Politics latest news: Sue Gray's 'partygate' report could come tomorrow after police drop opposition to release
War in Ukraine 'political disaster', PM warns Putin
Labour welcomes police probe into parties
Sue Gray report may still emerge in coming days
Sue Gray’s report into ‘partygate’ allegations could be published as early as Wednesday after the Metropolitan Police rowed back on concerns about its release.
Ms Gray, the senior civil servant tasked with investigating the allegations, is now preparing to publish her findings, according to a Government source.
Discussions are on-going between the Cabinet Office and the Met Police about the form the publication could take and the timings of its release.
“Any day this week is still a possibility,” a Government source told The Telegraph about the report's release, indicating Ms Gray is now free to pick when to submit her report.
The findings will be handed to No 10 officials, who can then decide when it is released to the public.
Downing Street has repeatedly indicated it will be released swiftly after that point.
Follow the latest updates below.
How Boris Johnson has deflected questions about Sue Gray's 'partygate' report
Crispin Blunt: 'We've lost our sense of perspective' over No 10 events
Crispin Blunt, the veteran Conservative MP, has called for allegations of rule-breaking in Downing Street to be placed in the context of an administration working to control the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's PM programme, he said: "We've lost our sense of perspective on this.
"I think everybody needs to take a step back and try to put themselves in a situation the centre of Government was in over the course of 2020, the fact we very nearly lost our Prime Minister who was very close to being put on a ventilator and then his prospects would have been pretty thin indeed - and that would have been a first class leadership crisis for the whole country.
"And you will know how hard civil servants work at the centre of Government, as they are working every hour God sends combating a completely unprecedented public health crisis for our country."
Mr Blunt said it was his "departure point" that the allegations levelled at Boris Johnson were not enough to topple a Prime Minister, adding: "We all know the complexity of the rules we had to pass in order to try and combat the threat of the coronavirus, and some of these rules made more sense in hindsight than others, which probably didn't achieve very much.
"But these are difficult decisions being made and it may very well be that probably inside most homes and inside most businesses, and inside most places of public administration, people may not have kept absolutely to the rules."
Sir Keir Starmer: Trust in Boris Johnson is at an 'all-time low'
Sir Keir Starmer said trust in Boris Johnson is at an "all-time low".
Speaking to broadcasters, the Labour leader said some members of the Cabinet need to "look themselves in the mirror" and ask why they are still supporting the Prime Minister.
He also called for the Sue Gray report to be published "in full".
Asked if he trusts the Prime Minister and No 10 to do this, Sir Keir said: "I think trust in Boris Johnson is at an all-time low.
"But we need to see the report in full and frankly, some of his Cabinet now need to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why they're still supporting this Prime Minister.
"There's a Metropolitan Police investigation into the goings on in Downing Street. It's time that some of those Cabinet members spoke out and said we're not tolerating this any longer."
Sajid Javid: 77,000 NHS workers still unvaccinated
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has said that around 77,000 NHS workers remain unvaccinated against coronavirus.
Speaking to the Health and Social Care Committee, he said it was the "professional duty of every NHS worker to get vaccinated".
"Even before the mandate, the vast, vast majority had. Since the mandate, since we announced a consultation in September, we've had around 100,000 in the NHS that were unvaccinated at that point that have come forward. So there's been a very good response," he said.
"I think now it's almost 95 per cent of NHS workers that have had at least one jab. The latest numbers I have is that around 77,000 that have not. That is improving every day. Not all 77,000 are in scope because to be in scope is if it's a patient-facing role, but the majority of those people would be in scope.
"I think it's also reasonable to assume that not everyone ultimately is going to come forward."
He said the NHS is asking trusts to set out the estimations for the staff who "will ultimately just not come forward, and then to break down what kind of roles they are and see how they would manage that".
Tory former minister suggests Boris Johnson might 'eventually have to resign'
A Conservative former minister has suggested Boris Johnson might "eventually have to resign", but argued there are more important things happening in the world at the moment.
Lord Robathan was heckled by opposition peers after claiming the British public is "not terribly concerned" about the party allegations.
He added in the House of Lords: "I care very much whether the Prime Minister lies, as it happens, because I think prime ministers should have integrity.
"However, I think the instability at the top that is being caused by this furore is deeply worrying when we have geopolitical events in Ukraine, and frankly I think most people would like to see the Government getting on with it.
"Perhaps, indeed, the Prime Minister will eventually have to resign but I think more important is what's happening in Ukraine and elsewhere."
But Conservative Lord Cormack said: "There's great concern around the country and the graphic photograph of the Queen alone at her husband's funeral juxtaposed with other pictures did cause a great deal of disquiet."
Sajid Javid to outline plan by spring on how UK can 'learn to live with Covid'
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has said he will set out a plan by the spring on how the Government thinks the country can "learn to live with Covid".
He told the Health and Social Care Committee that vaccines, treatments such as antivirals, and testing will be "top of the list".
"We've got to find a way to live with it (Covid) in the same way, let's say, we live with flu, and I'm not for a second saying it's like flu, you know, look at sadly all the deaths we've had from Covid - over 150,000 from the start," he said.
"It's about understanding we do now have defences which we didn't have before, and just as flu doesn't stop society and stop life, we mustn't let Covid do that anymore."
Doug Beattie: Ulster Unionist leader to stay despite controversial tweets
The embattled Ulster Unionist leader at the centre of a row over historical Twitter posts said he had received the unanimous support of his party's MLAs and officers to continue in his post.
Doug Beattie had earlier said he was "on the cusp" of quitting after facing accusations of misogyny and racism over the content of tweets posted before he entered political life.
Speaking after meeting with his party's MLAs, Mr Beattie said: "I have had detailed conversations with all of my MLAs.
"I apologised for what I had done directly to each one of them and then I spoke (about) whether or not I still had their support to remain as party leader - overwhelmingly every one of them said 'yes, I did'."
He said conversations would continue with other UUP members over the historical tweets.
Sturgeon relaxes work from home guidance - but insists face masks must stay in classrooms
Nicola Sturgeon has finally given the green light for workers to make a "phased return" to the office from next Monday - but refused to allow school pupils to dispense with face masks in classrooms.
The First Minister said companies could implement "hybrid working", with employees spending some of the week in the office and the remainder at home.
In a statement at Holyrood, she warned that a "wholesale return" to office working next week risked Covid cases rising again and urged firms to consider how to "best manage this transition".
But she acknowledged that office working benefitted both employers and employees, as well as having wider economic advantages. Retailers have warned people working from home has contributed to nearly £6 billion of lost shop sales during the pandemic.
The requirement for two-metre physical distancing in some indoor settings like churches is to be relaxed, but Ms Sturgeon said the order compelling secondary pupils to wear face masks in class would remain in place for the time being.
Daniel Sanderson has the full report
Boris Johnson may avoid criminal record if fined for Covid rule breach
Fixed penalty notices for breaching the Government’s coronavirus regulations will not usually show up on an individual’s criminal record if they pay any fine issued within 28 days.
