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London politics latest news: Boris Johnson’s lockdown birthday party was with working staff, says Grant Shapps


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ransport Secretary Grant Shapps has sought to explain the gathering held for the Prime Minister‘s birthday by saying those present had already been working together.

It comes as Boris Johnson faces fresh anger over reports he held a birthday party in Downing Street in June 2020 during the first lockdown

Carrie Johnson allegedly arranged the surprise party for Mr Johnson on June 19 – with guests invited to arrive just shortly after 2pm.

It is reported they sung happy birthday to the Prime Minister and presented him with a birthday cake – just nine days after Mr Johnson asked the UK to “continue to show restraint and respect the rules which are designed to keep us all safe” during a No10 press conference. Indoor social gatherings were banned at the time.

On Tuesday morning, Grant Shapps told Sky News: “It obviously was the Prime Minister’s birthday, he’d been given a cake earlier in the day, that’s the picture in the newspapers. And he was clearly given a cake by staff when he got back to the office.

“These are staff he would have been working with and was working with all day long, and will have been many a time in the same room with them working on the response to coronavirus. They come in, give him a cake, I understand I think it lasted for 10 minutes and that was it.”

Live updates

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Recap: A big week ahead in Westminster

Good morning and welcome to the Evening Standard’s live politics coverage.

It is set to be another dramatic week in Westminster as ministers and MPs await the publication of the Sue Gray report into allegations of rule-breaking in Downing Street during lockdown.

Boris Johnson has staked the future of his premiership on the report, though fears are growing in No10 that it could be harsher and more damaging than initially feared.

A quick recap on where we are at…

–        Boris Johnson has come under fresh scrutiny after allegedly attending a birthday party thrown in his honour in his Downing Street flat in June 2020, despite all social gatherings indoors being banned. No10 confirmed the event went ahead but stressed the PM only attended for ten minutes

–        Culture secretary Nadine Dorries jumped to the PM’s defence last night, questioning whether having a cake in the office amounted to a “party”

–        US President Joe Biden is preparing to send thousands of US troops to eastern Europe amid fears that Russia could invade Ukraine. Boris Johnson warned President Vladimir Putin that an invasion would be a “painful, violent and bloody business” for Russian troops

–        The prime minister’s counter-fraud minister Lord Agnew dramatically quit yesterday, attacking the government’s “desperately inadequate” efforts to halt criminals taking advantage of taxpayers’ money used for Covid loans

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Shapps ‘furious’ with anyone who broke rules

Grant Shapps said he was “furious” with anyone who had broken Covid rules and would “not seek to defend” Boris Johnson over his birthday party held in lockdown.

The transport secretary told Sky News: “It was his (Boris Johnson’s) birthday and these are people that he worked with all the time.

“As I said, I don’t seek to defend it. This is for Sue Gray to decide on whether this was appropriate, she’ll make the recommendations.

“I think we can be pretty clear that the Prime Minister didn’t present the cake to himself. This is somebody coming in with that cake and I’ve explained to you that I’m furious with everybody who broke the rules.”

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‘Everyone at lockdown party had already been working together’, says Shapps

Grant Shapps has attempted to explain the gathering held for Boris Johnson’s birthday by claiming those present had already been working together.

ITV News reported last night that a gathering of up to 30 people was held for the prime minister’s birthday in June 2020, while indoor gatherings were banned.

Quizzed on the report, the transport secretary said: “It obviously was the Prime Minister’s birthday, he’d been given a cake earlier in the day, that’s the picture in the newspapers.

“And he was clearly given a cake by staff when he got back to the office.

“These are staff he would have been working with and was working with all day long, and will have been many a time in the same room with them working on the response to coronavirus.

“They come in, give him a cake, I understand I think it lasted for 10 minutes and that was it.”



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