The prime minister put to Sue Gray, who is making a report on partygate and alleged breaches of Covid lockdown rules, whether there was “much point” in it being published, it is claimed
Boris Johnson suggested Sue Gray could just drop her Partygate report in a secretive meeting, according to bombshell claims.
The Prime Minister – who is the Whitehall investigator’s boss – met her at the start of this month after No10 officials talks “may be something that she might want to consider.”
No10 have refused to release any minutes. But it’s now emerged Boris Johnson asked if there was “much point” in publishing her final verdict on lockdown parties after a police probe, the Times and Sky News reported.
The suggestion Boris Johnson tried to meddle with the inquiry piles fresh pressure after he was accused of lying to Parliament – due to photos of him raising a glass at a 13 November 2020 party he explicitly denied happened.
Cabinet ally Grant Shapps today claimed the Prime Minister was “clearly not” partying at the leaving do for aide Lee Cain, telling Sky News: “He’d gone by to say thanks and raise a glass to a colleague who was leaving”.
Mr Shapps also bizarrely excused the PM’s behaviour because he “lost his mum during the period” – despite the fact Charlotte Johnson Wahl died 10 months after the photos were taken.
But sources told the Mirror more photographs showing the PM drinking at rules-busting lockdown gatherings in No 10 are expected to be published in Sue Gray’s report into Partygate – which could be published on Wednesday.
Sources close to the investigation said officials had to “push very hard internally” for the damning images to be included.
The Mirror understands photos of the PM at his Downing Street birthday party holding a can of Estrella beer will be revealed. One insider claimed the picture was “more incriminating” than those revealed last night.
The meeting between Boris Johnson and Sue Gray was kept secret by No10 and when it emerged, Downing Street officials wrongly tried to suggest Sue Gray had instigated it.
Eventually a No10 spokesman admitted the idea had come from Downing Street but refused to say what was discussed.
A Whitehall source, however, told The Times: “He asked her was there much point in doing it now that it’s all out there. He was inferring that she didn’t need to publish the report.”
Another insider said: “They were exploring this idea of not having any report. It was being talked about [in Downing Street]. But politically they realised they couldn’t do it.”
Downing Street did not respond to requests for comment this morning, and Mr Shapps refused several times to deny the account.
The Transport Secretary said: “I wasn’t at the meeting but I know there were officials there. The meeting was actually arranged by officials just on the timing and logistics of the report. Beyond that I’m afraid I don’t have any useful information.”
Asked again he said “I haven’t seen that confirmation”, “I wasn’t in the room so I don’t know that’s the case”, and “Exactly what was discussed I don’t know.”
He joked to Sky: “You seem to have had more information about the inside of the meeting than I do”.
Yet despite not knowing what happened Mr Shapps defended the Prime Minister over the leaked pictures, saying: “I don’t think these things should have happened, but I think it’s probably worth recalling in context that throughout this period the Prime Minister himself had been extremely ill, had a close brush with coronavirus, he lost his mum during the period, he was dealing with the pandemic.
“By the looks of things he goes and thanks somebody who’s leaving, he raises his glass to them.
“And as I say, I – having like everyone in this country lived through coronavirus and in many cases made enormous sacrifices – don’t enjoy seeing pictures that suggest anything else.
“But this is well-covered territory, we’ve seen this, we’ve heard about this, the only difference is seeing the photograph.”
AFP via Getty Images)
Asked if the PM misled Parliament he said: “The question was was he down there partying – no clearly not. He’d gone by to say thanks and raise a glass to a colleague who was leaving.
“The police have spent a lot of time with a lot of people and a lot of resources crawling over it and they’ve come to their conclusion, as we know he wasn’t fined for that.”
Mr Johnson’s position will come under renewed pressure if – as many expect – Ms Gray is highly critical of the culture in Downing Street and Whitehall which resulted in repeated violations of the rules.
Supporters of the prime minister had been growing in confidence that he can survive calls for his resignation after receiving just one fine over a gathering the Cabinet Office for his 56th birthday.
Tory MP Desmond Swayne said the boozy party on 13 November 2020 was work and therefore ‘not a crime’ – despite the fact social gatherings indoors were illegal at the time.
But Tory Peter Aldous said he would not withdraw his no-confidence letter in the Prime Minister.
Veteran Tory Roger Gale told Times Radio the PM should quit saying: “It’s absolutely clear there was a party, that he attended it, that he was raising a toast glass to one of his colleagues. Therefore, he misled us from the despatch box.
“And, honourably, there is one answer”.
Tory rebel Steve Baker tweeted an image last night of an NHS poster during Covid that had a sick patient and the words “LOOK HER IN THE EYES AND TELL HER YOU NEVER BEND THE RULES”.
The PM faces a probe by the Commons Privileges Committee into whether he lied when he explicitly denied there was a party in No10 on 13 November 2020.
Asked last December in the Commons whether there had been a party in No 10 on that date, the prime minister said “no” and added he was sure the rules were followed at all times.
Labour said there was now “no doubt” that Mr Johnson had “lied” to MPs.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross demanded the prime minister explain why he believed his behaviour was “acceptable” when most people would think the pictures published by ITV News were “unjustifiable and wrong”.
His comments were echoed by the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Baroness Davidson, who said Mr Johnson’s position had become untenable.
“There is now photographic evidence that when the Prime Minister stood up in Parliament and was asked directly ‘was there a party in No 10 on this date’ and he replied ‘no’, he lied to Parliament,” she told Channel 4 News.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: “The Cabinet Office and the Met Police have had access to all information relevant to their investigations, including photographs.
“The Met have concluded their investigation and Sue Gray will publish her report in the coming days, at which point the Prime Minister will address Parliament in full.”
The Metropolitan Police is facing questions as to why Mr Johnson was not fined in relation to the event when photographs showed him, drink in hand, alongside a table strewn with food and wine bottles.
There were at least eight other people in the room at a time when people were banned from social mixing, other than to meet one person outside, and at least one individual has received a fixed penalty notice in relation to an event on that date.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper has written to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) calling for it to examine the Met’s Operation Hillman inquiry into events in No 10 and Whitehall.