Boris Johnson is facing a mounting Tory backlash over Partygate today with a dozen MPs issuing public criticism of the Prime Minister as backbenchers branded Downing Street staff ‘prats’ and told how they have been inundated with angry emails from constituents calling for him to resign.
The growing fury comes amid claims that Downing Street held ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week throughout the pandemic which Johnson attended, urging aides to ‘let off steam’ at a time when Britons were banned from socialising indoors, sources told The Mirror.
Staff even invested in a 34-bottle drinks fridge which was delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020, to keep their beer, prosecco and wine cold, and took a wheely suitcase to the local Tesco Metro to stock it up, extraordinary pictures revealed.
It is just the latest in a series of damning revelations about the alleged culture of drinking and partying throughout the pandemic at Downing Street as growing calls are made for Johnson to resign, some from within his own party.
On Thursday it was revealed that a leaving do was held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, prompting Johnson to order No 10 to apologise to the Queen.
Tory MP Nigel Mills, who backed the PM during the Tory leadership contest, expressed his confusion over how ‘so many stupid things could have happened’.
And Peter Bone, the MP for Wellingborough since 2005, said anyone who partied in No10 on the eve of Prince Philip‘s funeral ‘needs to be sacked’.
Lee Anderson, a new Red Wall MP for Ashfield, even created a poll on Facebook asking voters if Johnson should stay as Prime Minister.
Amid the party’s internal fallout, one ex-minister warned that Johnson is ‘toast’, while another said the crisis now feels ‘terminal’.
One senior backbencher revealed they had received more than 200 angry emails from infuriated constituents over the parties, alongside only five supporting the PM.
The latest comments follow five Tory MPs calling for the embattled premier to step down over his handling of the lockdown party scandal.
Andrew Bridgen submitted a letter of no-confidence in Johnson, joining Douglas Ross, Sir Roger Gale, William Wragg and Caroline Nokes in urging him to quit.
It is understood that up to 30 letters of no-confidence have been submitted to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory MPs. If more than 15 per cent of the party’s MPs submit letters, there has to be a vote on the leadership.
The growing Tory backlash over Johnson’s handling of the Partygate scandal comes as:
- Mr Johnson’s personal ratings have slumped to an all-time low of minus 52 according to YouGov, with 20 per cent viewing him favourably and 72 per cent unfavourably;
- There are claims the investigation by top civil servant Sue Gray will find no evidence of criminal behaviour, despite the growing evidence about guidance being flouted;
- The Metropolitan Police has made clear it is unlikely to launch a probe unless the Cabinet Office flags potential incidents where offences might have been committed;
- Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has warned it would be ‘entirely inappropriate and discourteous’ if the results of Ms Gray’s inquiry leak before being announced to the Commons;
- The Conservative association in ultra-safe Sutton Coldfield has voted to withdraw its support for the PM, saying that the ‘culture starts at the top’.
Tory backlash was growing towards Boris Johnson (pictured on January 12) over Partygate last night as a dozen MPs issued public criticism of the Prime Minister. It follows five Tory MPs calling for the embattled premier to step down
Peter Bone (pictured left), the MP for Wellingborough since 2005, said anyone who partied in No10 on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral ‘needs to be sacked’, while Nigel Mills (right), who backed Johnson during the Tory leadership contest, expressed his confusion over how ‘so many stupid things could have happened’
A Downing Street official called the Palace to apologise for the latest revelations about a party on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, but aides refused to say whether Mr Johnson – who was not at the booze-fuelled event – would be speaking to the monarch personally about the issue. Pictured, one of the PM’s weekly audiences with the Queen in June last year
The comments come amid claims that Downing Street held ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week throughout the pandemic which Johnson attended. Staff even invested in a 34-bottle drinks fridge (pictured right), which was delivered by a courier (left) through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020, while indoor socialising was banned
Mr Mills, MP for Amber Valley, told The Times: ‘These people are meant to be the brightest and the best running the country. It’s hard to conceive how so many stupid things could have happened.’
Mr Bone said: ‘If there were people in Downing Street prior to the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral partying, well they’re prats and need to be sacked.’
Julian Knight, MP for Solihull, said he is ‘very open minded’ about the idea of Johnson resigning.
Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, added: ‘I say to the prime minister, ‘Lead, or get out of the way and step aside’.’
Danny Kruger, Mr Johnson’s former political secretary turned MP for Devizes, accused the PM of a ‘callous disregard for the personal sacrifices that families were making’.
Former cabinet member Karen Bradley said she shares the outrage with her dismayed constituents about the revelations.
Downing Street staff allegedly boozed ‘excessively’ at two leaving parties the night before the Queen was forced to grieve alone her own at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Covid-secure funeral last year
Kate Josephs, who was a director general in the unit that coordinated the government response and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council
Yesterday afternoon Kate Josephs, who headed the Cabinet Office unit drawing up Covid restrictions and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council, apologised for her own leaving do on December 17
The swing in the Downing Street garden used by Mr Johnson’s son Wilf (circled) is believed to have been broken amid high jinks at the leaving do
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
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.
Meanwhile, one MP told the BBC: ‘Many colleagues now believe Boris won’t be leader at next general election… for many of us this feels terminal.’
And a former minister added: ‘Johnson is toast… if you were the chief whip looking at him you’d say he’s not fit to do any other jobs in government, you wouldn’t make him a junior minister, he doesn’t work hard enough.’
A Midlands Tory MP simply said: ‘The inbox is bad, really bad.’
It follows pictures revealing that employees took turns to stock up on drinks at the local Tesco Metro with a wheely suitcase to fill up the 34-bottle fridge which was delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020.
At the time, households were not allowed to mix indoors or in most outdoor places with exemptions for people in support bubbles, and a maximum of six people were allowed to meet in some outdoor public spaces like parks and public gardens.
Despite the harsh rules, Downing Street scheduled ‘wine-time Fridays’ into the electronic calendars of 50 No 10 staff every week between 4pm and 7pm.
The end-of-week drinks are part of a long-standing tradition in government but they reportedly continued while the rest of the country were mostly confined to their homes.
They were organised by the No 10 press office but advisors from other departments would often join in, it has been claimed.
Sue Gray, the senior civil servant investigating the litany of claims, is said to have been ‘completely blindsided’ by the latest revelations, The Times reported.
The newspaper said the Cabinet Office official is concerned that Downing Street staff are withholding information about parties from her as she looks to establish the facts.
Ministers have called on disgruntled Tory MPs to wait until she has published her investigation into claims about lockdown-busting parties in Government.
But backbencher Mr Bridgen said he did ‘not need to see what Sue Gray says to know that, for me, Boris Johnson has lost the moral authority to lead the country’.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: ‘There is an ongoing investigation to establish the facts around the nature of gatherings, including attendance, setting and the purpose with reference to adherence to the guidance at the time.
‘The findings will be made public in due course.’
Meanwhile cabinet ministers who publicly backed their leader this week said it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify their support, with one saying: ‘This is the last chance saloon. More revelations of parties, and a pummelling at the local elections, and the party will rise up.’
A dozen Tory MPs have now criticised the prime minister publicly, while another in a red wall constituency ran a Facebook poll asking if he should go and a senior party activist said he wished to ‘never hear of him again’.
Regardless, it appears voters have made up their minds, with seven out of ten believing Mr Johnson has not been telling the truth about his involvement in the BYOB garden party while 63 per cent said he should resign, a poll has revealed.
Eight in ten also believe the event was illegal according to the PM’s own Covid legislation.
Kate Josephs, who was a director general in the unit that coordinated the government Covid response and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council, said she was ‘truly sorry’ for a gathering held in the Cabinet Office to mark her leaving the civil service on December 17, 2020.
Ms Josephs said she and colleagues who had been working assembled for drinks in the evening. Dozens of staff are reported to have attended – even though London was in Tier 3 lockdown at the time and the rules prohibited households socialising indoors.
Earlier, the PM’s spokesman admitted an apology had been made to Buckingham Palace over ‘regrettable’ behaviour in Downing Street on April 16 last year – when two other leaving dos took place, including for departing director of communications James Slack. The lockdown rules at that point banned indoor social mixing.
However, it is understood an official made the grovelling call, and aides refused to say whether Mr Johnson – who was not at the booze-fuelled event – will be speaking to the monarch personally about the issue.
Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen (pictured left) submitted a letter of no-confidence in Johnson, joining Douglas Ross (right), Sir Roger Gale, William Wragg and Caroline Nokes in urging him to quit
Tobias Ellwood (pictured left), MP for Bournemouth East, added: ‘I say to the prime minister, ‘Lead, or get out of the way and step aside”, while Julian Knight (right), Conservative MP for Solihull since 2015, said he is ‘very open minded’ about the idea of Johnson resigning
Danny Kruger (pictured left), Johnson’s former political secretary turned MP for Devizes, accused the PM of a ‘callous disregard for the personal sacrifices that families were making’, while William Wragg (right) has urged Johnson to quit
A suitcase full of booze, music and a broken child’s swing: The No10 leaving dos on the eve of Philip’s funeral
The details of the latest Downing Street ‘parties’ to rock Boris Johnson’s government are another hammer blow.
The revelry allegedly began on April 16 last year when the PM’s director of communications James Slack finished his final day of work, and gave a speech.
Some colleagues were there in person, while others joined in by video link. Alcohol was consumed and the group later went into the garden, according to the account given to the Telegraph.
Meanwhile, another leaving event was reportedly happening for an official photographer.
That gaggle of mainly younger staff apparently spent much of the evening in the poorly-ventilated basement of the building.
A laptop balanced on a photocopier supplied music, with Shelley Williams-Walker, Mr Johnson’s head of operations, allegedly involved in overseeing the music.
According to a witness at one point someone was delegated to go to the Co-op nearby on the Strand with a suitcase, filling it with bottles of wine.
The groups eventually seem to have merged in the garden, with claims there were concerns too much wine had been spilling on the carpet inside as they danced.
Some partiers allegedly tried out – and broke – the swing in the garden used by Mr Johnson’s young son Wilfred as the frivolity went on past midnight.
All three leaving events have now been referred to Sue Gray’s investigation, which is not expected to report before the end of next week.
One of the regular attendees at the Friday drinks is said to be Mr Johnson’s defence advisor Captain Steve Higham, who now commands the HMS Prince of Wales.
Sources said the weekly drinks often carried on until midnight with up to two dozen aides drinking and playing games including Pictionary.
The drinks were especially popular between autumn 2020 and spring 2021 after staff became ‘fatigued’ with the Covid measures, it has been claimed.
But when socialising recommenced after the easing of the rules, the popularity of the weekly government drinks faded, with staff no longer having to rely on them for their Friday night revelry, sources said.
The Prime Minister allegedly attended a ‘handful’ of the weekly drinks, including one on November 13, 2020, the day Dominic Cummings left No 10.
Then, England was in a second national lockdown but Mr Johnson stayed with colleagues for a glass of wine and a chat.
A source said: ‘Boris used to stop by for a chat while they had a drink. It was on the way up to his flat and the door was usually open. He knew about it and encouraged it.’
Mr Johnson will look to move on from so-called Partygate by lifting Plan B measures, such as the guidance to work from home, at the end of the month, the Telegraph reported.
The restrictions, which were designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, are due to expire on January 26, subject to a review.
Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove hinted that there could be sackings as part of a shake-up at the top of Government, but rejected a suggestion that Mr Johnson should be one of those to go.
For the leaving party held in April 16, the night before Prince Philip’s funeral, England was in step two of the government’s roadmap, meaning there was a strict ban on any indoor gatherings of different households, and the limit was six people outdoors.
Mr Slack, who is now deputy editor of The Sun newspaper, said sorry for the ‘anger and hurt caused’, which he said ‘should not have happened at the time that it did’. ‘I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility,’ he said.
Any larger gatherings for work purposes had to be ‘reasonably necessary’, according to the regulations at the time. And there was a potential £10,000 fine for people who organised such events.
Lee Anderson (left), a new Red Wall MP for Ashfield, ran a poll on Facebook asking voters if Johnson should stay as Prime Minister, and former cabinet member Karen Bradley (right) said she shares the outrage with her dismayed constituents about the revelations
In Westminster, three Tory MPs have publicly said the PM should go, including Caroline Nokes (left) and Sir Roger Gale (right)
How could Boris Johnson be ousted by Tory MPs?
