Fury at PM 'misleading' MPs on parties 'like Blair's WMD claim'

Minister compares fury over Boris Johnson ‘misleading Parliament’ on Partygate to Tony Blair’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ claims in bizarre defence of PM

  • Boris Johnson promises to make a statement to MPs on Partygate next week
  • He is under pressure to correct the Commons record after previous denials
  • Welsh Secretary Simon Hart springs to the PM’s defence over ‘misleading’ MPs
  • He compares the row to ex-Labour premier Tony Blair’s claims before Iraq War
  • Almost 80 Tory backbenchers and ministers have come out in support of the PM
  • But that leaves around 280 who have yet to publicly back Mr Johnson
  • After holing himself up in Chequers, the PM broke cover today

A row about Boris Johnson ‘misleading’ Parliament over lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street is like Tony Blair telling MPs there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a Cabinet minister has claimed.

The Prime Minister is currently under pressure to offer a full explanation for Covid rule breaches in Downing Street to the House of Commons.

It comes after he was slapped with a £50 police fine for a bash in Number 10 on his 56th birthday, in June 2020.

A senior Conservative has also demanded that Mr Johnson correct the record in the Commons, after he previously told MPs that Covid guidance had been followed at all times in No10.

Mr Johnson, who today promised to address the Commons on Partygate next week, has been warned that ministers who deliberately mislead Parliament must resign.

However, one of the PM’s Cabinet ministers sprung to his defence today as Mr Johnson’s battles to stay in office.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart insisted there was a difference between ‘misleading and deliberately misleading’ MPs.

He also compared the row over Mr Johnson’s previous denials of Covid rule-breaking to former Labour premier Mr Blair’s claims before the 2003 Iraq War.

Mr Hart told Sky News: ‘I know it always makes everybody frustrated. There is a difference between misleading and deliberately misleading.

‘We heard all of that with Tony Blair and the Iraq War, if you remember, weapons of mass destruction? And the suggestion was at the time that he had misled Parliament.

‘That was the suggestion and the argument was all around whether it was deliberate or whether it was accidental.’

Despite the supposed presence of weapons of mass destruction being part of Mr Blair’s push for Britain and the US to invade Iraq, none were found by United Nations inspectors. 

Boris Johnson, who today promised to address the House of Commons on Partygate next week, has been warned that ministers who deliberately mislead Parliament must resign.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart compared the row over Mr Johnson’s previous denials of Covid rule-breaking to former Labour premier Mr Blair’s claims before the 2003 Iraq War

The supposed presence of weapons of mass destruction were part of Tony Blair’s push for Britain and the US to invade Iraq

 Little more than a fifth of Tory MPs have so far publicly backed Mr Johnson to continue in No10 in the wake of his Partygate law-breaking.

Almost 80 Tory backbenchers and ministers have come out in support of the PM, including the entire Cabinet, since he was handed a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN).

However, that has left around 280 who have yet to publicly back Mr Johnson since his police fine was revealed.

It will prompt fears among the PM’s team that many Tories are still waiting to make their judgement.

After holing himself up at his Chequers country retreat as the latest Partygate developments broke this week, Mr Johnson attempted to get back on the front foot as he broke cover and delivered a major speech on his immigration shake-up today. 

He also promised to ‘set the record straight in any way that I can’ in an address to Parliament next week.

Mr Johnson offered his full backing to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who was also handed a police fine over the June 19th event, saying he could stay in charge of the Treasury for as long as he wants to.

The PM has not ruled out the possibility that he could yet receive more fines over Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street.

Some have suggested that the PM could end up having to pay more than £10,000 in total if he is fined for each of the gatherings he is said to have attended.

Former Brexit minister Lord Frost, a supporter of the PM, admitted that Mr Johnson’s fine for the June 19th event was ‘not the end of the story’ and said it was ‘entirely possible there will be further fixed penalties’.

In order to ‘move on’ from the Partygate row, Lord Frost called on the PM to offer a full explanation for Covid rule breaches in Downing Street.

