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Boris Johnson news - live: Police not investigating No 10 party as MPs warned over China ‘spy’

·42-min read
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The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that it is still not conducting a criminal investigation into the “bring your own booze” gathering at Downing Street following the prime minister’s apology.

The force said it was in contact with the Cabinet Office over Sue Gray’s inquiry and would review its position if it receives evidence of potential criminal offences.

It has not commented on questions over whether officers guarding the prime minister’s statements had witnessed or reported any of the alleged parties at the time.

Meanwhile, MPs have been issued with a warning over a spying threat from a woman believed by MI5 to be attempting to influence UK politicians on behalf of China.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, in a letter sent to MPs, warned that Christine Lee had been “engaged in political interference” for the Chinese Communist Party and sought to lobby parliamentarians.

The letter stated: “I should highlight the fact that Lee has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China.”

Key Points

  • Which Tory MPs have called on Boris Johnson to resign?

  • Rees-Mogg questions whether lockdown rules were too tough in wake of party scandal

  • Boris Johnson cancels vaccination centre visit after family member tests Covid positive

  • Lord Frost calls Covid lockdowns a ‘serious mistake’ and says No 10 failed to ‘challenge’ scientists

  • Liz Truss to hold talks with European Commission vice-president Sefcovic

Deleting potential evidence of Downing Street parties could be a criminal offence, watchdog says

20:38 , Emily Atkinson

Deleting potential evidence of Downing Street parties could be a criminal offence, a watchdog has warned after The Independent revealed claims that staff were advised to “clean up” their phones.

Two sources claimed a senior member of staff told them it would be a “good idea” to remove any messages implying they had attended or were even aware of anything that could “look like a party” amid a Cabinet Office investigation into several alleged gatherings.

Our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden reports:

Deleting potential evidence of Downing Street parties could be a crime, watchdog says

Tory civil war over ‘partygate’ rages on after Boris Johnson apologises

20:20 , Emily Atkinson

Divisions at the top of the government over the “partygate” row burst into the open today, with home secretary Priti Patel distancing herself from Rishi Sunak’s suggestion he was reserving judgement on Boris Johnson’s position until after the publication of an independent report, writes Andrew Woodcock.

Tory civil war over ‘partygate’ rages on

Met Police turned ‘blind eye’ to PMs alleged rule-breaking, says Lib Dem leader

19:57 , Emily Atkinson

Sir Ed Davey has accused the Metropolitan Police of turning a “blind eye” to alleged rule-breaking by the Prime Minister.

The Met have indicated any investigation by detectives into reports of lockdown gatherings at No 10 would depend on evidence unearthed in the inquiry by senior official Sue Gray.

Sir Ed said: “The evidence that Boris Johnson broke the law is clear to everyone. Cressida Dick mustn’t let him off the hook through a shady establishment stitch-up.

“The police don’t need the Government’s permission to investigate a crime, and they mustn’t turn a blind eye to criminality just because it is committed by Boris Johnson.

“It is ludicrous to pretend that we can leave it to a civil servant appointed by Boris Johnson to get to the bottom of this.

“The Met Commissioner might think it’s one rule for Boris Johnson and another rule for everyone else, but that doesn’t make it right. Our city and our country deserve so much better.”

‘Significant improvements’ to be made to proposed online safety laws, MPs told

19:25 , Emily Atkinson

Efforts to tackle cyber flashing and paid-for scam advertising could be part of “significant improvements” to proposed online safety laws, according to the Government.

Culture minister Chris Philp told MPs there are a “number of areas” where the Online Safety Bill can be “improved substantially”, with a revised piece of legislation expected in the coming months.

Richard Wheeler has the story:

‘Significant improvements’ to be made to proposed online safety laws, MPs told

Watch: Spy suspect Christine Lee encouraging Chinese community political engagement, 2017

19:05 , Emily Atkinson

Labour MP who received donations from Christine Lee only found out she was a spy ‘on Thursday’

18:50 , Emily Atkinson

Barry Gardiner said he only found out Christine Lee was a “spy” who was engaged in “illegal activity” when approached by security officials on Thursday.

The Labour MP for Brent North told Sky News: “The first I knew about Christine Lee being a spy was this morning when I had a meeting with the director of parliamentary security and two Security Service agents, and they made me aware that they now had information which showed that Christine Lee had been engaged in illegal activity.

“But I had been cautious because I knew she was a solicitor who acted for a number of a Chinese businesses in the UK over a very long period of time, and for that reason I had spoken openly and frankly with our security services for a number of years about the engagement that I had with her.

“And I made sure that at no time did they suggest in any way that I should cut off engagement with her.

“This morning they made it clear that she had been trying to insinuate and influence across all political parties here in Parliament and that they believed she had been doing this illegally.

“As soon as I heard that, as soon as I finished the meeting with the director of security, I then went and immediately contacted her son who has worked in my office as the diary manager and asked him to tender his resignation forthwith, which he did.

“But I want to stress to you that the security services said to me that they had no information that led them to believe that he was aware of his mother’s illegal activity.”