Boris Johnson is under huge pressure over Partygate, with speculation that he might even opt to walk away.
But barring resignation, the Tories have rules on how to oust and replace the leader.
What is the mechanism for removing the Tory leader? Tory Party rules allow the MPs to force a vote of no confidence in their leader.
How is that triggered? A vote is in the hands of the chairman of the Tory Party’s backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.
A vote of no confidence must be held if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to the chairman. Currently that threshold is 54 MPs.
Letters are confidential unless the MP sending it makes it public. This means only Sir Graham knows how many letters there are.
What happens when the threshold is reached? A vote is held, with the leader technically only needing to win support from a simple majority of MPs
But in reality, a solid victory is essential for them to stay in post.
What happens if the leader loses?
The leader is sacked if they do not win a majority of votes from MPs, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand.
However, they typically stay on as Prime Minister until a replacement is elected.
On December 17 2020, London was in Tier 3 with guidance that people ‘must not meet socially indoors, in a private garden or most outdoor public venues with anybody they do not live with or have a support bubble with’.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer repeated Mr Bridgen’s assertion that the Prime Minister had lost his moral authority, and called for the Tory party to topple him.
He told the Fabian Society conference in London: ‘The moral authority matters, of course, in relation to Covid, but we’ve got other massive challenges facing this country.
‘We’ve got a Prime Minister who is absent – he is literally in hiding at the moment and unable to lead, so that’s why I’ve concluded that he has got to go.
‘And of course there is a party vantage in him going, but actually it is now in the national interest that he goes, so it is very important now that the Tory party does what it needs to do and gets rid of him.’
The PM stands accused of failing to stamp out a party culture in government at a time when millions of Britons were making huge sacrifices through the pandemic.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss risked inflaming the situation further by telling the public to ‘move on’. ‘He has apologised, I think we now need to move on and talk about how we are going to sort out issues,’ she told reporters.
Another close ally, Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns swiped that there was an anti-Brexit ‘agenda’ behind the attacks on Johnson.
A former Cabinet minister told MailOnline the latest claims were ‘awful’. ‘It is the cumulative effect. The parties are piling up with gay abandon. The timing of this latest one is devastating,’ they said.
‘Even if Johnson wasn’t present and didn’t know, what it says about the culture at No10. He’s already got form as someone who is indifferent to the rules, they don’t apply to him. He’s clearly allowed a culture in No10 to say anything goes.’
Ms Josephs said in a statement on Twitter that she was cooperating with Ms Gray’s inquiry.
‘As people know I previously worked in the Cabinet Office Covid Taskforce where I was Director General from July 2020 to December 18, 2020,’ she said.
‘I have been cooperating fully with the Cabinet Office investigations and I do not want to pre-empt the findings of the investigation.
One Downing Street staffer was despatched to the Co-op on The Strand, next to Trafalgar Square, to fill a suitcase with more booze
A YouGov poll for the Times has laid bare the scale of the damage being suffered by the government, showing the Tories slumping five points to just 28 per cent in less than a week
What were the lockdown rules during the latest ‘Partygate’ events?
December 17 2020 – Kate Josephs leaving do at the Cabinet Office
London was in Tier 3 with guidance that people ‘must not meet socially indoors, in a private garden or most outdoor public venues with anybody they do not live with or have a support bubble with’.
Meetings in offices were allowed, but only for work purposes.
April 16, 2021 – James Slack and photographer leaving dos at Downing Street
England was in step two of the government’s roadmap in April last year, meaning there was a strict ban on indoor gatherings of different households, and the limit was six people outdoors.
Any larger gatherings for work purposes had to be ‘reasonably necessary’, according to the regulations at the time. And there was a potential £10,000 fine for people who organised such events.
‘However as Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council I am responsible for leading the organisation and working with partners across the city and region to support our Covid response and recovery.
‘That is why I have decided to make a statement.
‘On the evening of 17 December, I gathered with colleagues that were at work that day, with drinks, in our office in the Cabinet Office, to mark my leaving the Civil Service.
‘I am truly sorry that I did this and for the anger that people will feel as a result. Sheffield has suffered greatly during this pandemic, and I apologise unreservedly.