He also demanded that Mr Johnson correct the record in the House of Commons, after he previously told MPs that ‘there was no party’ and ‘no Covid rules were broken’.

After holing himself up at his Chequers country retreat as the latest Partygate developments broke this week, Mr Johnson today attempted to get back on the front foot as he unveiled his immigration shake-up. He viewed a drone and met its operators during a visit to Lydd airport in Kent

Lord Frost, a supporter of the PM, admitted that Mr Johnson’s fine for the June 19th event was ‘not the end of the story’ and said it was ‘entirely possible there will be further fixed penalties’

Writing in the Telegraph, Lord Frost said: ‘A minister who deliberately misleads Parliament must resign. If it is done accidentally, then the record must be corrected.’

He also warned that the ‘drip drip effect of continuous criticism’ of Mr Johnson over Partygate ‘could easily undermine the Prime Minister further and leave Conservative voters despairing about moving on’.

The ex-Cabinet minister urged Mr Johnson to next week publish senior civil servant Sue Gray’s full report into Partygate.

‘I know, having worked closely with the Prime Minister, that he will find it hard to admit mistakes,’ Lord Frost added.

‘But it is time to be honest and open with people. I have often heard him say “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. He’s right.’ 

A minister and a handful of Tory MPs have so far publicly criticised Mr Johnson.

Penrith and The Border MP, Dr Neil Hudson, became the latest to call for Mr Johnson’s resignation today – although he backed the PM to continue for an interim period in the face of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

‘I will therefore be looking to the Prime Minister to show the statesmanship he has been showing with Ukraine, and outline a timetable and process for an orderly transition to a leadership election as soon as the international situation permits,’ Dr Hudson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Conservative former Cabinet minister Karen Bradley also suggested Mr Johnson should go.

‘I will spend the next few days consulting my constituents and will decide on what action to take after listening to them,’ she told the Stoke-on-Trent Live website.

‘But I do wish to make it clear that if I had been a minister found to have broken the laws that I passed, I would be tendering my resignation now.’

Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the Commons Defence Committee, questioned whether the PM is the ‘right person’ to lead the Tories into the next general election.

Speaking to Sky News, the Bournemouth East MP claimed Mr Johnson should call a confidence vote over his leadership should next month’s local elections ‘go badly’ for the Conservatives.

Later, in her first public comments on the partygate row, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the PM should be “respected” for giving a “very thorough and fulsome apology” after being fined.

Asked by reporters during her visit to Rwanda whether she was disappointed that Mr Johnson had been fined for breaking Covid rules, she said: ‘The Prime Minister has apologised, the Prime Minister has paid a fine.

‘I’m not going to give a running commentary on this, there’s an investigation still ongoing.’

Lord David Wolfson quit as justice minister on Wednesday night over the ‘scale, context and nature’ of breaches of Covid regulations in No 10, criticising a culture of ‘repeated rule-breaking’ in Downing Street.

Backbenchers Nigel Mills and Craig Whittaker have also demanded both Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak resign after they were handed £50 fixed penalty notices by the Met.

But evidence has yet to emerge of any real push to oust the PM, or of any influx of letters from backbenchers to the 1922 Committee calling for a leadership contest.

Downing Street is however worried that Mr Johnson could receive several fines if the police find he broke lockdown rules at other gatherings.

This could result in more Tory MPs coming forward to call for his resignation.

Insiders told the Guardian they believed three more parties being investigated by the Met Police could result in fines for the Prime Minister. 

The events include the Downing Street summer party in May 2020 and a gathering in Johnson’s flat with his wife after Dominic Cummings resigned in November. 

It was also claimed Mr Johnson could face scrutiny – and a possible fine – over a speech he gave at a Downing Street leaving party for a long-standing aide.

The Prime Minister allegedly attended the party for Lee Cain, his outgoing director of communications, during lockdown on November 13, 2020. 

It comes as: 

  • Tory MPs accused the Met Police of ‘poor judgment’ and ‘constant flip-flopping’ over Partygate. 
  • Robert Peston was accused of breaching ITV’s duty for political impartiality after he criticised Mr Johnson for not resigning.