There is no formal process to appeal or dispute fixed penalty notices without going to court or refusing to pay the fine.
For most people, the main way of arguing that a notice was wrongly issued is to be prosecuted in court for the offence and to mount a defence during criminal prosecution.
However, if an individual is not successful in justifying their defence, this will result in a conviction, a criminal record and the need to pay any fine awarded by the court.
Sam Hall, our resident Covid curbs connoisseur, looks at what may happen now
Johnson meeting 'surprising names' in parliamentary office
Our Political Correspondent Tony Diver is hearing that Boris Johnson is meeting MPs who are wavering on his leadership in his parliamentary office this evening until 6pm.
Source says it's not rebellious 2019-ers on the list of attendees, but there are some surprising names of people who are usually loyal.
Boris Johnson 'absolutely not' perfect - but a 'good leader'
The head of the Northern Research Group of Tory backbenchers has defended Boris Johnson in the wake of today's developments.
Mr Berry said his party leader was "absolutely not" a "perfect human being", but he had "acknowledged [this] by apologising" and described him as a "good leader".
"I still think on the big calls that the Prime Minister gets things right," Mr Berry told the Northern Agenda podcast.
"He's delivered Brexit, delivered the vaccine rollout programme and also particularly before Christmas when people were suggesting we should lock down, not least the Labour Party, he didn't. It was a big gamble to say I'm going to trust the British people and it's paid off."
Boris Johnson did not tell Cabinet colleagues about police investigation
Asked why the Prime Minister did not inform his Cabinet about the launch of today's investigation, his official spokesman said Mr Johnson did not want "to pre-empt a police statement"
Nothing will be published that relates to police work under "standard practice", the spokesman said.
However, Sky News and the PA news agency have both reported that Scotland Yard has no objections to any part of the Gray report being published.
This means Ms Gray's report could still be released this week, as was previously expected.
It could lead to a worst-case scenario for the Prime Minister in which he were to be faced with potentially damaging findings at the same time as an ongoing police probe into what took place.
How the Met's Cressida Dick explained her decision to finally investigate
The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police confirmed this morning that Scotland Yard was now investigating a number of alleged parties in Downing Street and Whitehall.
Separate to the Sue Gray inquiry, these relate to potential criminal breaches of the Covid-19 regulations.
"I absolutely understand that there is deep public concern about the allegations that have been in the media over the last several weeks," she said.
"The vast majority of people have acted responsibly during the pandemic. Many, many people including many Londoners, and indeed my colleagues have made huge sacrifices and they've suffered considerable loss during the pandemic.
"And as you know, also, throughout the pandemic, my officers and my staff have kept going."
Gareth Davies has her full comments
'Ukraine exposes just how weak the humiliated West has become'
As a Russian invasion of Ukraine looms, it isn’t just the fate of one nation that hangs in the balance but that of the entire West, argues Sherelle Jacobs. After communism’s defeat in the Cold War, the American scholar Francis Fukuyama notoriously predicted the “end of history”, with the world peacefully aligning with the liberal democratic values of the victorious powers. At the time, few questioned whether this might have been hubris.
He was merely bringing into the mainstream the ideas of the Russian-French thinker Alexandre Kojève, who helped found the EU, to be built in America’s image. We’ve known for some time that Fukuyama was disastrously wrong, but it is quite something that it is now the enemies of the free world who are making the predictions.
According to Vladimir Putin, we are witnessing the “end of liberalism”: the West has become “obsolete”, he claims, as the EU fragments and American confidence collapses. Unable to live up to its values – or tell a new galvanising story of freedom adapted to modern realities – it is hard to escape the conclusion that the US and Europe risk tipping into a death spiral of humiliation and decline.
Amid the theatre and chaos – as the US evacuates its embassy and London accuses Putin of plotting a coup to install a puppet in Kyiv – one thing is clear: America has once and for all abandoned the evangelical liberalism that it espoused as the world hegemon for much of the last 30 years.
Sherelle Jacobs: The West has started to import the principles of its enemies
Dame Cressida Dick: The Met commissioner with Boris Johnson's future in her hands
In the autumn, Dame Cressida Dick’s career was on the line. The Metropolitan Police commissioner was facing demands for her resignation over a catalogue of blunders and crises that had befallen the force while under her watch.
Among them was the tragic, shameful and horrific rape and murder of Sarah Everard by one of her own officers and the policing of a vigil in its wake that was held in lockdown. Dame Cressida had been implicated in the catastrophic decision to launch an inquiry into a VIP paedophile ring that turned out to be concocted by a fantasist.
She had been accused of "obfuscation" in thwarting an inquiry into the axe murder of Daniel Morgan that found the Met "institutionally corrupt". And she was widely criticised for a ‘softly, softly’ approach to the policing of a series of Extinction Rebellion demonstrations.
Amid the furore and the noise, Boris Johnson held firm and refused to sack her. Indeed Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, gave Dame Cressida a contract extension.
It is with some irony that Boris Johnson’s future now rests on the outcome of the police investigation announced earlier today by Dame Cressida.
Profile: 'Cressida is the most risk-averse person, but had no choice'
Rishi Sunak has 'gone missing' in wake of business loan fraud
Labour has accused Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, of going missing in the wake of Lord Agnew's dramatic resignation as the House of Lords sat yesterday.
Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor, described the resignation as "damning" for Mr Sunak.
"We know now that already £6.5 billion of taxpayers' money has gone on fraud," Ms Reeves said.
"£4.3 billion has been written off by Rishi Sunak as a lost cause. It's appalling that such colossal sums of taxpayers' money is being handed over to fraudsters and to organised criminals.
"That £4.3 billion written off by Rishi Sunak could have been used to help families and businesses right now. This is too big a scandal just to cover up. The public deserves answers and yet the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, he's just gone missing."
Met Police 'does not object' to publication of Sue Gray report
The Metropolitan Police is said to have not raised any objection to Sue Gray's report into Downing Street parties being published in full while a criminal investigation takes place.
It renews the prospect of Ms Gray's findings being published in the next few days.
In a point of order in the House of Commons, Alistair Carmichael said: "It has been reported that the Metropolitan Police actually want the full Gray report to be published, and are surprised at the Government's position.
"Given what the Paymaster General told the House about the Government cooperating with the police, if this is confirmed then we would expect them to do so."
Boris Johnson: UK will not hesitate to 'toughen our national sanctions' if Russia invades
Rishi Sunak resists pressure for tax raid U-turn despite borrowing boost
Rishi Sunak has indicated he will not bow to pressure and U-turn on the planned National Insurance hike even as the Government borrowed less than economists feared in December.
The Chancellor said the Treasury’s goal was to get the deficit under control, despite pressure from his own backbench MPs to postpone the raid.
Government borrowing in December was below the £18bn predicted by City analysts at £16.8bn, as experts insisted that this gave the Treasury enough leeway to cancel the tax grab.
The Chancellor’s resistance is in stark contrast to the Prime Minister, who refused eight times yesterday to guarantee that the NICs rise would go ahead in April.