‘The specific facts of this event will be considered in the context of the Cabinet Office investigation. I did not attend any events at 10 Downing Street.
‘I am grateful for the ongoing support of colleagues and partners and need now to ask that people allow the Cabinet Office to complete its investigation.
‘I will not be able to respond to any further questions until the Cabinet Office investigation is complete.’
On the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, where Her Majesty was set apart from her family because of social distancing, Downing Street staff danced in the basement and drank in the garden, boozing so ‘excessively’ that one person was sent to a nearby Co-op with a suitcase on wheels to fill with wine, beer and spirits.
There was even a disco where staff DJed and it became so raucous that one attendee broke baby Wilfred Johnson’s swing set, according to the Telegraph.
Witnesses claimed that around 30 people attended the two gatherings, which were held in different parts of the Downing Street complex before combining in the garden.
It is alleged that one of the groups moved outside at around midnight because of a fear that too much wine was spilling on the basement carpet as they danced.
The government guidance as of April 2021 included clear limits on socialising indoors and outdoors
The legal regulations at the time of the leaving do in April last year had much broader restrictions on indoor and outdoor social gatherings. Work gatherings were only exempt if they were ‘reasonably necessary’
What were the Covid rules in London in December 2020?
The Government’s four tier system of Covid restrictions was in place in December 2020, with areas divided into medium alert, high alert, very high alert and ‘stay at home’ categories.
London was moved into the third tier – ‘very high alert’ – from December 16, one day before the taskforce event on December 17.
Tier three restrictions were rolled out in all 32 London boroughs, including the borough of Westminster where the Cabinet Office is located.
Under tier three rules, households were not allowed to mix indoors or in most outdoor places, with exemptions for people in support bubbles.
A maximum of six people were allowed to meet in some outdoor public spaces like parks and public gardens.
All hospitality venues were closed with the exception of sales by takeaway, drive-through or delivery.
Hotels were closed and everyone was told to avoid travelling outside their area other than where necessary for work or education.
The paper reported that a No10 figure even ‘had a go’ on a child’s swing belonging to Mr Johnson’s son Wilf — and snapped it.
That Friday, Britain was in a period of public mourning over the death of Prince Philip, the nation’s longest-serving consort and the Queen’s husband of more than 70 years. The heartbreaking picture of her sat looking at his coffin, alone in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, has become one of the defining images of the pandemic.
Mr Johnson is bunkered down in No10 for the weekend, keeping contacts to a minimum after a close family member tested positive for Covid.
But there appears to be no escape from the slew of allegations about lockdown breaches in Downing Street.
A spokesman for the PM told a briefing this afternoon that Mr Johnson had ‘recognised No 10 should be held to the highest standards and take responsibility for things we did not get right’.
‘It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No10 has apologised to the Palace,’ the spokesman said of the April 16 event.
It is understood the apology was made through ‘usual channels’ – between officials in Downing Street and the Palace – rather than personally. The spokesman refused to be drawn on what the PM would say at his regular weekly audience with the Queen.
Asked if the apology amounted to an admission that the leaving do was a social event, the spokesman merely said: ‘It is right that we do not preempt the findings of the Sue Gray inquiry.’
Turning the screw on Mr Johnson, Sir Keir said: ‘This shows just how seriously Boris Johnson has degraded the office of Prime Minister.
‘The Conservatives have let Britain down. An apology isn’t the only thing the Prime Minister should be offering the palace today.
Last night’s bombshell allegations — the first that any lockdown-busting parties took place in 2021 — will pile further pressure on the embattled PM, who is fighting for his political life over the ‘Partygate’ scandal. Pictured, an image of an alleged lockdown-busting party in No10 on May 15, 2020
Labour’s Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson had ‘degraded the office of PM’ and should resign
Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns swiped that there was an anti-Brexit ‘agenda’ behind the attacks on Mr Johnson
‘Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign.’
With the country in Step 2 of a strict lockdown roadmap which barred indoor mixing, mourners were told not to leave flowers and a book of condolence was set up online to ‘reduce the risk of transmission’ of Covid from physical signings.
