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Downing Street today insisted Boris Johnson has never lied to parliament after a former aide accused him of lying over partygate.
The prime minister himself also took part in an excruciating interview in which he explicitly denied fresh allegations by Dominic Cummings.
It comes after the former chief advisor claimed the PM lied to parliament about a Downing Street garden party during the first lockdown and alleged that he directly warned Johnson it should not go ahead.
In a blog post, Cummings said he discussed the drinks party with the PM and told him: “You’ve got to get a grip of this madhouse.”
He alleged that Johnson “waved it aside”, adding that he would be prepared to “swear under oath” about the veracity of his account.
It comes after Johnson told the commons last week he believed the “socially distanced drinks” were a work event and that he had gone into the garden to thank his staff for 25 minutes. No.10 has repeatedly said it was “untrue” that the PM was warned in advance about the event on May 20, 2020.
The PM told broadcasters today: “I can tell you categorically, categorically, that nobody told me and nobody said that this was something that was against the rules or was a breach of the Covid rules or we were doing something that wasn’t a work event...”
Separately, when the prime minister’s spokesman was asked by journalists if Johnson had ever lied to the house, he replied simply: “No.”
Categorically nobody told me and nobody said that this was something that was against the rules.Boris Johnson told broadcasters
Asked if the PM could have accidentally and in good faith misled parliament and could not remember the warnings from aides, the spokesman replied: “You’ve got the prime minister’s statement to the house. I don’t have anything to add beyond that.”
Pressed on whether Johnson would quit if he misled parliament, the spokesman said: “The guidance is clear, the ministerial code is very clear on this point when it comes to knowingly misleading the house and the prime minister abides by that, and we fully support it.”
Cummings claimed he and another senior official told Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s principal private secretary who sent the “BYOB” email inviting staff to the party on May 20 2020, that the event was in breach of the rules.
He claimed Reynolds said he would check with the PM and that he believed another senior official also spoke to Johnson about the party.
“The events of May 20 alone, never mind the string of other events, mean the PM lied to parliament about parties,” Cummings wrote in a blog.
ITV’s political editor Robert Peston claimed he knew the identity of the other official who allegedly warned the PM about the party.
Peston wrote: “I know who sent the email to Martin Reynolds on 20 May 2020 telling him the planned ‘bring your own booze’ party should not go ahead — though the sender tells me he does not want to be seen as agent provocateur against the prime minister and has asked me not to name him.”
A Downing Street source has backed up Dominic Cummings' claim that Boris Johnson was made aware in advance of a Downing Street drinks party during the first #COVID19 lockdown.@BethRigby reports.
📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602, Freeview 233 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/zUPIDuu8tE
— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 17, 2022
No.10 doubled down last night saying: “It is untrue that the prime minister was warned about the event in advance. As he said earlier this week he believed implicitly that this was a work event.
“He has apologised to the house and is committed to making a further statement once the investigation concludes.”
This morning deputy prime minister Dominic Raab insisted Cummings’ allegations were “nonsense”. But he said Johnson would “normally” be expected to resign if he intentionally misled Parliament.
The garden party is one of a number of events being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray who is expected to report back at the end of this week at the earliest.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.