Good morning. Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, was on the airwaves for the government today, primarily to talk about the government’s new 10-year drugs strategy. But he also became the latest minister to face the interview challenge from hell – defending Downing Street’s threadbare and incoherent line on the No 10 Christmas parties last year that appeared to break lockdown rules.
On BBC News Malthouse said that he was not sure whether there was a party. But that did not stop him saying, if it did happen, it did not break the rules.
On Sky News Malthouse said he took the reassurance he had had from Downing Street “at face value” (an unusual formula – he could have just said he believed them).
And then, on the Today programme, Malthouse said that factors like social distancing, and the size of the room, might have been factors in whether or not the party was legal – even though these were not exemptions allowed in the guidance.
Malthouse also said that it was right for the police to investigate allegations about offences committed in the past – at the end of last week the Met said it did not routinely “retrospectively” investigate breaches of Covid rules – but he said it was for the police to decide what they did in this case. The Met is under pressure to investigate.
The Green MP Caroline Lucas suggests Malhouse’s failure to offer a proper defence of Downing Street strengthens the case for an investigation.
The SNP MP John Nicolson has also described Malthouse’s Today interview as “excruciating”.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10.30am: The high court gives its ruling in a case brought by the FDA, the senior civil servants’ union, challenging Boris Johnson’s decision to ignore the ruling that Priti Patel, the home secretary, broke the ministerial code by bullying civil servants.
11.30am: Downing Street holds its lobby briefing.
2.30pm: Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, takes questions in the Commons. He is also due to make a statement on an inquiry into the Arthur Labinjo-Hughes case.
3pm: Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, gives evidence to the Commons Scottish affairs committee.
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