It is ‘absolutely right’ for Met to delay investigations into Downing St parties in wait for Sue Gray’s report

18:40 , Emily Atkinson

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “absolutely right” for the Met to wait for Sue Gray’s investigation to report back before considering launching their own probe.

She told broadcasters: “There’s an ongoing investigation, that investigation needs to conclude, and then obviously other actions could be taken post that investigation, but we can’t pre-empt things right now. We really can’t.”

Exclusive: Racist abuse has made me scared to do my job, says MP

18:25 , Emily Atkinson

A prominent Black MP has described how racist threats against politicians left her scared to do her job.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham, said that while working for Diane Abbott she received death threats for the former shadow home secretary to her personal email account

Speaking to BBC 1Xtra podcast If You Don’t Know, she said: “I remember one time somebody actually called the office and they were just shouting the N-word down the phone,” Ms Ribeiro-Addy said.

Nadine White has the story:

Racist abuse has made me scared to do my job, says MP

Chinese ‘spy’ activity ‘under criminal threshold’, says Home Secretary

18:09 , Emily Atkinson

Priti Patel said that although the notice about Christine Lee would put MPs on alert, she said the activity was “under the criminal threshold”.

The Home Secretary told broadcasters: “It puts MPs on notice, it gives the alert about this individual, the type of activity that this individual has been involved in.

“But also there is ongoing work in terms of what further measures, actions and steps that we can undertake, and that’s really important.”

She warned: “We’re speaking specifically right now about the CCP, China, but we live in a world where we have other adversaries, and they all look to interfere or come into our country in some shape and way.

“We are big players internationally, the United Kingdom, our place in the world is very strong. And so we’re naturally a country of interest. I think it’s fair to say in the future, we’ll see more alerts of this nature.”

She added: “And of course, as I’ve said, we are working to look at what measures we can take to strengthen our laws, our legislations, to effectively lead to the type of prosecutions that we currently cannot deliver.”

Met Police not investigating Downing Street ‘BYOB’ gathering after Boris Johnson apology

17:55 , Emily Atkinson

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that it is still not conducting a criminal investigation into the “bring your own booze” gathering at Downing Street following the prime minister’s apology.

The force said it was in contact with the Cabinet Office over Sue Gray’s inquiry and would review its position if it receives evidence of potential criminal offences.

It has not commented on questions over whether officers guarding the prime minister’s statements had witnessed or reported any of the alleged parties at the time.

Lizzie Dearden reports:

Met Police not investigating Downing Street ‘BYOB’ gathering after Johnson apology

Met will not investigate No 10 parties unless inquiry uncovers ‘potential’ criminal behaviour

17:45 , Emily Atkinson

Labour MP received half a million pounds from Chinese agent

17:40 , Emily Atkinson

A senior Labour MP amassed over £500,000 from a Chinese spy engaged in “political interference activities” in the UK on behalf of the communist regime, it has emerged.

Barry Gardiner received the donations from Christine Ching Kui Lee - mainly to cover staffing costs in his office - over a period of six years, and employed her son as his diary manager.

The disclosures came after MI5 took the rare step of issuing MPs and peers with a warning about Lee’s cultivating of British politicians to secure a “UK political landscape” that was “favourable” to China.

With additional reporting from PA

PM ‘seeking to hide behind’ Sue Gray, says Labour shadow secretary

17:36 , Emily Atkinson

Shadow international trade secretary has accused the Prime Minister of “seeking to hide behind” senior official Sue Gray.

Nick Thomas-Symonds told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “I think the Government, and indeed the Prime Minister, are putting Sue Gray in such an impossible and difficult position.

“Of course, Sue Gray is a very esteemed civil servant, with a fine track record, of course. And I have no doubt that she is independent-minded.

“But she is a civil servant who works for, or works to, ministers. And ultimately what she will find - I’m sure she’ll do a very thorough job - she will find facts.

“It isn’t for her to spell out the consequences of her findings to the Prime Minister. And I think the Prime Minister seeking to hide behind Sue Gray is quite appalling, actually, when we know about what he’s already done.”

Activist launches new party to bring ‘real and meaningful change’

17:30 , Emily Atkinson

Anti-Brexit activist Gina Miller has launched a new political party aimed at opposing what she calls the “elective dictatorship” in Westminster.

At the sparsely attended launch of the True and Fair Party at the QEII Centre on Thursday, Ms Miller said it was time for change, hitting out at both the Tories and Labour.

And she promised to clean up politics and push for a constitutional overhaul.

Ms Miller, who has brought legal cases over Brexit, said there had been an “erosion of trust” in the political system.

Geraldine Scott reports:

Activist launches new party to bring ‘real and meaningful change’

Duke of York stripped of royal patronages, says Buckingham Palace

17:15 , Emily Atkinson

Boris Johnson to chair council of UK’s devolved administration leaders

16:50 , Emily Atkinson

The Prime Minister will chair a council made up of leaders from the devolved governments, as part of a new structure designed to improve relations between administrations around the UK.

The UK Government’s review of relations with the Northern Ireland Executive, Scottish Government and Welsh Government has led to a new three-tier system which brings together ministers from around the UK.

