politics

Partygate live: Boris Johnson tells MPs he is ‘appalled’ by behaviour at lockdown parties but defends attending others


Johnson defends attending leaving dos, but says he was ‘appalled’ by what happened at events when he wasn’t there

Johnson says this is his first chance to set out the context.

Since these investigations have now come to an end, this is my first opportunity to set out some of the context and to explain both my understanding of what happened and also to explain what I had previously said to this House.

And it’s important to set out that over a period of about 600 days, gatherings on a total of eight dates have been found to be in breach of the regulations in a building that is 5,300 metres square across five floors, excluding the flats.

Hundreds of staff are entitled to work and in the Cabinet Office, which has thousands of officials, and now is the biggest it has been in any point in its 100-year history. That is itself one of the reasons why the Government is now looking for change and reform.

Those staff working in Downing Street were permitted to continue attending their office for the purpose of work and the exemption under the regulations applied to their work because of the nature of their jobs, reporting directly to the prime minister.

It was appropriate to thank people for leaving. He says he thinks this is an important feature of leadership. He was present at some of these; he is trying to explain why he was there.

Some of these gatherings went on late.

He says he had no knowledge of that. He was not there. He was surprised and “appalled” by what he learnt. He is particularly shocked by how security and cleaning staff were treated. (See 11.33am.) He would like to apologise to them, and the thinks his officials should apologise too.

He says his attendance at these events has been found to be acceptable.

But he says that when he said the rules were followed at all time, he was wrong.

He says Sue Gray has said she is pleased that progress has been made in addressing the points she raised her interim report.

UPDATE: Johnson said:

I’m happy to set on the record now that when I came to this house and said, in all sincerity, that the rules and guidance had been followed at all times, it was what I believed to be true.

It was certainly the case that when I was present at gatherings to wish staff a farewell, and the house will note that my attendance at these moments – brief as it was – has not been found to be outside the rules.

But clearly this was not the case for some of those gatherings after I had left and at other gatherings when I was not even in the building.

So I would like to correct the record, to take this opportunity, not in any sense to absolve myself of responsibility – which I take and have always taken – but simply to explain why I spoke as I did in this house.

This is from Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, on the way cleaners and security staff at No 10 were treated.

Boris Johnson has turned Downing Street into a vomit-stained Bullingdon Club.

The treatment and mockery doled out to cleaning and security staff that has now been exposed is beyond shameful.

This Prime Minister has nothing but contempt for the people of this country.#SueGray pic.twitter.com/vpe3KcM0Xe

— Angela Rayner 🌹 (@AngelaRayner) May 25, 2022

Alison McGovern (Lab) asks if Boris Johnson has peronally apologised to the cleaner and security staff who were treated with lack of respect.

Johnson says he has apologised through his statement to the Commons.

Chris Bryant (Lab) says Johnson’s statement is “baloney”. He says one of the most damning features of the report is the revelation that cleaners and security staff were treated badly when they complained. They knew what the rules said, even if the Downing Street officials did not. He says Johnson was responsible.

Downing Street under him has been a cesspit full of arrogant, entitled narcissists.

Johnson refuses to deny report that he floated with Sue Gray idea of shelving her investigation

Aaron Bell (Con) says when he previously asked Boris Johnson about Partygate in the Commons, Johnson told him to wait for the Sue Gray report. So he was surprised to read in the papers this week that Johnson suggested to Gray that her report should not be published. Is there any truth in that?

Johnson says that what Gray published was entirely up to her.

He does not deny the report – just as No 10 did not yesterday.

Joanna Cherry (SNP) asks what the PM can say to assure her that the Met police were not “nobbled”.

Johnson says she should read the report.

John Baron (Con) asks Johnson if he thinks what he said to the house about there being no rule breaking at No 10 passed the test of reasonableness.

Johnson says he believed he was attending work events. With the exception of what happened in the cabinet room, that view has been backed up by the investigation.

Rajeev Syal

Rajeev Syal

Responding to the publication of the Sue Gray report, the leader of the civil servants’ union Prospect, Mike Clancy, said it would be a travesty if junior civil servants suffered consequences while senior leaders are not. He said:

The public will be shocked but not surprised by Sue Gray’s findings, which show what has been clear to all for some time: that there was an unacceptable culture of drinking and rule-breaking in Downing Street, set from the very top.

Gray rightly concludes that senior leadership must bear responsibility for this culture. It would be a travesty if junior civil servants paid the price for this culture when their political bosses get off scot free. The measure of a boss is how they treat their staff, and with relentless attacks on civil servants in the press and threats to their jobs and pay, it’s clear what kind of boss Boris Johnson is.

Angela Eagle (Lab) asks why Johnson told MPs that there was no party in No 10 on 13 November 2020 when pictures have been published showing him at a leaving do.