Scotland Yard announced on Tuesday that the PM, his wife Carrie and Mr Sunak would each be given a fixed penalty notice for an impromptu birthday celebration held for Mr Johnson in Downing Street on June 19, 2020.

It makes Mr Johnson the first serving prime minister to be punished for breaking the law.

Conservative peer David Wolfson has quit as a justice minister over the Partygate row as he hit out at the ‘scale, context and nature’ of Covid rule breaches in Downing Street

By yesterday afternoon, a total of 76 Conservative backbenchers and ministers publicly defended him as a Tory revolt failed to materialise.

Mr Mills, who notoriously had to apologise after he was caught playing Candy Crush during a Commons hearing in 2014, said the idea that Mr Johnson could survive after receiving the fine for breaching Covid rules was ‘just impossible’.

The Amber Valley MP argued that ‘we have every right to expect higher standards of people making these laws’.

Asked if he thought Mr Johnson’s position was untenable, Mr Mills said: ‘Yeah, I think for a Prime Minister in office to be given a fine and accept it and pay it for breaking the laws that he introduced… is just an impossible position.

‘We have every right to expect higher standards of people making these laws… so the idea that he can survive having broken one and accepted he has broken [it], I just think is impossible.’

Mr Mills said he also believed Mr Sunak should step down.

He added that he would submit a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership, but conceded that not enough Tory MPs would join him in doing so for the Prime Minister to be ousted. He said: ‘To be honest, I’d be very surprised if he either resigns or there’s 180 of us that want rid of him. So I think he will carry on for now.’

Lord Wolfson penned a resignation letter to Boris Johnson in which he  said that ‘recent disclosures lead to the inevitable conclusion that there was repeated rule-breaking, and breaches of criminal law, in Downing Street’

Earlier, Nigel Mills became the first Tory MP the break ranks to demand Mr Johnson step down after being found to have broken the law

Craig Whittaker followed in the footsteps of Nigel Mills by demanding Mr Johnson – as well as Chancellor Rishi Sunak – step down from his post. 

The Calder Valley MP said during a Facebook Q and A: ‘I not only think that the Prime Minister should resign but I also think that Rishi Sunak should resign as well.

‘Through this whole process it hasn’t been particularly clear that the Prime Minister broke any rules until of course he’s been issued with a fixed penalty notice this week. My expectation is that he and the Chancellor should do the right thing and resign. 

Meanwhile Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross (pictured today with Ruth Davidson) said his support for Mr Johnson did not mean he did not have to explain himself. Asked if the PM’s protestations over Downing Street parties in recent months were true, Mr Ross replied: ‘Clearly not, because the Met Police have decided that fixed penalty notices had to be issued.’

‘The reality is that they’re not going to resign. We’ve seen that from the press and they’ve both issued apologies so I suspect we’ll end up where we are and moving on.’

The MP said he will not be submitting a letter to the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, saying he expects the Prime Minister would win the vote which would detract from the Government’s ‘day-to-day’ business.

Last night Lord Wolfson announced he would be stepping down as justice minister. In a letter to the PM, the barrister wrote: ‘I regret that recent disclosures lead to the inevitable conclusion that there was repeated rule-breaking, and breaches of the criminal law, in Downing Street.

‘I have come to the conclusion that the scale, context and nature of those breaches mean that it would be inconsistent with the rule of law for that conduct to pass with constitutional impunity, especially when many in society complied with the rules at great personal cost and others were fined or prosecuted for similar, and sometimes apparently more trivial offences.’

Rishi Sunak reportedly had to be talked out of leaving his post because it would have piled more pressure on the Prime Minister to follow suit

Boris Johnson was presented with a cake by pupils during his visit to Bovingdon Primary Academy on the day of the event in question

He added: ‘It is not just a question of what happened in Downing Street, or your own conduct. It is also, and perhaps more so, the official response to what took place.’