That Saturday, Her Majesty was forced to sit alone in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle while wearing a black face covering while bidding farewell to the duke. Just 30 mourners were allowed to attend, and all had to keep two metres apart.
Covid restrictions in place in England at the time clearly stated: ‘You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble. You can meet outdoors, including in gardens, in groups of six people or two households.’
Speaking to ITV News during a visit to Manchester yesterday, Mr Gove said: ‘These stories are terrible and I can completely understand the sense of exasperation and anger that people feel.
‘But we’ve got an investigation going on now, and rather than a sort of drip, drip, drip of revelations, we need to have a complete, full, candid account of everything that went on – lay out all those facts, then, if there is a specific need for disciplinary action or for responsibility to be taken, let’s do that, let’s do it quickly, but let’s also do it with all the facts in front of us.’
The Cabinet minister said the public ‘deserve the truth’, adding: ‘I think what they are owed is a proper and full account of what went on and then an appropriate acknowledgement of what needs to change.’Asked whether that change should be the Prime Minister quitting, Mr Gove replied: ‘No, I think the most important thing is to give people the truth.’
On December 17 2020, London was in Tier 3 with guidance that people ‘must not meet socially indoors, in a private garden or most outdoor public venues with anybody they do not live with or have a support bubble with’
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (left) risked inflaming the situation yesterday by insisting the PM had apologised and ‘we now need to move on’. James Slack (right), who is now deputy editor of The Sun newspaper, said sorry for the ‘anger and hurt caused’ by the party in April 2021
On your way to No10, Rishi? Chancellor Sunak breaks cover after lukewarm backing for Boris Johnson over Partygate as bookmakers make him favourite to succeed him as Prime Minister
Rishi Sunak broke cover in Downing Street yesterday, hours after giving his boss Boris Johnson only lukewarm support in the wake of his Partygate humiliation
Rishi Sunak broke cover in Downing Street yesterday, hours after giving his boss Boris Johnson only lukewarm support in the wake of his partygate humiliation.
The Chancellor was more than 200 miles rom Westminster as the Prime Minister apologised for attending a drinks event in his back garden while they were banned in May 2020.
And while other ministers went public with their support for the PM after his 3pm Commons appearance, the bookies favourite to succeed him left it until after 8pm to offer any sort of endorsement.
More than 20 ministers including Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Communities Secretary Michael Gove were despatched to the airwaves and social media to publicly support the PM after his statement to the Commons failed to quell anger among Tory backbenchers.
But the Chancellor spent the day in Ilfracombe, north Devon, before taking to Twitter late on Wednesday to say that Mr Johnson was ‘right to apologise’ over the lockdown party scandal and call for ‘patience’ while Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray conducted an inquiry into the affair.
Mr Johnson told the Commons he thought the bring-your-own-booze party in the No 10 garden in May 2020 was a ‘work event’.
Mr Sunak’s comments were in contrast to those posted by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, another minister said to have eyes on the top job, although she took longer than other ministers to row in behind the PM.
She wrote: ‘The PM is delivering for Britain – from Brexit to the booster programme to economic growth. I stand behind the Prime Minister 100 per cent as he takes our country forward.’
One Cabinet minister yesterday told the Times the two were engaged in ‘obvious game playing’, adding: ‘Rishi and Liz have overplayed their hands. They have lost the subtlety plot.’
Ladbrokes yesterday cut their odds on Mr Sunak becoming the next PM to 7/4 favourite, with Liz Truss at 4/1.
Mr Sunak raised eyebrows yesterday by continuing with an engagement in Devon while Mr Johnson endured a bruising session of Prime Minister’s Questions. Miss Truss sat alongside Mr Johnson in the Commons.
One senior Conservative said the Chancellor had ‘done himself a lot of damage’ by trying to distance himself from the row while others pitched in to help. But other MPs stepped up pressure on the PM after he admitted spending 25 minutes at a boozy staff party in the No10 garden on May 20, 2020.
DAN WOOTTON: The real lesson of Partygate is not that Boris is a lying hypocrite (we knew that already) but that lockdown laws are an ass and always have been
As Boris Johnson sits lamely on political death row – literally cowering at the scene of the crime, Number 10 Downing Street – virtually everyone is missing the point about what PartyGate tells us.