Ask your 'Partygate' questions to our experts
As 'Partygate' becomes more protracted and complex – with more than a dozen alleged parties taking place at No 10 or government departments between May and December 2020 – Sue Gray, the second permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office, was tasked with investigating all the parties that took place during coronavirus restrictions.
However, it has now been reported that Ms Gray's findings will not be published while a police investigation into "a number" of the parties takes place.
Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions look to be a nail-biting affair. Join us directly afterwards on Twitter where we will host a a Twitter Spaces with The Telegraph's Political Correspondent Tony Diver and Comment Journalist Mutaz Ahmed, who will be answering your questions on the scandal.
Put your question to Telegraph writers by filling in this form
Boris Johnson has not seen what was passed to police
Boris Johnson has not seen what was passed to the police by the Cabinet Office in the course of its investigation, a spokesman for Downing Street said.
Asked whether the Prime Minister would resign if he were to be interviewed under caution by officers, the spokesman said this was a hypothetical situation.
The official spokesman for Mr Johnson does not believe that the PM broke the law, but would not repeat that all coronavirus rules were followed at all times.
War in Ukraine would be 'a political disaster' for Putin, warns Boris Johnson
The British Army is "more agile, more lethal and more deployable around the world" in the wake of record funding, Boris Johnson tells MPs.
After Jim Shannon called for "boots on the ground" in Ukraine, Mr Johnson said Britain was supporting the Ukrainian army "and there is a strong tradition now of militias, of people who need to fight a guerrilla war".
"The message we need to get across to the Russian people is that this would be a disaster for them and a political disaster for Vladimir Putin".
Jonathan Djanogly asks Boris Johnson to remind Germany an "attack on Ukraine is an attack on all of us".
Mr Johnson refers to the "extreme delicacy of the matter in Germany... I think Olaf Scholz is doing a huge job of moving and getting us to a point in which we have a united western approach and for that I commend the German government.
"Germany is absolutely critical for our success in this, we've just got to keep the pressure up together."
Sir Bernard Jenkin dismisses the idea the UK should only change its approach if there is a Russian incursion into Ukraine.
"The change must happen anyway - we must make sure we are prepared for a new Cold War against this kind of intimidation until the Russian MP is removed," says the MP for Harwich and North Essex.
In Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states, there are people who would echo those sentiments, Mr Johnson responds, "and that's why we have to stand strong and united today for Ukraine".
Neil Coyle, the Labour MP, jokes that the PM "describes Ukraine and Russia as equal parties and we know he likes a party". On a more serious note, he wonders why Mr Johnson has not acted sooner and presses him on why further sanctions would only be introduced in the event of an invasion - asking: "Why wait?"
"We already have a very wide package of sanctions in place since the Russian incursion of 2014," is the Prime Minister's answer. "We have other sanctions and personal sanctions. What we're going to do now is ratchet those sanctions up very, very considerably.
"The UK has been out there in the front helping to train Ukrainian troops, 21,000 of them, since 2015."
Will Putin blink before opting to use force?
Bob Blackman, the Tory backbencher, ponders that if we "really economically and financially strangle Russia with sanctions, Russians could well become bankrupt".
"This alone might be something to cause Mr Putin to blink before he gives agreement to using military power and turning it into military force," he says.
Boris Johnson reiterates the UK has "the potential to do very serious economic damage to Russia".
"What we have to do is make sure that we don't inflict damage on western economies just as people are suffering in particular from high gas prices. And forty-one per cent of Russia's GDP is oil and gas."
Praise for German Chancellor from PM
Boris Johnson praises Olaf Scholz, the German leader, in light of difficult the current crisis is proving for his country amid its heavy dependence on Russian resources.
"It was clear the new German chancellor is determined to stand with the rest of the West, to have a united front and among other things Germany has made it clear Nord Stream 2 cannot go ahead if there is a Russian invasion of Ukraine," Mr Johnson says.
If unity is key, asks Ben Bradshaw, why has the UK started to withdraw its diplomats from Kyiv this week?
Mr Johnson points to the Government being in "lockstep with the United States" and the staff who have been kept in Ukraine.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith pleads with Britain's allies to recognise "[that] we must never put ourselves in a position when it comes to energy such that we are dependent on these terrible regimes in our future".
'We stand ready to stand by the Ukrainian people'
Chris Bryant, the senior Labour MP, says the arguments used by President Putin about Russian speakers in Ukraine are "exactly the same as Adolf Hitler advanced over the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s".
"I'm sure there will be other sanctions coming. I don't understand why we have only sanctioned 25 per cent of the people that the Americans have already sanctioned.
"This House will stand ready alongside the Prime Minister if he needs to introduce further legislation. We stand ready to stand by the Ukrainian people."
Boris Johnson agrees with Mr Bryant's analysis of Putin's intentions towards Ukraine and says it is "clear what the emotional wellsprings of his thinking are".
On sanctions, the PM says the Government will bring forward a statutory motion to toughen up sanctions.
Dr Julian Lewis calls for anyone with "strong Russian or Communist Chinese links" to be kept "well away from our own critical national infrastructure".
UK 'bumping up against reality' of Russia gas dependency
One of the big issues that the UK faces in dealing with Ukraine and Russia is the "heavy dependence of our European friends in particular" on Russian gas, warns Boris Johnson.
"In this era of high gas prices we are bumping up against that reality.
"So the job of our diplomacy is encourage our friends to go as far as they can to sort this out... [with] a tough package of economic sanctions."
Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, recalls a report entitled 'Moscow's Gold' about "dirty Russian money flowing through our system".
"Would he tell me what he is doing to work with partners across Europe to make sure we stand together and do not just act as a voice outside the Kremlin but make sure that Putin's acolytes act as voices inside the Kremlin, telling Putin what he is risking?" he asks.
Mr Johnson deems it "absolutely right" that the best way to get attention in Moscow is sanctions, such as Magnitsky sanctions on individuals but also more wide-ranging sanctions.
'Bloodshed on European soil is what's at stake'
Ian Blackford, the SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, says his party supports above all else a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the current crisis.
"The threat of bloodshed on European soil is what's at stake," he tells MPs.
"We stand with the people of Ukraine, and understand the fears and concerns of Ukrainians across these islands, many of whom live in the UK and have family in Ukraine.
"The bedrock of Nato as a defensive alliance remains the solidarity between its member states and it remains clear we need that united alliance. It is becoming increasing apparent that should an incursion occur, what will be required is a tougher package of sanctions that are robust and have real measurable impact."
Mr Johnson agrees with Mr Blackford that every "appropriate diplomatic avenue" should be pursued in the hope of finding a way foward.
Boris Johnson rules out sending Nato troops to Ukraine in 'near future'
Boris Johnson maintains that the UK stands "four square" behind Ukraine "and always will" with a hard-hitting package of sanctions ready to go in the event of any incursion.
Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the defence select committee, warns of the "severe economic and security consequences felt right across Europe and beyond".
Mr Ellwood flags the impact of grain exports towards Africa, and wonders where an emboldened Russia may turn next.