 Former Tory Cabinet minister David Gauke – a fierce critic of Mr Johnson – said he was not surprised by Lord Wolfson’s resignation over Partygate.

‘I think it’s a particularly uncomfortable issue for anybody in the Ministry of Justice or for that matter the law officers,’ he told BBC Radio 4.

Despite the apparent absence of a concerted push from Tory backbenchers to oust Mr Johnson, Downing Street fears the mood could change if there is a drip-drip of Partygate fines in the coming weeks.

Mr Johnson is believed to have attended six of the 12 gatherings being investigated by Scotland Yard, raising the possibility he could receive a further five fixed penalty notices.

Fines can increase to up to £6,400 for repeat offenders, meaning Mr Johnson could be handed a hefty bill. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended Mr Johnson yesterday, saying he is ‘human’ and did not knowingly break the law.

The PM may face more woe over the coming days, amid claims Sue Gray’s report into the Partygate scandal is due next week and ‘will not make comfortable reading’

Boris and Carrie Johnson (pictured on election night in 2019) have both received fines over the Partygate scandal

Asked on Sky News how Mr Johnson can ‘possibly remain in office’, Mr Shapps said: ‘Everyone is human, people sometimes make mistakes.’

Mr Sunak is said to have agonised for hours over whether to resign, spending the afternoon discussing his future with aides and allies, according to the Times

On whether Mr Johnson misled Parliament, Mr Shapps told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: ‘I don’t think he knowingly broke the laws when he came to Parliament.

‘We now know that the Metropolitan Police have said that he shouldn’t have stepped into the Cabinet room when staff had organised a surprise. I don’t think he came to Parliament thinking that that breached the rules.’

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have continued to back calls for the Commons to be recalled from its two-week Easter break to allow the Prime Minister to ‘tender his resignation’ in person to MPs.

Mr Shapps dismissed those calls, saying on BBC Breakfast: ‘There will be plenty of time to discuss this next week and Parliament will come back and do that as well as the issues of the war crimes we see in front of our eyes in Europe, and many other important issues.’ 

Boris Johnson repeatedly denied deliberately breaking lockdown rules

December 1, 2021: Mr Johnson was grilled at Prime Minister’s Questions by Keir Starmer over Partygate, in relation to a December 20202 Christmas party.

In response the PM replied: ‘What I can tell the right honourable gentleman is that all guidance was followed completely in Number 10.’

 December 7: As fallout from the Christmas party continued, Mr Johnson told reporters during a visit: ‘What I can tell you is that all the guidelines were observed, continue to be observed.’ 

Asked if he investigated personally, Mr Johnson said: ‘I am satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.’

December 8: After a leaked video shows No10 staff joking about the party, Mr Johnson told a press conference: ‘All the evidence I can see is that people in this building have stayed within the rules. 

‘If that turns out not to be the case, and people wish to bring allegations to my attention or to the police or whoever, then of course there will be proper sanction.’

December 13: Quizzed about a Christmas quiz in 2020 he was pictured at, Mr Johnson said: ‘I can tell you once again that I certainly broke no rules.’

December 15: At another press conference the PM said: ‘On your point about rules, I follow the rules. Everybody across politics should follow the rules.’

December 21: After images emerge of Mr Johnson having drinks with colleagues in the No10 garden in May 2020, he said: ‘Those were people at work, talking about work.’

January 12, 2022: Mr Johnson apologises after it emerges staff had a party the night before Prince Phillip’s funeral in May 2020. But adds: ‘I can tell you categorically that nobody told me, and nobody said that this was something that was against the rules, a breach of the Covid rules.’

April 12: Mr Johnson apologises after paying £50 police fine for attending a surprise birthday party organised by his wife in June 2020. But he tells broadcasters: ‘I have to say in all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules.’

Another of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet ministers has indicated that the PM will not resign even if he receives multiple fines – beyond the £50 he has paid already – as part of the Met Police’s Operation Hillman investigation.

It has been suggested the PM could end up paying more than £10,000 in total if he is fined for each of the gatherings he is said to have attended.