The public are rightly apoplectic with rage that Boris broke the inhumane and frankly ludicrous rules that he inflicted on all of us with far too much zeal so he could cheer on his very social staff (and wife) while downing Tesco rose wine and gin.
But once again, the political, scientific and media establishment are using that outrage to obscure the reality that the rules were never workable, or even necessary.
The people who made them and voted them through time and again – from Cummings to Hancock to Starmer to Drakeford – have never followed them to the letter.
They weren’t living in mortal dread of the virus themselves. They were all prepared to take calculated risks to improve the quality of their lives.
They simply wanted all of us mere mortals to be terrified and so it was easier to enact disturbingly dystopian levels of control and deny us the right to make our own decisions.
Lockdown laws are an ass that should be ruled out as an option from the public health playbook forever.
As Boris Johnson sits lamely on political death row – literally cowering at the scene of the crime, Number 10 Downing Street – virtually everyone is missing the point about what PartyGate tells us
They were an unnecessary step too far that I’m convinced will lead to far more deaths in totality when this pandemic has finally played out.
Now the worm has turned. The data is damning.
History will show that those who backed shutting schools, discouraged cancer patients from attending hospital and allowed helpless souls like little Arthur Labinjo-Hughes be brutally abused for days on end – locked in a house without the usual protection of teachers and extended family – have blood on their hands.
It’s only now, with BoJo’s political life on the line, that the penny is starting to drop for his allies.
His Cabinet pal Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has been valiantly sent into the enemy territory of the BBC’s Newsnight and liberal LBC to defend his boss, is starting to ponder, 22 months too late, that maybe the rules were too tough, after all.
He must have known that at the time, given he admits to being lobbied by a friend who was cruelly banned from attending the funeral of his two-year-old granddaughter – the sort of moral outrage that the government brushed off as acceptable collateral damage.
But now, in attempting to keep Boris in his job, he says: ‘We must consider, as this goes to an inquiry and we look into what happened with Covid, whether all those regulations were proportionate or whether it was too hard on people.’
There was nothing proportionate or sensible about lockdown.
For a start, everybody forgets that most of Britain had already largely voluntarily locked itself down before Boris turned the key on March 20th 2020. Offices, shops and pubs were already deserted before Boris ORDERED them to close.
And while Covid deaths soared until mid-April the three to four week time-lag between infection and death suggests that the public’s voluntarily cooperation had already done enough to make the pandemic manageable.
But folk like me who have been pointing this out for the past two years have been derided as granny killers, accused of wanting the virus to rip through society and take out as many vulnerable people as possible.
Of course, that was never the case.
But there was another way, as the ravers at Number 10 Downing Street prove: Allow the healthy, the young, the immune and the recovered to live a normal life in order to build up herd immunity, while spending the billions we wasted on furlough and test and trace to protect the vulnerable.
The reality is that none of those present were running any huge risk and they knew it. They already worked in close proximity to each other, they were meeting outside where transmission is less likely and by late May the virus was clearly in full retreat in any case
The scandal is not that they had a party but that the rest of us mug punters were not trusted to act equally responsibly in our own lives.
That’s why I supported the Great Barrington Declaration, a strategy of focussed protection authored by three of the world’s top scientists – Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.
But in the new world order, scientific debate was muffled. Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the USA Anthony Fauci demanded the Barrington scientists be rebuffed and censored.
That wasn’t hard. You see, if you stood against the lockdown orthodoxy, the mainstream media didn’t want to know.
It’s sad to see that Boris was captured by the establishment.
The public are rightly apoplectic with rage that Boris broke the inhumane and frankly ludicrous rules that he inflicted on all of us with far too much zeal so he could cheer on his very social staff (and wife) while downing Tesco rose wine and gin
But a brave group of Tory backbenchers formed the Covid Recovery Group – led by former chief whip Mark Harper – and their influence slowly built, culminating in the mass rebellion against what I call Plan BS last month.
While the Leader of No Opposition Keir Starmer nodded through the Boris plan to enact mask mandates and work from home orders, it was the uprising from his own MPs that forced Boris to finally stand up to the dangerous doomsday merchants who he’d been listening to all along: Christopher Whitty, Patrick Vallance, Jenny Harries, Neil Fergusson, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid (who has depressingly been captured by NHS management and become a Matt Hancock clone).