Neil Pooran has the story:

Boris Johnson to chair council of UK’s devolved administration leaders

Watch: Johnson says ‘everybody understands’ Covid rules – nine days before attending party

16:39 , Emily Atkinson

Johnson must convince Tories and public of party excuse, says NI first minister, as his premiership hangs in balance

16:17 , Emily Atkinson

Northern Ireland’s First Minister has said the public have not accepted Boris Johnson’s claim that he believed the Downing Street gathering was a work event.

“I don’t think the public accepted that justification, if it was an attempt to justify that this wasn’t a party and that it was work-related,” Paul Givan said.

“So ultimately, Boris Johnson needs to be able to convince the general public, he also needs to be able to convince his own party.

“It is they who will decide the future of the Prime Minister. Either he takes a decision himself around his future or it’ll be the Conservative Party that will take that decision.

“And this report, I think, is going to be very important, which Sue Gray is responsible for.

“I think there is an imperative for that work to come to a conclusion so that we can all draw a line under this and ensure that the wider public health messaging is consistent, rather than being distracted by what’s going on at Downing Street.”

Speaker ‘not impressed’ with minister’s answer on Truss £3,000 lunch allegation

16:05 , Emily Atkinson

The Commons Speaker said he was “not impressed” with a minister’s response to a question about Foreign Secretary Liz Truss allegedly overruling civil servants’ advice to host an expensive lunch at a Conservative donor’s private members’ club.

The Sunday Times reported that Ms Truss, who was then international trade secretary, overruled officials to request to host a £3,000 lunch for a US trade representative.

The location chosen was a Conservative donor’s private members’ club in Mayfair, the paper reported.

Ben Hatton has the story:

Speaker ‘not impressed’ with minister’s answer on Truss £3,000 lunch allegation

Sue Gray’s report will not be ‘whitewash’, Nadine Dorries says

15:55 , Emily Atkinson

Nadine Dorries has said that the Sue Gray’s inquiry into the roster of alleged Downing St parties is not going to be a “whitewash”, hailing her as a “formidable” civil servant.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told Sky News that the report “isn’t going to be a whitewash because a professional and formidable civil servant wouldn’t do that.”

She added that the Prime Minister’s apology was ‘genuine and sincere’, and dismissed those MPs who have made statement’s condemning Mr Johnson’s attendance to the 20 May garden party as having “a track record of not supporting PM.”

Ms Dorries said her constituents continue to back Boris Johnson and “have done nothing but express support for the Prime Minister” due to his “exemplary” record.

Jacob Rees-Mogg laughs as he is unable to name leader of Welsh Conservatives

15:45 , Emily Atkinson

Jacob Rees-Mogg was unable to name the leader of the Welsh Conservatives when asked in parliament.

The Commons leader was asked if he could name Andrew RT Davies by Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan at Business Questions on Thursday.

It comes after Mr Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset, called Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross a “lightweight figure” in the party on television on Wednesday night.

Bronwen Weatherby reports:

Jacob Rees-Mogg laughs as he is unable to name leader of Welsh Conservatives

‘I do fear that we have been complacent about the threat posed by the Chinese Communist regime’, says Tory MP

15:35 , Emily Atkinson

A member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee expressed concern that the UK had been “complacent” after it was announced that a Chinese agent appeared to have been operating in Parliament.

“It’s clearly serious that there appear to be actual agents of a foreign, adversarial power in Parliament. I congratulate MI5 on their work,” Tory MP Bob Seely told the PA news agency.

“However, I do fear that we have been complacent about the threat posed by the Chinese Communist regime, in much the same way that we were and in some respects still are complacent about Russian influence peddling in the UK.

“We should remember that co-opting, subverting and corrupting in today’s world is often done not through formal agents, but often through informal agents: people such as powerful business people and oligarchs, think tanks, through the funding of universities and the use of ‘lawfare’, etc.

“This is why we need a comprehensive approach to Russia and China that understands the comprehensive nature of the problem. We are improving but we need to do more.”

‘Sue Gray ultimately reports to Boris Johnson – why is she investigating him?’

15:25 , Emily Atkinson

If an inquiry into what Boris Johnson did persists, it cannot be carried out by someone who works for him, writes Sean O’Grady.

Sue Gray reports to Boris Johnson – why is she investigating him? | Sean O’Grady

Chief Scientific Adviser offers ‘best wishes’ to Jonathan Van-Tam as he stands down

15:18 , Emily Atkinson

Watch: ‘Broken’ Boris Johnson ‘more like Chamberlain than Churchill,’ claims LBC caller

15:15 , Emily Atkinson

MP who received donations from alleged Chinese government spy says security services ‘always knew’ of dealings

15:05 , Emily Atkinson

Brent North Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who has received donations from Christine Lee in the past, said he had been “liaising with our security services” for many years about her.

In a statement he said: “They have always known, and been made fully aware by me, of her engagement with my office and the donations she made to fund researchers in my office in the past.

“Steps were taken to ensure Christine Lee had no role in either the appointment or management of those researchers. They are also aware that I have not benefited personally from those donations in any way. She ceased funding any workers in my office in June 2020.”

