What planet is he on? Boris Johnson STILL refuses to admit lockdown laws were broken in Downing Street despite Partygate police handing out 20 FINES… and his deputy Dominic Raab saying the rules WERE broken
- Boris Johnson repeatedly refused to admit lockdown laws breached in Whitehall
- Mr Johnson and Keir Starmer clashed over the Partygate scandal at PMQs earlier
- Labour leader demanded to know ‘why are you still here’ after police issued fines
- Dominic Raab confirmed earlier that the police decision means law was broken
Boris Johnson today stubbornly refused to admit that lockdown laws were broken in Downing Street despite Partygate police handing out 20 fines.
In a toe-curling appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee, the PM repeatedly blanked questions about whether the rules had been breached.
Under fire from senior MPs, he insisted: ‘I been very clear I won’t give a running commentary on an ongoing investigation.’
Mr Johnson – who is waiting to find out whether he personally will get a fixed penalty notice – also suggested that he will not speak about the issue until after a report by top civil servant Sue Gray is published, rather than when the police conclude their probe.
The comments echoed extraordinary dodging by the PM’s spokesman in a briefing with journalists earlier.
And the stance contrasts sharply with deputy PM Dominic Raab conceding in a round of interviews this morning that the police decision meant lockdown laws had been broken in Whitehall.
During the hearing, SNP MP Pete Wishart asked Mr Johnson to accept that ‘there has been criminality committed’.
He replied: ‘I have been, I hope, very frank with the House about where I think we have gone wrong and the things that I regret, that I apologise for.
‘But there is an ongoing investigation… I am going to camp pretty firmly on my position.’
Making clear he had not yet received a fine, Mr Johnson said: ‘I have been several times to the House to talk about this and to explain and to apologise and to set out the things that we are doing to change the way things run in No 10.
‘But what I also said repeatedly… I won’t give a running commentary on an investigation that is under way.’
He said he understood that people would be ‘naturally curious’ about the situation but ‘it would be wrong of me to deviate from that’.
Mr Johnson added: ‘I think you are going to have to hold your horses and wait until the conclusion of the investigation, when there will be a lot more clarity.’
In a toe-curling appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee, the PM repeatedly blanked questions about whether the rules had been breached
What happens next on Partygate?
The Met has announced an initial tranche of fixed penalty notices.
Those will now be processed and sent out to the individuals, who can decide whether to accept or contest the findings.
If they pay the fines there will be no further action. The police have also made clear they will not be named.
But there still seems to be a long way to go in the investigation.
The Met is thought to have gone for ‘clear-cut’ cases where people accept they breached rules first – which means Boris Johnson is unlikely to feature in this batch.
And they have been interviewing witnesses, suggesting that the probe is still gathering material.
No10 has insisted the PM will admit if he is fined, but the picture is less clear for other ministers such as Rishi Sunak.
Earlier, Keir Starmer goaded Boris Johnson today over why he has not quit after Partygate police found lockdown laws were broken.
The Labour leader launched a series of barbs at Mr Johnson over fines being issued as they faced off at a rowdy PMQs.
Pointing out that Mr Johnson had assured the House that regulations had not been breached in Downing Street, Sir Keir said: ‘Why is he still here?’
However, the premier shot back by branding Sir Keir a ‘human weather vane’, saying he had recently dropped resignation calls because of the ongoing Ukraine crisis.
‘The investigators must go on with their jobs but in the meantime we are going to get on with our job,’ Mr Johnson said.
The politicians also traded blows on the cost-of-living crisis during the bad-tempered session, with Sir Keir mocking the government’s claims to be cutting taxes and the PM blaming Labour for failing to invest in nuclear power.
At PMQs, Sir Keir said: ‘Talking of parties, Prime Minister, he told the House no rules were broken in Downing Street during lockdown. The police have now concluded there was widespread criminality.