He calls for a "simpler and more effective option... it is not too late to mobilise a sizeable Nato presence in Ukraine, utilising the superior hard power the alliance possesses to make Putin think twice about invading another European democracy".
Emotionally many people will share Mr Ellwood's views, replies Mr Johnson. "Instinctively many people would yearn to send active physical support in the form of Nato troops to Ukraine. I have to tell him that I don't believe that to be a likely prospect in the near term.
"Ukraine is not a member of Nato but what we can do and are doing is sending troops to support Ukraine."
We must now change course to support Ukraine, urges Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer says since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has "kept its end of the deal - President Putin has not".
"His Russia has annexed Crimea, supported separatist conflict in Donbas and now massed over 100,000 troops on Ukraine's borders.
"Labour stands resolute in our support of Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. That was made clear when our Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Defence Secretary visited Kyiv a month ago.
"This isn't just a local dispute on the other side of the continent, it's an attempt by President Putin to turn back the clock, to reestablish Russian force as a means of dominance over other parts of eastern Europe, and it's a direct threat to the anti-imperialist principle that sovereign nations are free to choose their own allies and choose their own way of life.
"That is why it is crucial that we in this House are united in opposing Russian aggression. So let me be clear - the Labour Party supports the steps the Government has taken to help Ukraine to defend itself."
Sir Keir asks for assurance that the UK will be "resolute" in its defence of Ukrainian sovereignty, adding: "For too long, the implicit message to Moscow is that President Putin can do what he likes and the West will do little. We must now change course."
Boris Johnson warns Vladimir Putin: War in Ukraine would earn the condemnation of history
Boris Johnson accused Russia of wanting to install a "puppet regime" in Ukraine as he vowed to disclose any future cyber-attacks.
"If the truth is that Russia's goal is to keep Nato forces away from its borders, then invading Ukraine could scarcely be more counterproductive," he said.
"Amid all these pressures, Ukraine asks for nothing except to live in peace and seek her own alliance, as every sovereign country has a right to do.
"In every contact with Russia, the UK and our allies have stressed our unity and our adherence to vital points of principle. We cannot bargain away the vision of a Europe whole and free that emerged in those amazing years from 1989 to 1991, healing the division of our continent by the Iron Curtain.
"We will not reopen that divide by agreeing to overturn the European security order because Russia has placed a gun to Ukraine’s head.Nor can we accept the doctrine - implicit in Russian proposals - that all states are sovereign, but some are more sovereign than others.
"I believe that all of Russia's fears could yet be allayed and we could find a path to mutual security through patient and principled diplomacy, provided that President Putin avoids the trap of starting a terrible war, and a war that I believe would earn and deserve the condemnation of history."
Ukraine: Boris Johnson 'shudders to contemplate' potential worst-case-scenario
Boris Johnson describes Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border as a "spectacle that we'd hoped had been banished from our continent - a large and powerful country massing troops and tanks on the border of a neighbour with the obvious threat of invading".
Ukraine has "scarcely known a day of peace" since Crimea was annexed, Mr Johnson says, as he says he "shudders to contemplate the tragedy that would ensue... if that worst happens".
"Ukrainians have every moral and legal right to defend their country, and I believe their resistance would be dogged and tenacious. And the bloodshed comparable to the first war in Chechnya or Bosnia... No one would gain from such a catastrophe.
"For months Britain has worked in lockstep with the United States and our allies across Europe to avoid such a disaster. We've sought to combine dialogue with deterrence, emphasising how a united western alliance would exact a forbidding price for any Russian incursion into Ukraine, including by imposing heavy economic sanctions."
I am focused on people's priorities, insists Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson tells MPs that a few weeks ago he commissioned an independent inquiry into breaches of the Covid regulations.
"That process has quite properly involved sharing information continuously with the Metropolitan Police, so I welcome the Met's decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe it will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters," he says.
"But I want to reassure the House and the country that I and the whole Government are focused 100 per cent on dealing with the people's priorities, including the UK's leading role in protecting freedom around the world."
PM will not leave Downing Street in handcuffs, says minister
Angus Brendan MacNeil, the SNP MP, asks whether there is the possibility "the Prime Minister may be leaving Downing Street in handcuffs".
Michael Ellis's answer: "No."
Jim Shannon, the DUP MP, asks Michael Ellis to disclose "any and all findings" of police investigations to the media to ensure that "justice will be done".
Mr Ellis declined to guarantee this, but said Sue Gray's findings would be published in full.
Michael Ellis: 'I think the Prime Minister is the best leader for this county'
Lia Nici, the MP for Great Grimsby, insists her constituents support Boris Johnson's policies - and want him to "carry on getting on with the job".
"That is the focus that matters," Michael Ellis says.
Chi Onwurah, the Labour MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, asks whether it is in the national interest, and not just the personal interest of Boris Johnson, to continue in his post "while mired in scandal and facing criminal investigation".
"I do, passionately," Michael Ellis says. "I think the Prime Minister is the best leader for this country and he would bring to shame the party opposite and any offer that they may have as leader of this country.
"The Prime Minister knows what matters. He focuses on what matters to the British people. This investigation is also important but it is being conducted by the Cabinet Office and the Metropolitan Police. We recognise the upset that has been caused by these allegations."
'The Prime Minister is going nowhere'
Mick Whitley, the Labour MP for Birkenhead, calls for Boris Johnson to "step aside so we can finally begin to get to grips with this Tory cost-of-living [crisis]".
The Paymaster General's response?
"As I said in this House last time, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister is going nowhere."
A Government in meltdown?
Boris Johnson's Government is in "total meltdown," the leader of the Liberal Democrats asserts during the urgent question on Downing Street parties.
"Story after story about Covid laws being broken in Number 10, revelations about honourable members having constituency funding threatened by the whips and now a Prime Minister and his staff under police investigation," Ed Davey says.
"In the midst of a pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis, and with Europe on the brink of war in Ukraine, we cannot go on with this chaotic government. Does the minister accept the Prime Minister's authority is in tatters? Will he advise his boss to do the right thing in the national interest and resign?"
Michael Ellis thanks Sir Ed for his advice on propriety but hopes "he will forgive me if I decline to follow it".
Giles Watling, the MP for Clacton calls the urgent question "a vexatious waste of everybody's time" - which meets with a rebuke from Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker. Mr Watling proceeds to withdraw his comment.
Boris Johnson would willingly be interviewed by police, says No 10
Downing Street has made clear that Boris Johnson is willing to be interviewed by the police as part of their ‘partygate’ probe, reports Ben Riley-Smith.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said all government employees would “fully cooperate” with the investigation when asked if Mr Johnson would undergo an interview, should that be sought.
The spokesman also indicated that the Prime Minister was willing to hand over documents, diaries and mobile phones if requested.
Mr Johnson has full confidence in the Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick, the Prime Minister’s spokesman also said.
The principle of "innocent until proven guilty" must be heeded by opposition MPs during the investigation, Michael Ellis, the Paymaster General, told the Commons this lunchtime.