He said all the donations were properly reported and “their source verified at the time”, and added: “I have been assured by the Security Services that whilst they have definitively identified improper funding channelled through Christine Lee, this does not relate to any funding received by my office.”

Who is Sue Gray?

14:55 , Emily Atkinson

Sue Gray, the senior civil servant tasked with leading an inquiry into alleged No 10 rule-breaking during coronavirus lockdowns, is no stranger to an investigation.

Having led two previous reviews into the behaviour of Cabinet ministers, the Cabinet Office official has been handed responsibility for finding the facts amid a litany of claims that ministers and Government staff partied in contravention to Covid-19 restrictions.

Her remit includes looking into the allegation that Downing Street staff, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, attended a “bring your own booze” party on May 20 2020, at a time when more than two people were banned from socialising outdoors together.

Sue Gray: the former publican leading the probe into No 10 rule-breaking claims

Sue Gray may not be allowed in front of select committees to present No 10 parties report

14:44 , Emily Atkinson

Jacob Rees-Mogg unable to name Welsh Conservative leader when asked in Commons

14:37 , Emily Atkinson

Jacob Rees-Mogg was left floundering when asked to name the Welsh Conservative leader by Kevin Brennan at Business Questions on Thursday.

It comes after the Commons leader called Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross a “lightweight figure” in the party on Wednesday evening

Mr Brennan asked: “Following his disparaging remarks about the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, can we have a statement from him about exactly what he meant by that?

“For example, does he think the leader of the Welsh Conservatives is a lightweight figure? And can he name him?”

After briefly laughing and then remaining silent for a moment, Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “The Secretary of State for Wales is called Simon Hart.”

Andrew RT Davies was first elected leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd in 2011 before resigning in 2018. He was reappointed last January.

US rejects UK plea for talks on steel tariffs in humiliation for Boris Johnson

14:12 , Emily Atkinson

The US has rejected a UK plea for face-to-face talks to remove punishing tariffs on UK steel, in an embarrassment for Boris Johnson.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the trade secretary, urged her counterpart in Washington to jump on a plane after the US refused to strike a deal because of its fears about threats to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But Gina Raimondo, the US commerce secretary, has now told the Department for International Trade (DIT), that she is too busy to travel to the UK at present.

“While Secretary Raimondo appreciates the kind invitation, she’s not in a position to travel to London in-person at this time,” a spokesperson told the Politico website.

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports:

US rejects UK plea for talks on steel tariffs in humiliation for Boris Johnson

PM pulls out of public appearance after family member tests positive for Covid despite not being required to self-isolate

13:56 , Emily Atkinson

Boris Johnson has bowed out of a planned visit to a jab clinic after an unidentified family member tested positive for Covid-19.

The public appearance in Lancashire would have been an opportunity for the media to ask the PM questions about his attendance at a Downing Street “BYOB” party on 20 May 2020.

Despite official guidance no longer requiring vaccinated contacts of coronavirus cases to self-isolate, Mr Johnson has pulled out of the visit

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister will no longer be visiting Lancashire today due to a family member testing positive for coronavirus.

“He will follow the guidance for vaccinated close contacts, including daily testing and limiting contact with others.”

Although the legal requirement to self-isolate does not apply to vaccinated contacts, they are advised to take daily tests and “limit close contact with other people outside your household”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added that Mr Johnson took a test on Wednesday and another on Thursday.

He said: “The PM is following the guidance to do daily tests and limit contact with others. As I said, (the) positive test was Wednesday so the PM will continue following this guidance up to and including Tuesday of next week.

“For reference, the guidance is to take an LFD (lateral flow device) test every day for seven days, or until 10 days after the household member who has Covid-19 started their self-isolation period if this is earlier, and in this instance it’s not, so it’s seven days.”

The spokesman added that “in line with the guidance, he’s reducing contacts, he’ll be working from No 10, doing the daily tests, and limiting contact with others both outside No 10 and indeed inside No 10 as well”.

He said the Prime Minister will continue to hold meetings but “for the large part that will be done virtually”.

PPE contract ‘VIP-lane’ ‘dodgy’ and ‘illegal’, says Rayner

13:50 , Emily Atkinson

The alleged VIP lane for personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts was not just “dodgy” but “illegal”, Labour’s deputy leader has said.

Angela Rayner said: “The Government’s VIP lane for PPE procurement wasn’t just dodgy, it was actually illegal. That was not my opinion, but the judgment of a High Court yesterday.”

The Labour deputy leader said Cabinet Office ministers stood at the despatch box “time and time again” to say “detailed diligence and full financial checks were done”, but on Wednesday the court “found that the Cabinet Office simply did not have the resources necessary to undertake due diligence”.

She added: “Officials simply searched online to confirm one company existed and another received a red warning but it wasn’t passed on. Can he tell us how much from those two contracts alone was spent on equipment that wasn’t even used by the NHS?”

Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay rejected her allegations, insisting that the government had strained “every sinew” to ensure PPE made available.