Backing Mr Johnson to remain in office even if that were to happen, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart told Times Radio: ‘I don’t necessarily see the difference between one or two (fines), for example, the principle is the same. 

‘I personally don’t think that for people in public life – or any other walk of life, for that matter – that should necessarily be accompanied by another penalty, which is the removal of your job or similar.’

On the local election campaign trail, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross was asked by BBC Radio Scotland if the PM’s protestations over Downing Street parties in recent months were true. Mr Ross replied: ‘Clearly not, because the Met Police have decided that fixed penalty notices had to be issued.

‘The Prime Minister has to explain why he said that and what he believed to be the case – clearly he thought something different. 

‘But the Met Police have been very clear, they’ve issued these fixed penalty notices, they have been accepted by the Prime Minister, they have been paid by the Prime Minister and I think that process is right, that the police were allowed time to investigate this, to come to a conclusion and no one is above the law and that has been proven by the issuing of these fines to the Prime Minister and others in Downing Street.’

He continued: ‘The Prime Minister has to explain why he said that to Keir Starmer and statements he’s made at the despatch box in the House of Commons, because it’s quite clear now – with the Met Police investigation, the issuing of the fine and the acceptance of that fine by the Prime Minister – that that statement is not correct.’      

As well as his birthday party Mr Johnson has been placed at several other events also being investigated by Scotland Yard’s Operation Hillman, for which fines have yet to be dished out. 

It means that the £50 he paid yesterday may not be the end of the matter. Human rights barrister Adam Wagner told Sky News the PM could end up paying more than £10,000 in total.

‘Each one doubles, so if the Prime Minister attended six gatherings and five of which he’s at risk of getting a fixed penalty notice for – if he get’s a fixed penalty notice in order for each one then he could end up paying over £10,000.’

When asked whether he thinks there are further fines in the pipeline for Mr Johnson, the lawyer and Covid legislation expert said: ‘I would be surprised if there aren’t.

‘I always thought the birthday party was very straight forward, but there are other gatherings which are even more straightforward – the December 18 and the Christmas party and various leaving dos.’  

Meanwhile friends of a furious Mr Sunak have blamed the Johnson’s for his Partygate fine and had to be talked out of quitting as Chancellor last night – relenting only because it would have taken down the Prime Minister as well.  

The event on June 19, 2020 was organised by Mrs Johnson and the Chancellor is said to only have been present briefly as he made his way to a meeting in the building. 

Downing Street’s pandemic parties 

May 15, 2020: THE GARDEN PARTY 

 A leaked photo showed Boris and Carrie Johnson with 17 senior Downing Street staff, sitting around cheese and wine. This took place during the first Covid lockdown at a time when only two people from different households could mix outdoors, socially distanced

May 20, 2020: BYOB BASH

  A bombshell email from Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 staff to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’. He told guests to bring their own alcohol

JUNE 19 2020: ‘AMBUSHED BY CAKE’ 56th BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR BORIS

Downing Street has admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for Mr Johnson organised by his now wife Carrie. Rishi Sunak has admitted he ‘popped in’ on his way to a meeting elsewhere in Downing Street.

Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, briefly attended while undertaking work there.

It was after this gathering that Tory MP Conor Burns claimed Mr Johnson had been ‘ambushed by a cake’.

No 10 denied a report that, later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to celebrate the occasion.

November 13, 2020: LEE CAIN’S LEAVING DO 

The PM allegedly made a leaving speech for his director of communications Lee Cain with a number of people gathered. The party is believed to have carried on upstairs that evening after Dominic Cummings unceremoniously walked out of Downing Street carrying a cardboard box.  

November 27, 2020: CLEO WATSON’S LEAVING DO 

Mr Johnson reportedly gives a speech at a packed leaving do for a ‘senior aide’. ’40 or 50 people’ were present. The aide was named as one newspaper as Cleo Watson, Dominic Cummings’ protégé.  