Johnson says he believed it was a work event. He says, as he explained in his opening statement, he thought it was his duty to attend these events.

Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chair of the Commons defence committee, says this is a damning report. He asks how long his colleagues are willing to defend Johnson.

This is a damning report about the absence of leadership, focus and discipline in No 10 – the one place where you expect to find those attributes in abundance. I’ve made my point and my position very clear to the prime minister: he does not have my support. But a question I humbly put to my colleagues is ‘are you willing day in and day out to defend this behaviour publicly?’

He asks Johnson is if he can name any other PM who would have tolerated this sort of behaviour.

In his response, Johnson ignores the question.

Johnson claims alleged party in Downing Street flat has been ‘extensively investigated’ and refuses to discuss it further

Catherine West (Lab) asks about the party in the Downing Street flat on 13 November 2020. Boris Johnson says he was interviewing Henry Newman for a job. What were the other advisers doing there.

Johnson says that event was extensively investigated. He says he has nothing to add.

This is not correct. As the Gray report reveals, Sue Gray did not investigate this properly. (See 11.44am.) And it has been reported that the police did not even send Johnson a questionnaire to get his account of what happened at this gathering.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminister, says Boris Johnson should take responsibility for what happened. “The fish rots from the head.”

He refers to this advert, tweeted recently by the Tory MP Steve Baker.

And Blackford urges Tory MPs to remove the PM.

Johnson rounds on ‘sanctimonious’ Labour leader, accusing ‘Sir Beer Korma’ of hypocrisy and saying he should apologise too

Boris Johnson is responding to Keir Starmer.

He says that during Covid Starmer was “sniping from the sidelines and veering from one position to the next”.

In his response today, Starmer failed to show “common sense”, he claims. He says Starmer failed to appreciate the context of what happened. He says the boundaries between work and socialisting became blurred.

He accuses Starmer of being “sanctimonious”, and he descibes him as a “gaseous Zeppelin”, saying his pomposity has been punctured.

He goes on:

Sir Beer Korma is currently failing to hold himself to the same high standards he demanded of me.

Johnson says Starmer said that Johnson should resign when he was being investigated by the police. But Starmer is being investigated by the police, and he has not resigned.

He urges Starmer to apologise

This is from Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former chief adviser, on Boris Johnson’s opening statement.

He doesn’t think he did anything wrong, as he said repeatedly in 2020 ‘Everyone better remember I’m the fucking Fuhrer around here’ #RegimeChange

— Dominic Cummings (@Dominic2306) May 25, 2022

Starmer says what Johnson told MPs about the rules being followed at all times has been shown to be wrong.

Johnson seems to be proud of the fact he was only fined once, he says.

And he accuses Tory MPs of setting the hurdle for the PM’s survival at “lower than a snake’s belly”.

Starmer says he believes in leadership. The public need to know that not all politicians are the same, he says.

And he says it it now time for Tory MPs to show leadership too.

This prime minister is steering the country in the wrong direction.

Tory MPs should stop him driving the country “to disaster”.

The values symbolised by the door at No 10 need to be restored.

You cannot be a law maker and a law breaker.

UPDATE: Starmer said:

I have been clear what leadership looks like. I haven’t broken any rules and any attempt to compare a perfectly legal takeaway while working to this catalogue of criminality looks even more ridiculous today.

But if the police decide otherwise, I will do the decent thing and step down. The public need to know that not all politicians are the same. That not all politicians put themselves above their country. That honesty integrity and accountability matter.

Members on the opposite benches now also need to show leadership. This Prime Minister is steering the country in the wrong direction. They can hide in the backseat, eyes covered, praying for a miracle or they can act. Stop this out-of-touch, out-of-control Prime Minister from driving Britain towards disaster.

We waited for the Sue Gray report. The country can’t wait any longer. The value symbolised by the door of Number 10 must be restored. Members opposite must finally do their bit, they must tell the current inhabitant, their leader, that his has gone on too long. The game is up. You cannot be a lawmaker and a law breaker.

Starmer says Sue Gray report is ‘monument to hubris and arrogance’ of Johnson’s government

Keir Starmer says the door of 10 Downing Street is a national symbol.

The Sue Gray report has revealed what happened, and how staff were treated. He says it is a “monument to the hubris and the arrogance of a government that believed it was one rule for them, and another rule for everyone else”.

Johnson says there have been changes at No 10. Staff have changed, and there is now a permanent secretary for the PM’s department.

He uses the line about how “we have learnt our lesson” that was briefed earlier. (See 11.24am.)

He pays tribute to the work done by his officials. And he says he thinks it is now time to move one.

His opening statement is over. It did not seem to go down particularly well in the chamber.





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