Tory MPs call for investigation to 'run its course'
Tory MPs are lining up to hail the achievements of Boris Johnson's government in a sign that many of the Conservative Party will continue to back the Prime Minister amid the police investigation into what happened at Downing Street during lockdown.
Graham Stuart, the MP for Beverley and Holderness, accuses Labour of being "so desperate" and in "terror" at the thought of the vaccine rollout among other achievements and political issues being the focus of political discussion.
Shailesh Vara, the MP for North West Cambridgeshire, calls for the investigation to be "allowed to run its course" and for "prejudgements not [to be] made in this House".
"We really do need to concentrate on matters that really affect our constituents on a day-to-day basis - cost-of-living, energy prices and so on."
'Oh what a tangled web we weave...'
Brendan O'Hara, the SNP MP, uses Burns Day to quote Sir Walter Scott in the Commons: "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."
Now that the police are finally involved, how much more "personal humiliation and indignity" will Boris Johnson endure, he asks.
"And how much more of this embarrassing circus will his colleagues tolerate before they act to remove this embarrassing man from office?"
Mr Ellis says he had already indicated the findings of Sue Gray's investigation would be published.
Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group and a Tory backbencher, asks Mr Ellis to "keep the house posted about whether the Prime Minister is going to be interviewed" by the Metropolitan Police - as a witness or a potential suspect.
That is a matter for the police, who will conduct the interview "entirely at their own discretion", Mr Ellis says.
No indication on when Sue Gray report will be published
Angela Rayner asks when the Sue Gray report will be published, and requests an assurance that it will be published in full.
Michael Ellis defends the Prime Minister as "working on the cost-of-living, working on Russia-Ukraine, he's doing those jobs, the Prime Minister is focusing on those areas."
He declines to commit to the full publication of the Gray report, or indicate when it will be published. Mr Ellis accuses Ms Rayner of "forgetting" the fact the word "potentially" was used, and no conclusions have been drawn by the police.
Sir Edward Leigh, the Tory backbencher, asks for a "sense of proportion over the Prime Minister being given a piece of cake in his own office" at a time "when Europe stands on the brink of war".
"I completely agree," says Mr Ellis.
'What a truly damning reflection'
"Well, well, well, all too soon the minister and I find ourselves once again," Angela Rayner tells the Commons.
"Rather than dealing with the cost-of-living crisis impacting on families, we're talking about scandals happening in Downing Street again."
Accusing Tory MPs of "allowing it to happen" and "working hard to make Sue Gray the most famous woman in Britain" in response to questions about their "poor conduct, bad behaviour and rule-breaking".
"They repeatedly told us Sue Gray is the answer. Now there's a police investigation, and the terms of reference for the investigation set by the Prime Minister himself are clear - if any evidence emerges of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence, the matter will be referred to the police.
"So it seems, Mr Speaker, potential criminality has been found in Downing Street. What a truly damning reflection on our nation's very highest office."
Sue Gray investigation will continue
Michael Ellis says there is "ongoing contact" between the Metropolitan Police and Sue Gray, but Ms Gray's Cabinet Office investigation will continue.
"I must emphasise that matters relating to adherence of the law are properly a matter for the police to investigate," he said.
"The Cabinet Office will liaise with them as appropriate. Finally I can confirm the findings of this investigation will be provided to this House and made public."
Mr Ellis insists he cannot comment on "what is an ongoing police investigation" and asks MPs "not to preempt its conclusions".
Michael Ellis: 'This is a matter for the police'
Angela Rayner asks the minister for the Cabinet Office to make a statement on the status of the investigation in the wake of the Met police investigation.
"As the House will be aware, earlier today the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police confirmed that the Metropolitan Police Service will be investigating alleged breaches of Covid-19 regulations within Government," Michael Ellis, the Paymaster General, said from the Despatch Box.
"This is a matter for the police and the House will understand I am not in a position to comment on the nature of the investigation."
Mr Ellis said he recognises the "anger and indignation" across the country.
Downing Street party investigation will take 'weeks, not days'
The Met will start an investigation of its own into Number 10 parties from scratch with their own officers conducting any interviews, Sky News has reported.
A team of detectives from Scotland Yard’s Special Enquiries team will lead the investigation, which the broadcaster has suggested will take "weeks, not days".
'Incredibly serious' that probe has been launched, says Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper described the launch of a police investigation into "partygate" as "incredibly serious".
The Labour MP said: "The Government is not above the law, and this shows there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to the police now to be conducting a criminal investigation into the heart of Downing Street.
"And I think there is a moral question as well as a criminal question for the Prime Minister. Boris Johnson has now degraded the office of Prime Minister, he is distracting people from the serious cost of living and other issues the country faces."
Ms Cooper accused the PM of having "disrespected the sacrifices" made by the public during various coronavirus lockdowns.
Jacob Rees-Mogg: 'I am honoured to be under Boris Johnson's leadership'
Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he is “honoured” to be led by Boris Johnson as he attempted to defend the Prime Minister in the wake of police launching an investigation into alleged Downing Street parties.
The Leader of the House of Commons insisted Mr Johnson was the right man to take the Conservative Party and the country forward in light of the successful vaccine rollout and the economic recovery seen since the pandemic.
His comments come ahead of an urgent question in the Commons from Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour Party leader, in a few minutes' time.
Ms Rayner will ask the minister for the Cabinet Office “if he will make a statement on the status of the investigation into Downing Street parties following the statement from the commissioner of the Met”.
What Boris’s exit would tell us about who he is as a man
A very wise person once told me it was always more interesting to interview politicians on the way down than on the way up, writes Suzanne Moore. There is something about the losing of power that engenders a kind of self-reflection that the facade of having to perform as ever-confident prevents.
The burden of winning is lifted. Losing means the mask can be taken off, or at least it slips. Sure, politics is a brutal business. When you lose your seat, you and your staff are immediately out of a job. A friend who worked for an MP who lost was shouted at regularly because her boss’s diary was now blank. It was apparently her job to fill it even though he was no longer being invited anywhere.
He was in total denial. Shakespeare’s “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it” is true of all political exits. Is Boris Johnson preparing for one? He ought to be. Grace, dignity and character are not words one associates with this man who is apparently holed up preparing a bonfire of his aides. There is little to admire here and he becomes littler every day. But what is he now fighting for beyond his own delusions?
Gordon Brown was humble, David Cameron hummed and Theresa May cried – if Johnson wants a place in history, he will need a dignified exit.
Suzanne Moore: After the chaos, Johnson's departure would need calm
We're back to a pre-pandemic economy because of Boris, says Jacob Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg cited the vaccine rollout, the furlough programme and the fact the economy “has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels” as he praised Boris Johnson’s record in government.
In the Commons last Thursday, he said the Prime Minister had “rightly apologised to the House for mistakes that have been made… [and] to the country for mistakes that have been made.
“The socialists never want due process to take place,” he told MPs. “They always want to make the decision before they have the facts. They do not want to do it properly.