December 15, 2020: CHRISTMAS QUIZ

Pictures obtained by the Sunday Mirror show Mr Johnson on a TV screen flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in the No10 library. A source claimed many staff were huddled by computers in their Downing Street offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol while the quiz was taking place. The Mirror said a message sent by No10’s head of HR on the night of the quiz advised that those who had stayed behind to take part ‘go out the back’ when they left. The paper also unearthed the team names used that night, including ‘Professor Quiz Whitty’, ‘Rebels without a Claus’, and ‘Hands, Face, First Place’.  

December 17, 2020: Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, charged with probing Partygate, hosted a party after sending an email out to around 15 people in his Private Office titled ‘Christmas Quiz’.

December 18, 2020: ANOTHER CHRISTMAS PARTY Downing Street staffers allegedly hold their own festive party, with the PM not in attendance. Group size is also given as 40 to 50. 

April 16, 2021: JAMES SLACK’S LEAVING DO 

Advisers and civil servants drank alcohol and danced in No10’s basement and gardens to mark the departure of Boris Johnson’s press chief James Slack and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers. Witnesses claimed 30 people attended the two gatherings, which were held in different parts of the Downing Street complex before combining in the garden, on the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.

May 26, 2021: A second, formal leaving event is held for James Slack inside No 10. More than a dozen allegedly attended.  

One source said the Chancellor had been ‘dragged into this’ damaging crisis because of the party arranged by Carrie, while a second told the Times: ‘Rishi’s view is he was just there for a meeting, and now he’s getting humiliated for something he never wanted to do. He is a man of honour and he genuinely is thinking about whether he can still be part of this.’

The situation marks a new low in the relations between No10 and 11. They are already at loggerheads over a series of leaks about Mr Sunak’s wife and her non-dom tax status, and the Chancellor’s own US Green Card immigration status. 

Some in No11 believe the leaks came from next door in a bid to weaken the ambitious finance chief, something denied by the PM.  

The Met revealed on Tuesday that at least 30 more fixed penalty notices were issued over the saga, with a spokesman for Number 10 confirming Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be among the recipients. 

Calls for their resignations swelled in the hours after the announcement, with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and his Scottish counterpart Nicola Sturgeon among those calling for the country’s two top parliamentarians to step down. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps attempted to defend the PM in interviews this morning. He told Sky News Mr Johnson is ‘human’ and humans ‘sometimes make mistakes’. 

It’s something that happened in error, and as I have said, I’ve spoken to him, he is incredibly embarrassed by the whole thing.’ Mr Shapps added.

‘He knows that it was stupid, indefensible. But he didn’t set out to break the law, and he has paid the fixed penalty notice fine, and has a very big job to do.’

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak do not seem to understand how ‘deeply offensive’ their lockdown breaches are.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Reeves said: ‘Fresh leadership would mean that we will have a government that could concentrate on the issues that we need to focus on as a country.’

Asked if Mr Johnson’s claim that he unknowingly broke the rules was a sufficient explanation, Ms Reeves said: ‘No, it would not do because the Prime Minister still at this stage, even after receiving this fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police, is still unable to say what people, especially those who have made huge sacrifices in the pandemic, want him to say – is that he was wrong, he did something that was wrong, he understands that, he understood that he has lied to Parliament and lied to the country.

‘But he is still obfuscating and saying, oh he still didn’t really realise he was breaking the rules and he just happened to be in this room at the time… It’s just not good enough.

‘People have never made, collectively or personally, the sacrifices that were made during the pandemic outside of wartime and the Prime Minister and the Chancellor still don’t seem to understand how deeply offensive it is, especially to those who lost loved ones, or who were not there for the birth of their child, or for the death of a loved one.’ 

It comes as Mr Johnson faced more calls to resign over his fine from the leaders of the devolved administrations – but most Tory backbenchers hit back at criticism, asking: ‘Don’t they know there’s a war on?’ 

His former Brexit minister Lord Frost also offered support today – but not unconditionally. He told LBC: ‘I don’t think the one fixed penalty notice is in itself grounds for resignation.