He said: “The court acknowledged, quote, that it’s highly unlikely that the outcome would have been substantially different if a different assessment process had been followed.

“I think what the House quite rightly would have challenged the Government on is, firstly, if anything different would have occurred if a different approach had happened, and secondly, on the fundamental point, which is at a time of national crisis, whether the Government was straining every sinew to ensure that those at the sharp end in our NHS - clinicians - had the PPE that they needed. The Government did do that.”

Christine Lee: Security warning to MPs over Chinese spying threat

13:37 , Emily Atkinson

Christine Lee: Security warning to MPs over Chinese spying threat

‘Cascading revelations of corruption’: How Europe’s media reported on Boris Johnson’s No.10 party

13:35 , Emily Atkinson

Boris Johnson’s political meltdown over lockdown parties in Downing Street has caught the attention of European newspapers – most of which have cast a sceptical eye on the prime minister’s response.

French-speaking Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir carries a analysis piece branding Mr Johnson’s defence of the party “tenuous”, stating that had “played the naivety card” to MPs on Wednesday. Meanwhile in Flanders De Standard says the prime minister’s argument “convinced few” and says he is gradually becoming a “dead man walking”.

Our policy correspondent Jon Stone reports:

‘Cascading revelations of corruption’: How Europe’s media reported on No.10 party

Watch: Labour MP says Johnson ‘not fit to lick the boots of NHS workers’

13:25 , Emily Atkinson

Angela Rayner has written letters to all Cabinet ministers to ‘come clean about parties they have attended'

13:18 , Emily Atkinson

Truss calls on EU to take ‘pragmatic approach’ to end deadlock on protocol

13:15 , Emily Atkinson

Liz Truss has told Brussels it has a “clear responsibility” to solve the problems caused by Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit deal as she held her first face-to-face talks with Maros Sefcovic.

The Foreign Secretary, who assumed responsibility for the negotiations following Lord Frost’s resignation, is hosting the European Commission vice-president at her Chevening country retreat in Kent for talks on Thursday and Friday.

Ahead of the meeting, she said the EU must show a “pragmatic approach” to the issues created by the Northern Ireland Protocol which effectively creates a trade barrier in the Irish Sea for goods crossing from Great Britain in order to prevent a hard border with Ireland.

David Hughes has the story:

Truss calls on EU to take ‘pragmatic approach’ to end deadlock on protocol

Douglas Ross brushes off being called ‘lightweight’ by Commons leader

13:05 , Emily Atkinson

The Scottish Tory leader branded a “lightweight” by Jacob Rees-Mogg on Wednesday has rejected the statement, saying he will instead continue to provide a “real” political alternative in Scotland.

Speaking to a BBC journalist, Douglas Ross said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg, as anyone, is entitled to their opinions - and I don’t have to agree with them.

When asked what his message to the leader of the Commons is, he responded: “My message is I am going to hold the first minister to account, and ensure that Scottish Conservatives continue to provide that real alternative here in Scotland.”

Boost to economy from India trade deal as little as 0.12%, government admits

13:00 , Emily Atkinson

The UK’s prospective post-Brexit trade deal with India could boost the British economy by as little as 0.12 per cent, the government has estimated.

International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan welcomed the “golden opportunity” of a free trade agreement as she launched negotiations with her Indian counterpart in New Delhi on Thursday.

A deal could increase Britain’s gross domestic product (GDP) “between 0.12 per cent and 0.22 per cent in the long run”, according to a strategy document published by the Department for International Trade (DIT) on Thursday.

Adam Forrest reports:

Boost to economy from India trade deal as little as 0.12%, government admits

Scotland secretary says he asked Douglas Ross to delay calls for PM to stand down

12:55 , Emily Atkinson

Alister Jack has said he tried to prevent the Scottish Conservative leader from calling for the Prime Minister to stand down from his role.

Mr Jack also said he rejected Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Wednesday evening accusation that the Scottish Tory leader is a “lightweight”.

Speaking to Radio Forth News, Mr Jack said: “Over the last 48 hours, I have, in a number of conversations with Douglas, asked him to wait until Sue Gray reports.

“She’s a serious figure, she’s producing a report, my view is we wait until we see the report before we draw any conclusions.

“I would say that Douglas is far from a lightweight. He’s a very serious politician, he’s a very good adversary for Nicola Sturgeon ... Douglas is a very serious and should be [a] well-respected politician.”

Wes Streeting: Boris Johnson ‘not fit to lick boots of NHS workers'

12:50 , Emily Atkinson

PM ‘focused on public priorities’, says spokesperson

12:39 , Emily Atkinson

The prime minister was “focused on the public’s priorities” when asked if he was concerned about letters going in to the Tory 1922 Committee calling for a no confidence vote, No 10 have insisted.

Asked whether Boris Johnson believed he was a good PM, his official spokesman said: “I don’t think self-reflection is his priority, I think his focus is on delivering for the public.”

The spokesman went on to brush aside Tory MP Sir Roger Gale’s assessment of Mr Johnson as a “dead man walking” but added: “We very much appreciate, as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, there are strong views on this issue.