“This Government are doing it properly, and while we were doing it properly, we set up, under this Prime Minister’s leadership, the furlough programme that saved 14 million jobs and that kept the economy going, which means that the economy is now back above its pre-pandemic levels and that youth unemployment is at a record low.”
Timeline: All the government parties during lockdown
Allegations of parties in Downing Street have been brought back into focus after reports Boris Johnson attended a birthday party thrown in his honour in Downing Street during the first Covid lockdown
Sue Gray, the second permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office, was tasked with investigating all government parties that took place during coronavirus restrictions, but it has been reported her findings will not be published while a police investigation into "a number" of the parties takes place.
There are currently thought to be 15 parties that took place in Number 10 or government departments between May and December, with some coming hours after new restrictions came into force.
Read more about the alleged gatherings here
Police probe will be 'relatively straightforward', says former Met chief
The police investigation into alleged lockdown breaches in Downing Street will be "relatively straightforward", a former chief superintendent at the Metropolitan Police said.
Dal Babu told Sky News he felt it was "rather unfortunate" the police had decided to wait to launch the investigation amid the Sue Gray report "which [has] no legal basis".
"We're in a situation where more and more evidence has come out," he said. "You'd have CCTV, police officers on duty to see what was happening, right at the beginning when allegations were first made."
As for whether the investigation takes "days, weeks [or] months", it will come down to "when the police want to move on it" but officers already have the evidence they would need, he said.
The 'wait for Sue Gray' just got longer
The Daily Telegraph understands that Sue Gray will not publish her report until the Metropolitan Police have concluded their investigation, writes Ben Riley-Smith.
That means publication of the findings - the moment Tory MPs have been waiting for before deciding whether to oust Boris Johnson - has been thrown into uncertainty.
The report is now not expected this week. It could be weeks or potentially months before it is published, depending on how long the police probe lasts.
Ms Gray will "continue" to investigate, but the findings will be sat on until the Met reaches its own conclusions. The key political question now becomes whether MPs will decide not to wait for the Met to conclude their inquiry and submit letters of no confidence this week.
Law must be upheld 'no matter who that involves', says Mayor of London
Officers must enforce the law "without fear or favour", the Mayor of London said as it was confirmed the Metropolitan Police will probe a "number" of reports of parties at Downing Street.
"I welcome confirmation that the Met Police is investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of the law," said Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.
"The public rightly expect the police to uphold the law without fear or favour, no matter who that involves, and I have been clear that members of the public must be able to expect the highest standards from everyone, including the Prime Minister and those around him.
"No one is above the law. There cannot be one rule for the Government and another for everyone else."
No Sue Gray report during criminal investigation - reports
Sue Gray's report into alleged lockdown breaches across the Government during coronavirus restrictions will not be published while a criminal investigation is ongoing, Sky News and BBC News understand.
When confirming the inquiry in the Commons earlier this month, Michael Ellis, the Paymaster General, told MPs: "As with all internal investigations, if evidence emerges of what was potentially a criminal offence the matter will be referred to the Metropolitan Police, and the Cabinet Office’s work may be paused.
"Matters relating to adherence to the law are, as ever, matters for the Metropolitan Police to investigate, and the Cabinet Office will liaise with them as appropriate."
It is currently not clear how long the police investigation will take.
Police investigation welcomed by Labour
Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, has issued a statement on the launch of the Met investigation.
"We welcome this investigation by the Metropolitan police," she said.
"With Boris Johnson's Downing Street now under police investigation, how on earth can he think he can stay on as Prime Minister?
"Millions of people are struggling to pay the bills, but Boris Johnson and his government are too wrapped up in scandal to do anything about it.
"Boris Johnson is a national distraction. Conservative MPs should stop propping him up and he should finally do the decent thing and resign."
Ms Rayner has also had the following question urgent question granted in the Commons at 1pm: "To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will make a statement on the status of the investigation into Downing Street parties following the statement from the commissioner of the Met."
Watch: Jacob Rees-Mogg praises Boris Johnson's 'brilliant' leadership
"I am honoured to be under his leadership."
Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg praised Boris Johnson's "brilliant" leadership, following announcement the Met Police launched an investigation into "a number of events".https://t.co/LGsGE8tGlq
Sky 501, Virgin 602, Freeview 233 pic.twitter.com/uH60f5jN0n
— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 25, 2022
The moment Cressida Dick confirmed police probe into parties
As a result firstly of information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and secondly my officers’ own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
My officers have assessed several other events that appear to have taken place at Downing Street and Whitehall. On the available information, these other events are assessed as not reaching the threshold for criminal investigation.
Throughout the pandemic the Met has sought, as I have said, to take a proportionate approach. I should stress the fact that the Met is investigating does not mean that fixed penalty notices will necessarily be issued in every instance and to every person involved.
We will not be giving a running commentary on our current investigations, but I can assure you that we will give updates at significant points as we would normally do.
Boris Johnson has got 'all the decisions right', says Jacob Rees-Mogg
Boris Johnson has got "all the decisions right" as Prime Minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg told reporters as he left this morning's Cabinet meeting.
"The vaccine rollout, the furlough programme, the economy has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels," Mr Rees-Mogg said.
"The leadership of Boris Johnson of this country thus far has been so brilliant because he has got us through this incredibly difficult period and he has got all the decisions right."
Breaking: Sue Gray inquiry to continue
Sue Gray will continue her probe despite the Met Police announcement that they are investigating claims of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, writes Ben Riley-Smith, our Political Editor.
The terms of reference published for the probe said that it could "be paused" if evidence of potential criminality was found.
However a Cabinet Office source said this morning: "The investigation being carried out by Sue Gray is continuing. There is an ongoing contact with the Metropolitan Police Service."
It is unclear whether the police investigation will have an impact on the Gray report's expected publication this week. It certainly complicates the matter.
A senior Whitehall official told the Financial Times the findings "won't be [published] this week."
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: "The investigation being carried out by Sue Gray is continuing."
Cressida Dick pledges to go 'where evidence takes us'
Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly member, asks whether CCTV cameras will form part of the investigation, and notes Downing Street parties would not have exactly been "silent discos".
"Of course we'll be going where the evidence takes us," Dame Cressida says. "We have already done our own assessment as you know.
"We've been in constant dialogue with the Cabinet Office team, so I don't anticipate any difficulty in anticipating the evidence that it is both necessary and proportionate and appropriate for us to obtain in order for us to get to the right conclusions."
Dame Cressida declines to say which parties are being investigated and which ones are not, "but are investigating a number, and there are several that we are not investigating".
'We are carrying out our investigations'
Cressida Dick is asked whether any concern was raised with her or any of her officers about what was going on in Downing Street.
"You'll be aware that there are a number of officers posted in the surrounds of Downing Street and indeed what we call more generally the Government security zone," she said.
"They have a very clear role and that is protective security. The ones you see are all armed and they have a job to do. In relation to anything they may have seen or heard or done or not done, I'm afraid I'm not prepared to comment.