‘But I think it’s not possible just to say: ”That was then and this is now, let’s move on, the world is different”, as the Government is trying to this morning.

‘I don’t think that’s quite good enough. First of all, I think, you know, the Prime Minister is on record saying to Parliament that all the rules were observed and there were no parties. That’s obviously not the case.

‘And I think it’s very important in our constitutional system that correct information is given to Parliament, so I hope the Prime Minister comes to the House on Tuesday and makes it clear what the actual position is.’

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford insisted ‘you can’t be a law-maker and a law-breaker’, while his Scottish counterpart Nicola Sturgeon said the ‘basic values of integrity and decency…demand that he go.’

The Met revealed on Tuesday that at least 30 more fines were issued over the Partygate saga, with a spokesman for Number 10 confirming Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be among the recipients.  

A police officer talks to protesters in front of the entrance to Downing Street in London today

The Prime Minister, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak apologised and paid up yesterday after being handed fixed penalty notices (FPNs) over a party for the PM’s 56th birthday in June 2020

How Boris Johnson’s line on Partygate has changed

Here is what the Prime Minister has said in response to the claims which have been made.

May 15, 2020: Garden party at Downing Street (cheese and wine)

In December 2021, a photo emerged showing Boris and Carrie Johnson, former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, and Mr Johnson’s then principal private secretary Martin Reynolds sitting around a table in the No 10 garden during the first national lockdown.

Mr Johnson said in an interview on December 20 2021: ‘Those were meetings of people at work. This is where I live and it’s where I work. Those were meetings of people at work, talking about work.’

May 20, 2020: Garden party at Downing Street (BYOB)

An email, leaked to ITV, from Mr Reynolds to more than 100 Downing Street employees, asked them to ‘bring your own booze’ to an evening gathering.

The Prime Minister admitted attending for 25 minutes but insisted he thought the gathering was a work event, while No 10 said Mr Johnson did not know about the event beforehand.

But his former chief aide Dominic Cummings said this was not true, and he had warned it was against the rules.

Mr Johnson said during a visit to the Finchley Memorial Hospital in north London: ‘I want to begin by repeating my apologies to everybody for the misjudgments that I’ve made, that we may have made in No 10 and beyond, whether in Downing Street or throughout the pandemic.

‘Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that… was not a work event, and as I said in the House of Commons, when I went out into that garden I thought that I was attending a work event.’

On February 20 2022 he told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: ‘You’re just going to have to wait until the process (police investigation) is complete – there is literally not a bean I can tell you about that, as much as I would like to.’

November 13, 2020: Leaving party for senior aide and the Johnsons’ flat party

According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and close ally of Mr Cummings.

There were also allegations the Prime Minister’s then fiancee, now wife, hosted parties in the couple’s flat at No 11, with one such event said to have taken place on November 13 2020, the night Mr Cummings departed No 10.

Mr Johnson told the Commons on December 8 2021: ‘I’m sure that, whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.’

It was then reported in February 2022 that PM had been seen heading up to his flat on the night in question. The Prime Minister repeatedly refused to say if he was there.

December 15, 2020: Downing Street quiz

The Sunday Mirror published an image in December 2021 showing the Prime Minister flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in No 10 the previous year.

Downing Street admitted Mr Johnson ‘briefly’ attended the quiz after photographic evidence emerged, but insisted it was a virtual event.

In an interview on December 13 2021, the Prime Minister said: ‘I can tell you that I certainly broke no rules – the whole thing will be looked into by the Cabinet Secretary, and what I’m focused on, frankly, is the vaccine rollout.’

On February 9 2022, at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Mr Johnson was challenged by Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who said the image appeared to show ‘one of the Christmas parties he told us never happened’.

He added: ‘Will the Prime Minister be referring this party to the police as it is not one of the ones currently being investigated?’

Mr Johnson responded: ‘In what he has just said, I’m afraid he is completely in error.’

Challenged again during PMQs, Mr Johnson added: ‘That event already has been submitted for investigation.’

