Oris Johnson faces mounting pressure from Tory MPs to quit in the public interest, amid warnings he will lose the next election.
Former minister Tobias Ellwood and backbencher Julian Sturdy described partygate as a “distraction” at a challenging time for Brits.
Mr Sturdy, Conservative MP for York Outer, said the Sue Gray report shows that Mr Johnson has “led a widespread culture of disregard for the coronavirus regulations”.
In a statement on Twitter, he said: “Questions are now being raised as to whether the Prime Minister misled parliament when asked about these events.
“Speaking to voters, it is clear that discussions about parties in Downing Street remain a harmful distraction at a time when our country faces enormous challenges with the return of war to Europe, a global crisis in the cost of living and our recovery from the pandemic is more important than ever.
“This is clearly a time when we should have no doubts whatsoever about the honesty, integrity and personal nature of the Prime Minister.
“While I thought it important to wait for the conclusion of the Metropolitan Police investigation and the publication of the Sue Gray report, I cannot give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt at this point and feel that it is now in is the public interest for him. resign.”
Conservative former ministerial aide Angela Richardson said the scandal has eroded public confidence in politicians and “paints a bad picture of us all”.
“Obviously if this had been a report on my leadership I would resign,” the Guildford MP wrote online.
Mr Ellwood was mobbed by fellow Tory MPs in the House of Commons chamber when he questioned whether they could continue to defend Mr Johnson’s behaviour.
A question I humbly ask my colleagues is ‘are you willing to publicly defend this behavior day in and day out?’
The MP said of the report on lockdown-busting parties in No. 10: “This is a damning report about the lack of leadership, focus and discipline in No. 10 – the only place you expect to find those attributes in abundance.
“I made my point and my position very clear to the Prime Minister: he does not have my support.
“But one question I humbly ask my colleagues is, ‘Are you willing to publicly defend this behavior day in and day out?’
“Can we continue to rule without distraction, given the erosion of trust with the British people?
“And can we win the general election on this current trajectory? I’m being harassed by my own people.
“If we can’t figure out what to do, the Conservative Party broad church will lose the next general election.
“But my question to the prime minister is very clear on the issue of leadership: can he think of another prime minister who would have allowed such a culture of indiscipline to take place under their auspices and if so, wouldn’t they have resigned?”
Mr Johnson’s immediate fate rests in the hands of Conservative MPs, and whether enough of them chose to write letters to provoke a vote of no confidence.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries told TalkTV’s News Desk that Johnson would “absolutely” win such a challenge.
Back in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson focused his response on his prospects of winning the next election.
He said: “I think the answer is overwhelmingly and emphatically yes. We will go ahead and win the next general election because we continue the work.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who accused Mr Johnson of adopting a “sinister pattern of evasion”, called on Tory MPs to oust the prime minister.
He said: “I hope they keep in mind the now infamous government ad featuring a desperately ill Covid patient, which said look her in the eye and tell her never to bend the rules.
“If they don’t file a letter, if they don’t remove this prime minister, how will they ever look their constituents in the eye again?”
Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts said: “In this farce of a parliamentary system it is now all up to the Tory MPs…for them to form a backbone and dispel this moral vacuum of a prime minister.
“Will he save them the trouble and resign?”
Mr Johnson replied, “No.”
Conservative MP John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) asked Johnson if he believed his statements about “party gate” in the House of Commons had “passed the test of reasonableness”.
He said: “I believe that both leaders have a lot to answer regarding this issue. The British Army teaches you, or certainly believes to the core, that you should lead and lead by example.
“Given the magnitude of the rule-breaking in issue 10, does he believe that what he has since said to the House about not breaking the rules passed the fairness test?”
Mr Johnson reiterated his argument that he thought he was attending work events.
Conservative former cabinet minister Robert Jenrick (Newark) said it was “time to turn the page” and spoke of the actions of “brilliant” officials to create the foreclosure program in the early stages of the pandemic.
He said: “These achievements and others should mean that nothing in this report stains the character of the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of officials, whether in Number 10, other government departments, or across the country who have helped this country through the the pandemic.
“Secondly difficult, although this is for many, with a war in Europe, with an economic crisis, with the challenges this country is facing, it is not really true that now is the time to turn a page and for this country, our politics and this House to move forward.”
SNP Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) said there had been “no attempt at repentance” from Mr Johnson, adding: “Especially if he was half the man he thinks he would evoke that self-esteem and would just go.”
Labor MP Afzal Khan (Manchester Gorton) said his mother, father-in-law and mother-in-law died of Covid-19, adding: “The laws broken by the Prime Minister, Chancellor and others were not victimless crimes.”