"But I can assure you we are carrying out our investigations and if that is a relevant matter we will find out about that."
No 'running commentary' on Downing Street parties police probe
The Met will not provide a "running commentary" on its investigation into Downing Street parties, Cressida Dick says.
"The fact that we are now investigating does not now mean that fixed penalty notices will be given to every individual involved.
"I can assure you we will give updates at significant points as we would generally do."
BREAKING: Downing Street parties to be investigated by police, confirms Cressida Dick
We have a long-established and effective working relationship with the Cabinet Office who have an investigative capability.
And as you well know they have been carrying out an investigation over the last few weeks.
What I can tell you this morning is that as a result firstly of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and secondly my officers' own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
"My officers have assessed several other events that appear to have taken place at Downing Street and Whitehall. On the available information, these other events are assessed as not reaching the threshold for criminal investigation.
Dame Cressida Dick sets out grounds for retrospective inquiries
Dame Cressida told the Assembly: "Recognising that there might be some occasions where we would investigate respectively, we generated some guidelines that we have stuck to. And you will be aware that we have on occasion investigated retrospectively.
"Some of my own officers, a few, have received penalty notices when we heard after the fact that they had breached the guidelines. One or two high-profile people also when it was plain that they had admitted and there was good evidence, they also, after the fact and a few weeks after the fact, received penalty notices.
"And the occasions on when we have done that is when we were looking at something which appeared to be the most serious and flagrant type of breach."
Dame Cressida says there had to be "some sort of evidence" on top of evidence that those involved knew or ought to have known that what they were doing was an offence, and where there was "little ambiguity" around the absence of reasonable defence.
Enforcement always a 'last resort' in London
Dame Cressida Dick says enforcement has always been a "last resort" in London.
"In general, we have not normally investigated breaches of the regulations when they have been reported long after they are said to have taken place. Throughout the pandemic our focus has been on what we can do to benefit public health. We police by consent and people need to see what we are doing has a purpose.
"And of course we did issue tickets, and we did enforce with some really flagrant breaches but most people as you all well know responded very well to our engagement and changed their behaviour.
"We do have finite resources. And even more so during the worst periods of the pandemic when our officers fell ill as well as other people. And our view was and is that it would not normally be a proportionate use of officers' time to spend their time, bearing in mind the nature of the offences, after the fact investigating what could have been thousands of complaints."
Dame Cressida notes that coronavirus rule breaches are "summary only", fixed penalty offences.
'We police without fear or favour'
Dame Cressida Dick is asked if she accepts she needs to "review the way" the Met polices the Government.
"We police without fear or favour," Dame Cressida says. "We police impartially and in an operationally independent manner. I myself have, as you know, investigating more politically charged investigations and investigations involving members of the Government, members of the civil service than any other senior police officer. I have always done that and will always do that impartially.
"I absolutely understand that there is deep public concern about the allegations that have been in the media in recent weeks. I completely understand that. The vast majority of people have acted responsibly during the pandemic.
"Throughout the pandemic my officers and my staff have kept going, they've put themselves in harm's way to tackle crime, to tackle violence and to do their bit to tackle the health emergency in our city."
Scotland Yard to investigate eight alleged Downing Street parties
Scotland Yard is poised to announce it will launch a criminal investigation into allegations surrounding Downing Street parties, Martin Evans can reveal.
Dame Cressida Dick, the Met Commissioner, is expected to confirm that her officers will investigate eight out of 17 events at which coronavirus lockdown rules were allegedly broken.
Previously the Met had said its policy was not to investigate breaches of lockdown regulations retrospectively but said it would assess any evidence that emerged.
But the force has come under intense pressure to launch a criminal investigation following a wave of allegations of gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall during the pandemic lockdown.
Shapps: PM did not organise birthday party
Grant Shapps has said he is "furious" with those who broke lockdown rules during the pandemic - but insisted that Boris Johnson did not organise a birthday party on June 19, 2020.
Mr Johnson was presented with a cake at around 2pm and attendees sang "happy birthday" in the Cabinet room at a time when indoor social gatherings indoors were banned, ITV News reported.
A spokesman for No 10 confirmed Mr Johnson attended the event, but insisted he was there for less than 10 minutes and that staff had only gathered "briefly".
"He didn't organise a party, someone presented a cake to him," the Transport Secretary told Sky News. "It was his birthday and these are people that he worked with all the time. I don't seek to defend it, this is for Sue Gray to decide on whether this was appropriate.
"I think we can be pretty clear [that] the Prime Minister didn't present a cake to himself. I've explained to you I'm furious with everybody who broke the rules and a lot of different people will find that perhaps they transgressed the rules unwittingly during periods of lockdowns."
The Cabinet room was used for meetings "all the time" during the pandemic and Sue Gray - whose report is expected later this week - "will be able to get to the bottom of [it]", Mr Shapps added.
Coming up: Cressida Dick faces 'Partygate' questions
Cressida Dick faces questions from the London Assembly at 10am on "partygate".
It is one of her regular appearances before the Assembly's police and crime committee.
You'll be able to watch what the Metropolitan Police chief has to say at the top of this live blog.
As The Telegraph reported on Monday, police officers who guard Downing Street have been interviewed by Sue Gray as part of her investigation into events at No 10 during lockdown.
Much to discuss...
Ministers have arrived at Downing Street ahead of this morning's Cabinet meeting.
These include Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, who has strenuously denied allegations made by Nusrat Ghani, Oliver Dowden, the Conservative Party chairman, and Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary - one of Boris Johnson's most vocal supporters in the wake of fresh reports of partying during the pandemic (see 7.51am).
'We know this man can't stick to the rules'
Sir Keir Starmer said the latest revelation showed Boris Johnson “believes that the rules that he made don’t apply to him”.
"The Prime Minister is a national distraction," the Labour leader wrote last night.
"Millions of people are struggling to pay the bills, but Boris Johnson and his government are spending the whole time mopping up their own rule-breaking, sleaze and deceit. He’s got to go."
Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office and shadow secretary of state for the future of work, quipped: "Is this what they mean by sing 'happy birthday' twice?"
Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, recalled her mother's birthday in May 2020 "on Zoom... We wore paper hats and had a family quiz themed around her.
"We love each other so we made it work. Every family will have memories like this, some very painful. We know this man can't stick to the rules."
Birthday party pours fuel on fire of Tory civil war
Ruth Davidson and Nadine Dorries have clashed over new revelations about a party at Downing Street, which will do little to ease the current tensions at the heart of the Tory Party.
"By coincidence, my partner shares a birthday with the Prime Minister (June 19)," wrote Baroness Davidson, the former leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.
"We marked it in 2020 by inviting one other household to sit outside, socially distanced, in our garden. It didn't occur to us - literally couldn't conceive - that we would act outside the rules."
Ruth, you were at home with your partner. The PM was working in Downing St with 100s of staff in Covid war room offices. Where/what is the comparison? https://t.co/jvZBbmh6Ap
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) January 25, 2022
But Ms Dorries, who has come out to bat for the PM a number of times over "partygate", responded: "Ruth, you were at home with your partner. The PM was working in Downing Street with hundreds of staff in Covid war room offices. Where/what is the comparison?"