“That’s why the Prime Minister came to the House to apologise, to make clear we did not get things right and he takes responsibility for that.”

Downing Street insist Boris Johnson has the full support of cabinet

12:35 , Holly Bancroft

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has insisted that the prime minister has the “full support” of his cabinet.

The assurances come after foreign secretary Liz Truss and chancellor Rishi Sunak took a notably long time to publicly voice their back for the prime minister yesterday.

Read the full story from our political editor Andrew Woodcock here:

Downing Street insists Johnson has ‘full support’ of cabinet after party apology

Cabinet minister: Boris Johnson does not believe that he broke the rules

12:23 , Holly Bancroft

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has told Sky News that Boris Johnson doesn’t believe he broke the rules when he went to a drinks event in the Downing Street garden on the 20 May 2020.

Mr Lewis said: “The prime minister has outlined that he doesn’t believe that he has done anything outside the rules. If you look at what the investigation finds, people will be able to take their own view of that at the time.”

Mr Lewis also played down speculation that Rishi Sunak is readying to mount a bid for the premiership, saying: I have seen Rishi working with the prime minister. They work absolutely hand-in-hand. I know that Rishi has got support for the prime minister.”

Financier and environmentalist Ben Goldsmith calls No 10 party outrage ‘confected'

12:15 , Holly Bancroft

The financier and environmentalist Ben Goldsmith - a friend of Boris and Carrie Johnson - has said the outrage at the No 10 drinks event is “confected and patently absurd”.

He shared a video of Brits sunning themselves on Southend beach on the same day as the No 10 garden gathering.

ICYMI: Rees-Mogg says Covid inquiry should examine whether lockdown rules were ‘too hard’

12:01 , Holly Bancroft

Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested that the Covid public inquiry must examine whether lockdown rules, including restrictions on funerals, were “too hard” on people.

When questioned about the No 10 “bring your own booze” event in the Commons, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I think everybody understands that people were obeying the rules and these rules were very hard for people to obey.

“I received a message last night from a friend of mine who was unable to go to the funeral of his two-year-old granddaughter — one cannot hear these stories without grieving for those who suffered.

“Decisions were taken at the beginning of the pandemic that affected people up and down the country and we must consider as this goes to an [public] inquiry that we look into what happened with Covid, whether all those regulations were proportionate, or whether it was too hard on people”.

Read the full story from my colleague Ashley Cowburn here:

Jacob Rees-Mogg says Covid inquiry should examine if lockdown rules were ‘too hard’

Tory MP faces suspension over ‘insincere’ apology for bullying

11:58 , Holly Bancroft

Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski could be suspended from parliament for one day because he appeared to “undermine” an apology he gave in the Commons.

Mr Kawcsynski was required to apologise “unequivocally” in June last year after he was found to have breached rules on bullying and harassment following a complaint by Commons staff.

However, the same say he told an interviewer for BBC Radio Shropshire: “I have no alternative but to apologise because if I don’t apologise then I risk the option of being sanctioned further.”

The Commons Standards Committee said: “Although he says he was sincere by the time he made the apology to the House, he had that morning effectively undermined the sincerity of that apology by broadcasting the fact that he was making it because he was required to do so and he disagreed with the way the case had been conducted.

“Mr Kawczynski also broke confidentiality requirements by speaking to Radio Shropshire about the content of the report before it was published and identifying complainants’ job descriptions on nine occasions in his radio interview.”

Read the full story here:

Tory MP faces Commons suspension over ‘insincere’ apology for bullying

Rees-Mogg questions whether lockdown rules were too tough in wake of party scandal

11:37 , Holly Bancroft

Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that the forthcoming public inquiry into the government’s handling of Covid should consider “whether all the regulations were proportionate or whether it was too hard on people”.

He was responding to questions about party-gate and referred to the stories of people who couldn’t attend funerals last May, saying: “As we hear of these stories we inevitably grieve for those who suffered”.

Mr Rees-Mogg also defended Boris Johnson, saying he had got key decisions “right” during the pandemic although not “every decision was perfect”.

He told the Commons: “Everybody understands, on all sides of the house, that people were obeying the rules and that these rules were very hard for people to obey. I received a message last night was from a friend of mine who was unable to go to the funeral of his two-year-old granddaughter. One cannot hear these stories without grieving for people who suffered. Decisions were taken at the beginning of the pandemic that affected people up and down the country and they were very hard.

And 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.”

How news outlets around the world see Boris Johnson

11:07 , Holly Bancroft

Boris Johnson is “up against the wall” and “the party is over”, according to the leading French newspaper Liberation.

La Razon, one of Spain’s leading newspapers, said on its front page on Thursday that Mr Johnson was left “staggering” at PMQs and the French Le Monde said Mr Johnson’s “fall in popularity is so brutal that his immediate future appears to be in jeopardy.”

Le Monde wrote critically of Mr Johnson’s “random management of the health crisis”, calling him an “atypical, jovial and blundering politician” and said that he showed “little attention to detail” and had an “elastic” approach to the truth.

They noted that “the general public seemed to forgive everything” Mr Johnson has done wrong but that this was now a turning point for the prime minister.

