But defending his actions, Johnson said he believed at the time it was a “technically” allowed “work event” under the rules when he “went into that garden”.
Lewis was one of many Cabinet ministers to rally around Johnson – saying the Prime Minister did not believe he had actually broken Covid rules and that people should await the outcome of a party inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
“The Prime Minister has said he does not believe he has done anything outside the rules,” he told Sky News.
“If you look at what the survey reveals, people will be able to form their own opinion at that time.”
The revelations gave Labor its biggest lead over the Tories for the first time in nearly a decade, with a YouGov poll for the Times – conducted before Johnson’s apology – put Labor at 38%, the Tories at 28% and the Liberal Democrats at 13%.
The same poll also found that six in 10 voters thought Johnson should quit, including 38% of those who voted Conservative in the last election.
He revealed that 78% of the public did not believe Johnson had been honest in his answers to questions about alleged parties, including 63% of Conservative voters.
But Lewis insisted Johnson remained the “right person to be prime minister” and the Tories could win another general election with him at the helm.
“I think we can go ahead and win a general election,” he said.
“He’s someone who wants to handle this and do it in a way that benefits everyone in the UK, and that’s why I think he will win the next election.”
There are already signs that Johnson’s apology has not appeased mutinous Tory MPs – five of whom, including Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross – have called on Johnson to quit.
Senior Tory Caroline Nokes was the latest Tory MP to demand Johnson’s resignation, telling ITV: ‘Unfortunately he looks like a disability.
“And I think he leaves now or he leaves in three years in a general election.”
And while some Cabinet ministers have lined up their defences, some – Chancellor Rishi Sunak – have been conspicuously absent.