Wes Streeting, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, responded: "The comparison is that Ruth followed the rules. Boris Johnson didn’t. Not hard, is it?"
Looking like another perfectly calm day in Westminster, then.
Is Angela Rayner a new ‘Boris’ in the making?
Stepping out on Sunday in leopard-print boots, it is a photograph that brings new meaning to the idea that Angela Rayner is “on manoeuvres”, writes Camilla Tominey.
The image of Labour’s deputy leader, one of its most recognisable rising stars, emerging from her south London flat with Sam Tarry, a married MP – though he has reportedly split from his wife – with what looks remarkably like a toothbrush sticking out of his coat pocket has set Westminster tongues wagging.
So much so that the power-dressing, fake-fur-loving Labour leadership hopeful is becoming positively Boris-like in her habit of hogging the headlines – and not always for the right reasons.
The 41-year-old mother-of-three might bristle at comparisons with her Despatch Box nemesis, but the similarities are increasingly plain to see in their colourful private lives, their penchant for speaking without thinking and their star status as politicians with a populist touch.
Why Angela Rayner could prove Labour's 'wild card'
Lord Agnew’s parting shot at No 10
Downing Street could cut 1p off income tax if it tackled Covid fraud properly, Lord Agnew of Oulton said yesterday as he dramatically quit the Government.
The peer called Downing Street’s handling of Covid business loan fraud “schoolboy” as he resigned as a minister to the Treasury and Cabinet Office while speaking in the Lords.
Speaking at the despatch box, Lord Agnew reeled off a list of alleged failings, including that 1,000 companies received Bounce Back loans that were not even trading when Covid-19 struck.
He finished the speech announcing his resignation with the words “thank you and goodbye”, before marching straight out of the Lords, as others in the Chamber applauded.
Ben Riley-Smith and Dominic Penna have the story
'I can't see how it could have been lawful'
A human rights barrister who has displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of Covid rules during the pandemic questioned the legitimacy of the birthday party held at Downing Street in June 2020.
"If the police had come across a gathering like this, a prearranged gathering with food and cake - there was obviously a birthday party even if a short one - I think they would have handed everybody £100 penalty notices because people were committing criminal offences," he told the Today programme.
"So I don't think even Number 10 is giving an excuse which would have amounted to a defence in law."
It's actually more straightforward than the 20 May gathering as the gatherings rule didn't apply to private spaces then - so you have to rely on the "being outside the home without a reasonable excuse" rule which is a bit more nuanced and wouldn't apply to the PM. This would.
— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) January 24, 2022
Mr Wagner noted in a tweet last night indoor gatherings of two or more "were banned unless it fell within a list of exemptions" on June 19, 2020, and that "birthday parties (or any social gatherings) were not an exemption".
"If this was a a purely social event, which the cake and M&S food strongly suggest it was, then it can't have fallen within any of the list of exceptions to the strict gatherings rules."
Nobody's perfect, says Grant Shapps as he attacks 'trial by media'
"No one is perfect" but Boris Johnson has achieved "remarkable things in a pandemic", Grant Shapps told the BBC.
Mr Shapps urged Britons to wait for the Sue Gray report rather than "a sort of trial by media, drip, drip".
He credited "the leadership of the Prime Minister" with the success of the UK's vaccine rollout, and said: "There's no textbook for dealing with the pandemic, [he] led this country through it."
Nusrat Ghani sacking: Sajid Javid set to face questions
Sajid Javid is expected to be questioned by the Whitehall investigation into Nusrat Ghani’s claim that her Muslim faith was cited as a reason she was sacked from the Government.
The Telegraph has learned that Ms Ghani privately confided in the Health Secretary shortly after she alleged that the Chief Whip told her she was fired as a junior transport minister in part due to her "Muslimness".
Mr Javid acknowledged the seriousness of the claims and urged her to escalate the matter, while honouring her request to keep it confidential, it is understood.
Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, has hit back insisting he "never used those words attributed" by Ms Ghani after the February 2020 reshuffle. He said her claims were "completely false" and added that he believed they were defamatory.
Lucy Fisher and Harry Yorke have the full story
Waiting for Sue Gray
On claims Lulu Lytle, the interior designer redecorating the Johnsons’ Downing Street flat, was present at the birthday party, Grant Shapps told Sky: "I don't know, maybe it was a meeting.
"Fortunately, Sue Gray, who's already aware of this, will be able to get to the bottom of that which I think is actually the right way to do it.
"I feel personally very upset when I see stories about lockdowns being broken in any form and many people have found that they crossed the wrong side of that line at different times. I understand that, it upsets me. The Prime Minister's already said that he takes full responsibility for everything that happened in Downing Street."
Ms Gray, the second permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, is expected to report back with her findings on Downing Street parties this week, although ministers have not been able to guarantee that her findings will be released in full.
A spokesman for Ms Lytle did not deny she was present at the event, saying she "entered the Cabinet Room briefly as requested" while waiting to speak to Mr Johnson, but said she was "not invited to any birthday celebrations".
Grant Shapps: 'Mistakes made' but Boris Johnson's party consisted of his coworkers
"Mistakes were made" during the pandemic but a party for Boris Johnson was made up of people who already worked together, the Transport Secretary said.
"People working in the central areas - including the response to coronavirus - were already working together, so this wasn't a gathering of people who weren't already working in the same building," he said.
Josephine sets a great example to us all by postponing her birthday party until we have sent coronavirus packing.
Together we can beat this. In the meantime let's all wish her happy birthday (twice) whilst washing our hands. #BeLikeJosephine #StayHomeSaveLives https://t.co/xmDOw60hhV pic.twitter.com/yl7uxe9lhh
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 21, 2020
"This was a period of slightly more relaxed rules. The Prime Minister already apologises for any mistakes that were made. I understand that Sue Gray was already aware of this particular incident and will be aware of that report so we'll wait to see what she says.
Asked about reports that Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister's wife, was in attendance, Mr Shapps added: "Of course the unusual thing about Downing Street is that it's a home and an office."
Cabinet doubles down in defence of Boris Johnson
Three Cabinet ministers have rallied round Boris Johnson in the wake of potentially damaging new reports that the Prime Minister had a birthday party at Downing Street while restrictions were in place.
Grant Shapps, who has the unenviable job of this morning's broadcast round, insisted Mr Johnson had not organised the party himself and was presented with a cake by co-workers.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, told ITV News: "I don't think [it] really constitutes a party in the way that some of the other more serious allegations that are being investigated maybe do. "I think they've gone slightly over the top."
And Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, asked: "So, when people in an office buy a cake in the middle of the afternoon for someone else they are working in the office with and stop for ten minutes to sing happy birthday and then go back to their desks, this is now called a party?"
Grant Shapps has said he is "furious" with those who broke lockdown rules during the pandemic - but insisted that Boris Johnson did not organise a birthday party on June 19, 2020.
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