December 18, 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street

According to reports which first emerged at the end of November 2021, officials and advisers made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged secret Santa gifts – although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.

Mr Johnson said in an interview on December 7 2021: ‘I have satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.’

He said in the House of Commons the next day: ‘I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken. That is what I have been repeatedly assured.’

The Prime Minister added: ‘I apologise for the impression that has been given that staff in Downing Street take this less than seriously. I am sickened myself and furious about that, but I repeat what I have said to him: I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken.’

April 16, 2021: Leaving parties on 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 April 16 2021, as the country was in mourning after the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

One was for former Downing Street director of communications James Slack and the second for a photographer, and they were later reported to have merged.

The newspaper said No 10 staff partied until the early hours of the morning in a seven-hour drinking session.

Wine and spirits with mixers were said to have been served in disposable plastic cups, and at one point alcohol was reportedly spilled on an office printer.

Takeaway pizzas were reported to have been ordered in and some of the revellers were said to have used a slide belonging to Mr and Mrs Johnson’s son, Wilfred.

The following day the Queen sat alone, socially distanced from her family, as she said goodbye to her husband.

No 10 previously said an apology had been extended to Buckingham Palace.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I deeply and bitterly regret that that happened.’

He added: ‘I can only renew my apologies both to Her Majesty and to the country for misjudgments that were made, and for which I take full responsibility.’

Here is what the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said on four occasions about partygate:

December 7, 2021:

Speaking during a session of questions to the Treasury in the House of Commons, Mr Sunak denied attending parties when asked if he was at reported Christmas gatherings in December 2020.

Labour MP Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) had asked: ‘The Chancellor was evasive when interviewed by the media last week but we need a clear answer on this very important point because many people across the country made great personal sacrifice during the lockdown.

‘So will the Chancellor categorically deny in the House that he or any of his officials or spads (special advisers) attended any of the Downing Street Christmas parties on November 27 or December 18 last year?’

Mr Sunak replied: ‘No, I did not attend any parties.’

January 18, 2022:

The Chancellor abruptly ended an interview when pressed if he would give his full support to the Prime Minister. At the time six Conservative MPs had publicly called for Mr Johnson to go.

In his first interview since Mr Johnson’s apology to MPs over the scandal, the Chancellor said he accepted Mr Johnson’s explanation that he was not warned in advance about a No 10 drinks party during lockdown in May 2020.

‘Of course I do. The Prime Minister set out his understanding of this matter last week in Parliament. I refer you to his words,’ he told broadcasters.

‘Sue Gray is conducting an inquiry into this matter and I fully support the Prime Minister’s requests for patience while that concludes.’

Asked if the Prime Minister should resign if he lied to Parliament, Mr Sunak said: ‘I am not going to get into hypotheticals, the ministerial code is clear on these matters.’

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson had his unequivocal support, Mr Sunak swiftly broke off the interview, walking off with a microphone still attached.

February 3, 2022:

The Chancellor acknowledged he was in the Cabinet Room when No 10 staff held a birthday gathering for Boris Johnson on June 19 2020.

Mr Sunak told the BBC he had been there for a meeting to discuss the Covid-19 situation.

‘I am in the Cabinet Room for a Covid meeting much like the other 100, 200, God knows how many other Covid meetings,’ he said.

‘You’re asking me about something that happened almost two years ago. I went to that Cabinet Room, as I did many other times for Covid meetings. And it’s right that we allow this police investigation.’

The Chancellor also acknowledged that the Government needed to rebuild public confidence following the disclosures over parties during lockdown.

‘I can appreciate people’s frustration. And I think it’s now the job of all of us in government, all politicians, to restore people’s trust,’ he said.

February 11, 2022:

Mr Sunak told Sky News he had not received a questionnaire from the Met Police at that time and, asked whether he expected to receive a form to complete, he replied: ‘No… well, I don’t know.’

He also replied ‘no’ when asked if he believed he had broken lockdown rules.

Pressed about whether he still had confidence in Mr Johnson, the Chancellor added: ‘The Prime Minister has my total support.’

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