The New York Times published an op-ed on its front page on Thursday accusing Mr Johnson of letting the nation “sleepwalk into tyranny”, referencing the Nationality and Borders Bill as a main example.

CNN’s reporter in London, Salma Abdelaziz, said that the jeers and the laughter of MPs during PMQs “echoes the sentiment across the country”, adding: “The question is, is he still fit to lead? Does he have the moral authority to tell people to follow the rules if his very government wasn’t doing that? This is a prime minister who finally feels concerned.”

Bild, Germany’s biggest selling newspaper, said that Mr Johnson’s “compatriots have forgiven him every scandal so far... This was not least down to his charm and the support of the tabloid press. But that is exactly what seems to be disappearing now.”

Labour lead poll by 10 points over Conservatives

10:50 , Holly Bancroft

YouGov have published the full details of their poll, which showed a increased Labour lead on the Conservatives by 10 points.

Have a look at the data here:

Voting Intention: Con 28%, Lab 38% (11 - 12 Jan) | YouGov

Lord Frost calls Covid lockdowns a ‘serious mistake’ and says No 10 failed to ‘challenge’ scientists

10:30 , Holly Bancroft

Former Brexit minister Lord David Frost has said that Covid lockdowns were a “serious mistake” and blamed government for failing to “challenge the epidemiologists”.

He highlighted mask-wearing and Covid passes as “stuff that doesn’t work” and also criticised the government’s rush to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

On lockdowns, Lord Frost told a Daily Telegraph podcast: “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.”

Read the full story from deputy political editor Rob Merrick here:

David Frost brands Covid lockdowns a ‘serious mistake’ in fresh criticisms of PM

Liz Truss to hold talks with European Commission vice-president Sefcovic

10:12 , Holly Bancroft

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has said that the European Union must show a “pragmatic approach” to resolving issues caused by the Northern Ireland protocol ahead of face-to-face talks with her counterpart Maros Sefcovic.

Ms Truss said: “There is a deal to be done that protects peace in Northern Ireland, defends our Union, and maintains the integrity of the United Kingdom and EU.

“But it will require a pragmatic approach from the EU.” Adding: “The EU has a clear responsibility to help fix the myriad problems caused by the protocol and protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.”

Read the full details here:

Truss says ‘deal to be done’ as she meets Sefcovic for Brexit talks

Parties inquiry should have more independence, former civil servants warn

10:05 , Holly Bancroft

Concerns have been raised about the independence of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry into the Downing Street lockdown parties.

The outcome of Ms Gray’s inquiry was effectively elevated yesterday to a make-or-break moment for Boris Johnson’s premiership. In his statement to the Commons, Mr Johnson repeatedly said that politicians should wait for the results of Gray’s inquiry before they condemn his behaviour - heaping even more significance on Sue Gray’s future decisions.

Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, said: “Sue Gray is an immensely capable investigator but one has to recognise that two of the principal actors here – the PM and the cabinet secretary, effectively her bosses – are now deeply implicated in the inquiry. That is completely unprecedented. The findings could decide whether they stay in their jobs or not.

“The latest revelations over the events of 20 May 2020 have raised real questions as to whether there should be another independent person involved – a retired judge, for example – who could then receive this report, rather than it being passed directly on to the prime minister and the cabinet secretary.”

Sir David Normington, who worked at the Home Office, told The Guardian: “She will be very aware that she has the reputations and possibly the careers of senior civil servants and possibly of the prime minister in her hands. That is a very difficult position to be in, however fair and fearless and rigorous you are.”

Analysis: Johnson’s apology has kept him clinging to power - at least until next week

09:51 , Holly Bancroft

Read our Chief political commentator’s verdict on Boris Johnson’s performance in the House of Commons yesterday.

John Rentoul writes that Johnson did “the only thing he could.. which was to say that he believed the drinks in the Downing Street garden was a ‘work event”.

He adds that “with an election still more than two years away, I still doubt that there are as many as 54 Tory MPs who think that now is the right time to change leader”.

The PM’s defence was ‘ridiculous’ but he survives – until next week | John Rentoul

Boris Johnson cancels vaccination centre visit after family member tests Covid positive

09:42 , Holly Bancroft

The prime minister has been forced to cancel a planned visit to a vaccination centre in Lancashire because a family member has tested positive for coronavirus.

No 10 said that Mr Johnson will be following “the guidance for vaccinated close contacts, including daily testing and limiting contact with others”.

Read the full story from our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn here:

Boris Johnson cancels visit after family member tests positive for Covid

Angela Rayner has written to PM asking for ‘full details of parties’ attended by cabinet ministers

09:30 , Holly Bancroft

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Government asking for “full details of parties” which cabinet ministers may have attended during lockdown, according to her shadow cabinet colleague Lisa Nandy.

The shadow housing secretary told Sky News: “Angela Rayner has written to the Government to ask for full details of parties that cabinet ministers have been asked about but refused to answer questions about.”

She added: “There are questions for other cabinet ministers to answer about whether they themselves attended parties that were in breach of the rules. I think it’s important because the public does really deserve to know the extent of this.”