‘The ministerial code says that ministers who knowingly mislead the House should resign. Why’s he still here?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘Hang on a minute, we do at least expect some consistency from this human weathervane – it was only a week or so ago he was saying that I shouldn’t resign. What is his position?
‘Of course the Met, the investigators must get on with their job but in meantime we’re going to get on with our job.’
Sir Keir said: ‘There are only two possible explanations – either he’s trashing the ministerial code or he’s claiming he was repeatedly lied to by his own advisers, that he didn’t know what was going on in his own house and his own office. Come off it.
‘He really does think it’s one rule for him and another rule for everyone else, that he can pass off criminality in his office and ask others to follow the law.
‘That he can keep raising taxes and call himself a tax-cutter. That he can hike tax during a cost of living crisis and get credit for giving a bit back just before an election.
‘When is he going to stop taking the British public for fools?’
Keir Starmer goaded Boris Johnson today over why he has not quit after Partygate police found lockdown laws were broken
Mr Johnson’s stance contrasted sharply with deputy PM Dominic Raab conceding in a round of interviews this morning that the police decision meant lockdown laws had been broken in Whitehall
Mr Johnson branded Sir Keir a ‘human weather vane’, saying he had recently dropped resignation calls because of the ongoing Ukraine crisis
Boris Johnson replied: ‘This is the Leader of the Opposition who would have kept this country in lockdown… he has zero consistency on any issue. One thing we know is he’d like to take us back into the EU and take us back into lockdown if he possibly could.’
After the exchanges, the PM’s official spokesman said No10’s position on whether the law had been broken was unchanged.
‘We are maintaining our position. There is an ongoing process here. The Met have come to a conclusion and have started a process which relates to 20 fines, and we respect that,’ the spokesman said.
‘We will not be commenting further on the detail of what happened until the investigation is concluded.
‘It simply would not be right for me to give the Prime Minister’s view in the midst of an ongoing Met Police investigation.’
Mr Johnson delivered a string of jokes about Tory efforts to oust him last night as he hosted a lavish team-building dinner.
The PM entertained his MPs for a meal at a luxury central London hotel hours after Scotland Yard announced the first 20 fines for Partygate lockdown breaches.
Mr Johnson is said to have quipped that no-confidence letters are ‘elastic — they go in and you can pull them out’. He also admitted he is ‘more popular in parts of Kyiv than in parts of Kensington’ but vowed to ‘turn it round’.
The premier’s improved position after the Ukraine crisis erupted was underlined by the warm reception he received from the massed ranks of Tory MPs.
But as they arrived Conservatives were heckled by bereaved families of Covid victims shouting ‘off to another party are we?’
Which bashes are being probed by the police?
The gatherings which ARE being probed
– May 20, 2020: BYOB garden party
The revelation came in an email, leaked to ITV, from senior civil servant Martin Reynolds to more than 100 Downing Street employees inviting them to ‘bring your own booze’ for an evening gathering.
The PM has admitted attending the gathering, but previously insisted he believed it was a work event which could ‘technically’ have been within the rules.
– June 18, 2020: Cabinet Office gathering
Ms Gray’s report revealed that a gathering in the Cabinet Office on this date is being investigated by the police. It has not previously been reported on.
The event was apparently held to mark the departure of a Number 10 private secretary.
– June 19, 2020: Birthday party for the PM
A Downing Street spokesman admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room after a meeting. A report from ITV News suggested up to 30 people attended and the PM was presented with a cake.
The broadcaster suggested the PM’s wife, Carrie Johnson, had organised the surprise get-together. Reports said Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of Mr and Mrs Johnson’s No 10 flat, briefly attended while undertaking work in Downing Street.
ITV News also reported that later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to further celebrate the Prime Minister’s 56th birthday in his official residence.
Number 10 previously said: ‘This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time the Prime Minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.’
The police probe relates specifically to the gathering in the Cabinet Room.
– November 13, 2020: Leaving party for senior aide
According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and a close ally of Mr Cummings.
