'The backbone of a jellyfish': Rivals attack Douglas Ross as he withdraws letter of no-confidence in Boris Johnson
The Prime Minister will address the Scottish Conservative conference in-person
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has withdrawn his letter of no-confidence in Boris Johnson, citing the Ukraine crisis.
That letter put Ross into conflict with the Tory prime minister as he led calls for him to quit in the wake of partygate revelations – calls that were backed by most other Conservative MSPs.
Now he has U-turned on the call and Johnson’s attendance at the party’s conference in Aberdeen next week has been confirmed.
A spokesperson for the party said it would “welcome the prime minister appearing in person to speak about the war in Ukraine”.
In a statement, Ross said any contest for the leadership of the party should be “put on pause while there is war in Europe”.
An MP and MSP as well as the leader of the party in Scotland, he was branded a “lightweight” by Jacob Rees-Mogg as the row bubbled just two months ago.
Tonight Ross has said: “The middle of an international crisis is not the time to be discussing resignations, unless it’s the removal from office of Vladimir Putin.
“There will be a time and place to debate partygate but, as even Keir Starmer said at the weekend, we should put that on pause while there is war in Europe.
“It's essential that we all fully support what the UK Government is doing. In light of Russia's appalling actions, the government and Prime Minister need our backing, and they have mine and the whole Scottish Conservative party.
“We should all be focused on what we can do to help the Ukrainian people in any capacity.”
The move has sparked condemnation from other parties, with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar MSP saying: “We are right to be defending democracy in Ukraine, but that doesn't mean we stop doing democracy at home.
“This is a Prime Minister that has broken his own laws and shown contempt for the people of the UK.
“Douglas Ross should not be using the Ukraine crisis to go back on his principles.
“He knows Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister.
"The United Kingdom, including Scotland, deserves better."
The SNP's Kirsten Oswald MP called the development a “major blow to Douglas Ross's credibility and authority as Scottish Conservative leader”, saying it “beggars belief” that the two men can now work together.
Ross had earlier stated that Johnson’s position was “no longer tenable”.
Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie commented: “Douglas Ross and the Scottish Conservatives have the backbone of a jellyfish.
“Their limited welcome betrays a deep embarrassment that they are lumbered with a Prime Minister that they are ashamed of because of his double standards over parties in Downing Street.
“It is difficult to change Prime Minister in the midst of an international crisis when we should be focusing on assisting the people of Ukraine but he should have been gone long before now.”
Until now, it was thought that Johnson would provide a pre-recorded message or speak via videolink to the Scottish Conservative conference.
The UK Conservative Party will simultaneously hold its spring conference from 18-19 March in Blackpool, where the Prime Minister will speak on Saturday.