She referenced the party held within the Department for Education and breaches of the rules by Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings.

Press Association contributed to this report.

ICYMI: Jacob Rees Mogg calls Scottish Tory leader a ‘lightweight’

09:20 , Holly Bancroft

Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has hit out at Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, calling him a “lightweight” after he called on Boris Johnson to resign.

Mr Rees-Mogg repeated the assessment to radio station LBC and to BBC’s Newsnight, telling the former: “I don’t think it’s a surprise Douglas Ross takes this view.

“He’s never been a supporter of the prime minister. He has constantly made disobliging comments about the PM.”

Read the full details here:

Jacob Rees-Mogg calls Scottish Tory leader ‘lightweight’

Cabinet minister refuses to say if Johnson will quit in the event of damning Gray report

09:10 , Holly Bancroft

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has refused to say whether Boris Johnson will resign if the inquiry into Downing Street’s lockdown-busting parties finds he broke the rules.

Read the full details in this report by my colleague deputy political editor Rob Merrick:

Cabinet minister refuses to say PM will quit if he broke rules over No 10 party

Johnson ‘refused to guarantee no more party revelations would emerge in call with Douglas Ross’, reports say

08:52 , Holly Bancroft

Sources have told the Scottish Times that Boris Johnson refused to rule out further party revelations emerging in a 15-minute phone call with leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross yesterday.

Douglas Ross called for Mr Johnson to resign on Wednesday and told STV that during the call, Mr Johnson made it plain that he “believes that he didn’t do anything wrong”.

At a meeting of Conservative MSPs yesterday, there was unanimous support for Douglas Ross’s position that Mr Johnson should step down.

Labour leads Conservatives by 10 points in new poll

08:44 , Holly Bancroft

Labour have opened up a strong 10-point lead against the Conservatives, a new poll for The Times has revealed.

The YouGov poll, conducted before Mr Johnson’s apology, found that six in ten voters believed that the prime minister should resign. This included 38 percent of those who voted Tory in the last election.

78 percent of the public did not believe that the prime minister had been honest in his answers to questions about the alleged parties - including 63 percent of Conservative voters.

Read the results of the poll in full here:

Labour opens up 10-point lead over Tories as pressure mounts over lockdown party

Lukewarm support of Johnson from chancellor Rishi Sunak

08:34 , Holly Bancroft

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was conspicuous in his absence on the Tory front benches yesterday as he spent the day in Devon visiting a pharmaceutical company.

Mr Sunak re-emerged on social media at 8:20pm, writing: “I’ve been on a visit all day today continuing work on our Plan For Jobs as well as meeting MPs to discuss the energy situation.

“The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her enquiry.”

Politico’s London Playbook offered analysis on the Chancellor’s movements this morning, with Alex Wickham reporting that one Tory MP had called Mr Sunak’s absence from PMQs “the most significant event of the day”.

Politico reported that Mr Sunak’s decision to wait on the results of the Gray report was the chancellor declining “to outright endorse Johnson’s leadership and instead time-limited his support until the end of the Gray probe”, adding: “his resignation would trigger a flood of no-confidence letters to 1922 committee Chairman Graham Brady”.

Read more about Rishi Sunak’s reaction to yesterday’s events here:

Rishi Sunak says Boris Johnson ‘right to apologise’ over No 10 party

Which Tory MPs have called on Boris Johnson to resign?

08:13 , Holly Bancroft

Four Conservative backbench MPs have publicly called on Boris Johnson to resign, saying his position is now “untenable”.

Sir Roger Gale MP said that “a red line has been crossed” by Mr Johnson. He told the PA news agency that “you don’t have bring-a-bottle work events in Downing Street, so far as I’m aware” and “I think the time has come for either the prime minister to go with dignity as his choice, or for the 1922 committee to intervene.”

Will Wragg MP for Hazel Grove in Manchester said that “the prime minister’s position is untenable”, adding: “A series of unforced errors are deeply damaging to the perception of the party”.

Caroline Nokes MP also called on Mr Johnson to step down, saying: “He’s damaging us now, he’s damaging the entire Conservative brand”. She added: “Now regretfully, he looks like a liability, and I think he either goes now, or he goes in three years’ time at a general election, and it’s up to the party to decide which was around that’s going to be.”

The most high-profile of the four openly calling for Boris Johnson’s resignation was leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross MP. He said: “I don’t want to be in this position, but I am in this position now, where I don’t think he can continue as leader of the Conservatives.”

He has been joined by all 31 Tory MSPs in his feeling that Boris Johnson should step down, according to reports.

Johnson can still win next election, cabinet minister says

07:59 , Holly Bancroft

Boris Johnson can still win the next general election for the Conservatives, a cabinet minister has said amid ongoing speculation about whether the prime minister will be pushed out of office.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis backed the prime minister to lead the party and said he had “rightly” apologised for the behaviour of Downing Street during 2020’s May lockdown.

When asked by Kay Burley on Sky News if Mr Johnson had misled parliament, Mr Lewis said: “That is making a pre-judgement on what the report will find.”

 (PA)
(PA)
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