oris Johnson has reportedly been questioned by Sue Gray over “partygate” allegations ahead of one of the most difficult weeks of his premiership.
Ms Gray’s findings are expected to be published this week but could be delayed by the emergence of further party allegations.
On Monday, the Daily Mirror reported Mr Johnson attended a leaving do before Christmas 2020 during which he gave a speech to mark the departure of his defence adviser, Captain Steve Higham. No10 and the Ministry of Defence declined to comment.
It follows repeated allegations of lockdown breaches by Mr Johnson and Downing Street staff, sparking fury among Tory MPs and the public. Last week, officials were accused of attending a “bring your own booze” garden party during the first coronavirus lockdown that Mr Johnson admitted he attended – although he insists he understood it to be a “work event”.
Mr Johnson has drawn up a flurry of policy announcements – dubbed “Operation Red Meat” – to win back the support of Tory MPs and Conservative voters. This includes ending all remaining coronavirus restrictions on January 26 and putting the military in charge of preventing small boats from crossing the Channel.
Zahawi denies claim that Johnson knew about May 20 party
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has been conducting this morning’s media round.
Appearing on Sky News, Mr Zahawi said it was not true that Boris Johnson had known about a party held at Downing Street on May 20, 2020.
He said: “It’s not true that the Prime Minister knew about this. He implicitly thought this was a work event.”
Mr Zahawi said senior official Sue Gray must be allowed to carry out her inquiry into reports of coronavirus restriction-breaching events in Westminster, and he said the prime minister had “submitted himself to that investigation”.
The cabinet minister added that he shared the anger of the public over the issue, adding: “I can absolutely say to you that the Prime Minister feels the pain.”
He said: “All I would say is we have to allow the investigation to take place. Why? Because that’s the fair thing to do – you don’t condemn a man without a thorough investigation.”
Good morning and welcome to the Evening Standard’s live politics coverage.
We will have all the latest from our political team as Boris Johnson gears up for the most difficult week of his premiership.
A quick recap on the current situation below:
– Boris Johnson is fighting to save his future in Downing Street following a string of damaging “partygate” allegations, with a claim of another Christmas 2020 party emerging on Sunday night
– Labour has opened up a 10-point lead over the Conservatives and has risen to its largest predicted vote share in almost a decade, according to polling firm Savanta ComRes
– In a bid to survive the partygate storm, reports have suggested Mr Johnson could overhaul his top team, with the likes of his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, who sent an email inviting staff to enjoy the good weather in the No 10 garden in May 2020, being shown the door
– The PM could unveil a flurry of policy announcements, including an announcement putting the military in charge of preventing small boats from crossing the Channel and the end of coronavirus restrictions on January 26