms contacted us in response to our enquiries.