– November 13, 2020: Johnsons’ flat party
There are allegations that the Prime Minister’s then fiancee hosted parties in their flat, with one such event said to have taken place on November 13 – the night Dominic Cummings departed Number 10.
It has been described as the ‘Winner Takes It All’ party because Abba was allegedly played, and Carrie had a long-running feud with Mr Cummings.
A spokesman for Mrs Johnson has previously called the claim as ‘total nonsense’.
– December 17, 2020: Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’
A number of outlets reported that a gathering was held in the Cabinet Office on December 17.
The Times reported that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case attended the party in room 103 of the Cabinet Office, that it had been organised by a private secretary in Mr Case’s team, and that it was included in digital calendars as: ‘Christmas party!’
The Cabinet Office confirmed a quiz took place, but a spokesman said: ‘The Cabinet Secretary played no part in the event, but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office.’
– December 17, 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head
The former director-general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce said she was ‘truly sorry’ over an evening gathering in the Cabinet Office for her leaving drinks during coronavirus restrictions days before Christmas in 2020.
Kate Josephs, who is now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, said she gathered with colleagues who were in the office that day and added that she was co-operating with the Ms Gray’s probe.
– December 17, 2020: Number 10 leaving do
The Sue Gray update said the police are also probing a gathering in Downing Street held to mark the departure of a Number 10 official on December 17.
– December 18, 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street
The claim that kicked off the rule-breaking allegations is that a party was held for Downing Street staff on December 18.
Officials and advisers reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts, although the PM is not thought to have attended.
Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, quit after being filmed joking about it with fellow aides at a mock press conference – although it is not clear whether she attended.
– January 14, 2021: Number 10 leaving do for two staff members
A previously unreported gathering is being probed by the police. The Sue Gray update revealed an event in Downing Street for the departure of two Number 10 private secretaries is being looked at by the police.
– April 16, 2021: Drinks and dancing the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral
The Telegraph reported that advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events on the Friday night.
They were to mark the departure of James Slack, Mr Johnson’s former director of communications, and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers.
Mr Slack, who left his Number 10 role to become deputy editor-in-chief of The Sun newspaper, said he was sorry for the ‘anger and hurt’ caused by his leaving do, while Downing Street apologised to the Queen.
The Telegraph quoted a Number 10 spokesman as saying Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day and is said to have been at Chequers.
The newspaper reported accounts from witnesses who said alcohol was drunk and guests danced to music, adding that it had been told that around 30 people attended both events combined.
The three events not being investigated
– May 15, 2020: Downing Street ‘cheese and wine’ party
The PM, his wife Carrie, former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, and Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, were all pictured, in a photograph leaked to The Guardian, sitting around a table in the Number 10 garden, with wine and cheese in front of them.
Some 15 other people were also in the photograph, but the Prime Minister has insisted this was a work meeting, saying: ‘Those were meetings of people at work, talking about work.’
– November 27, 2020: Second staff leaving do
The Mirror reported that the PM gave a farewell speech to an aide at the end of November while the lockdown in England was still in place.
Other reports have said the leaving do was for Cleo Watson, a senior Downing Street aide and ally of Mr Cummings.
– December 10, 2020: Department for Education party
The DfE confirmed a social event happened after The Mirror reported that former education secretary Gavin Williamson threw a party and delivered a short speech at an event organised at his department’s Whitehall headquarters.
A spokesman acknowledged that ‘it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time’.
Is the unlucky 13th being investigated?
– December 15, 2020: Downing Street quiz
The PM appeared on contestants’ screens at the quiz but has insisted he broke no rules.
An image published by the Sunday Mirror showed Mr Johnson flanked by two colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in Number 10.
Downing Street admitted Mr Johnson ‘briefly’ attended the quiz after the photographic evidence emerged but insisted it was a virtual event.
The police initially were not investigating this event, but later said they would ‘assess’ it following the emergence of another photograph of the PM.
Source: Read Full Article