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

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.)

I have been as surprised and disappointed as anyone else in this House as the revelations have unfolded and, frankly, I have been appalled by some of the behaviour, particularly in the treatment of the security and the cleaning staff.

And I’d like to apologise to those members of staff and I expect anyone who behaved in that way to apologise to them as well.

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.

From Insider’s Cat Neilan

I’m told “at least one” new letter of no confidence submitted this morning… still unclear if/when the threshold will be reached but various sources estimate total at around 50 (trigger is 54)

— Cat Neilan (@CatNeilan) May 25, 2022

Johnson says he has not had time to identify the cleaners and security staff referred to in the report who were treated with a lack of respect. But when he does identify them, he will apologise in person, he says.

Andrew Gwynne (Lab) asks if Johnson was present at any point for the party where red wine was spilt on the wall. (See 12.37pm.)

Johnson says the answer is in the Sue Gray report.

(The report does not say that Johnson did not attend. But it does not mention his attendance either, which implies he was not there.)

Liz Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru leader at Westminster, told MPs:

To call this a damning report for the prime minister is an understatement …

For 168 days he’s used Sue Gray as a human shield against this duty.

In this farce of a parliamentary system it’s now all down to Tory MPs … for them to grow a backbone and oust this moral vacuum of a prime minister. Will he spare them the trouble and resign?

Richard Thomson (SNP) says we now know that, as well as being willing to let “the bodies pile high” outside No 10, he was willing to let the bottles pile high inside Downing Street.

Justin Madders (Lab) says, contrary to what Johnson said earlier (see 1.12pm), the alleged party in the Downing Street flat was not properly investigated. Can Johnson assure MPs that there was no alcohol served, no music played, and nothing else that might have made it look like a party?

Johnson says he has nothing to add to what he said earlier.

Johnson claims that the lines of responsibility in No 10 are now “much sharper” following the management changes introduced recently.

Sarah Jones (Lab) says she worked as a civil servant under Gordon Brown and Theresa May and neither of them would have allowed behaviour like this at No 10.

Johnson says he never threw a stapler at anyone (a reference to an incident reportedly involving Brown).

In the Commons Johnson is just taking questions from opposition MPs, because Conservatives have given up asking questions.

This is from the Spectator’s James Forsyth.

Again today, most Tory MPs have chosen silence. A few have been publicly critical, others supportive. But most have said nothing

— James Forsyth (@JGForsyth) May 25, 2022

Asked if he asked Sue Gray not to publish her report, Johnson says no.

But the claim this week was not that he asked her not to publish it – just that he floated the idea with her.

I have beefed up some of the earlier posts with direct quotes from what was said in the chamber. To see the updates, you may need to refresh the page.

Johnson sidesteps question about claims senior figures at No 10 did not fully respond to police questions about Partygate

Wendy Chamberlain (Lib Dem) asks Johnson about report that senior figures at No 10 did not fully cooperate with the Metropolitan police, by not answering in full the questions about Partygate put in the questionnaires.

Johnson says that is a matter for the Met.

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

— 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.


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