That will turn out to be one of the most significant moments of the entire pandemic.
Boris, knowing his leadership was on the line, finally refused to enact a lockdown or further restrictions.
The usual suspects predicted imminent doom: Bodies piled up, the NHS overwhelmed, all non-urgent surgery cancelled… You’ve heard it all before by this point.
But within less than a month it’s clear none of that is going to happen.
In fact, England’s decision to refuse to lockdown has proved to be a masterstroke.
Scotland and Wales enacted more ridiculous restrictions – including shutting nightclubs, banning mass gatherings, stopping fans going to the football and the like – but their rates have ended up worse than England.
According to figures published by Nicola Sturgeon’s government, the nation had 2,824 cases per million people in the week to January 6, compared to England’s 2,615.
England is also much lower than Wales with 3,481 and Northern Ireland with 3,893.
Let that sink in: Scheming Sturgeon and Mad Dog Drakeford’s pathetic controls on their citizens resulted in HIGHER Covid case rates.
Across continental Europe, the comparison is even more stark.
The Netherlands went into a lockdown before Christmas and cases are now soaring: A new record was set this week, with over 201,000 people testing positive.
On Tuesday, France hit a record 368,000 cases, even though the Covid hysteric Macron has attempted to shut the unvaccinated out of society, closed nightclubs, mandated facemasks outdoors in Paris, and even banned eating and drinking on trains.
All lockdowns do is delay the inevitable, while causing untold collateral damage.
What a shame Boris didn’t listen sooner to his brilliant former Brexit Secretary Lord Frost, who quit in a rare act of political morality throughout this pandemic because he couldn’t stomach the PM’s continued restrictions for a moment longer.
In a new interview with this week’s brilliant Planet Normal podcast, he has said: ‘I think honestly, people are going to look back at the last couple of years globally and see lockdown as a pretty serious public policy mistake. I would like to see the Government ruling out lockdowns for the future, repealing the legislation, ending them.
‘We can’t afford it [and] it doesn’t work. Stop doing Covid theatre – vaccine passports, masks, stuff that doesn’t work – and focus on stuff that does work. Stuff like ventilation, antivirals, proper hospital capacity – that’s what we need to be focussing on.’
He’s right. And it’s also time we change our language about Covid and a constant obsession with an illness that is minor for most and fast becoming endemic.
I’ve had Omicron and people say things like, ‘I’m so glad you got through it.’What the hell? It was a pussycat – especially compared to the Wuhan strain which I had in March 2020 – nothing more than a common cold, irritating for a couple of days, but certainly not something for which I needed a jot of sympathy.
Boris now has the teeniest of windows to try and salvage something from his unfathomable rule break to secure some sort of Covid legacy.
Lord Frost is correct that what will probably be his final chapter as prime minister must be to banish the lockdown laws that even he couldn’t follow.
He must turn his back on the authoritarianism that he promoted and that has finally seen him lose the teflon coating that for so long allowed him to remain politically popular despite scandal after scandal that would finish off any other politician in the brutal age of the 24-hour news cycle and social media.
But Boris is reaping what he sowed 22 months ago.
He allowed his advisers to ramp up the terrifying propaganda, turned guidance into laws, threatened healthy folk for simply seeing friends, and empowered the police to arrest and issue ridiculous fines (which should all now be handed back).
Oh, the irony that all of this could come back to haunt former libertarian Boris and see him deposed as PM.
Returning Britain to normal life by the end of the month is the only way he now has any hope of convincing his mutinous backbenchers to offer a stay of execution.
Boris today, however, is hiding behind the worst of the Covid restrictions.
Out of an abundance of unnecessary caution – probably because he wanted to avoid a TV interview – he’s self-isolating AGAIN after a family member tested positive.
And if we continue to live in this way the country will never get back on its feet and the economy will continue to splutter along with far too many staff out of work for no good reason.
The lesson we must learn from the tragic fall of Boris Johnson is that lockdowns never worked and they must never be unleashed again.
And that we should all have the right to decide for ourselves how much we are prepared to let Covid, or any other virus, rule our lives.