Boris could be first PM EVER to be interviewed under police caution

Boris could be first PM EVER to be interviewed under police caution as he is told to release full partygate report within HOURS: Sue Gray ‘has photos of PM next to wine bottles and has identified EIGHT rule-breaking parties’

  • Sue Gray is understood to have told No 10 she expects findings to be released in full within ‘hours’ of receipt
  • Prime Minister’s office had not received them this morning, but their delivery is understood to be imminent
  • Reports last night claimed she had been handed photographs of Boris next to wine bottles at an alleged party  
  • Scotland Yard has announced that it is investigating lockdown breaches in Downing Street and in Whitehall  
  • Timeline of chaos in Downing Street

    9:30am: Boris Johnson hosts weekly Cabinet meeting in Downing Street. He is aware that Dame Cressida Dick is planning to announce a police investigation into Partygate, but he doesn’t reveal this to the assembled ministers beyond an ‘allusion’ at the end. They find out via their mobile phones.

    10.10am: The Metropolitan Police Commissioner uses an appearance in front of as London Assembly committee to confirm the Met had launched a criminal probe into Partygate allegations.

    12:45pm: No10 suggests Sue Gray will pause investigating or publishing any party allegations that the police are inspecting but is free to publish other matters in her inquiry. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘As the terms of reference make clear, they won’t publish anything that relates to the work of the police, there are a number of events and allegations that they have looked into that the police said don’t reach their threshold, which they are able to continue looking into.’

    1:20pm: Boris Johnson tells MPs: ‘I welcome the Met’s decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe this will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters.’

    1:46pm: The Guardian reveals that the Metropolitan Police have no objections to the whole report being published alongside their investigation.

    4:10pm: No10 confirms talks are taking place between Sue Gray’s inquiry team and the Metropolitan Police to decide what can be published. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman insists No 10 was not trying to block publication of the report.

     

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    Boris Johnson could become the first Prime Minister ever to be interviewed under police caution as the Partygate scandal continues to grow – while Sue Gray’s civil service report into alleged lockdown-breaking No 10 parties could be released as soon as today.

    The civil service inquisitor is understood to have told Number 10 that she expects her findings to be released in full within ‘hours’ of them being handed to Downing Street, reported The Telegraph.

    The PM’s office had not received them this morning, but their delivery is understood to be imminent and could see the report released to the public after PMQs this afternoon.

    Sky News last night claimed that she had been handed photographs of Boris Johnson next to wine bottles at an alleged lockdown breaking party, and has identified eight parties that breached the rules.

    Many Tory MPs are awaiting the findings before deciding whether to submit letters of no confidence in Johnson that could topple him as prime minister and trigger a Tory leadership contest.

    But potentially more serious for the PM is Scotland Yard’s criminal investigation into the parties which was announced yesterday.

    Police sources told The Times that it was ‘inevitable’ that the PM would have to speak to detectives, making him the second sitting Prime Minister to be interviewed after Tony Blair was quizzed over the cash-for-honours scandal 15 years ago.

    However Blair was interviewed as a witness – and no sitting Prime Minister has ever been interviewed under caution which requires officers to read them their rights before the questions begin.

    The probe represents a step change in the seriousness of the situation facing the Prime Minister and senior staff at No10, who could face £100 fines, and, more seriously, the end of their political careers. 

    Events had descended into farce by lunchtime on Tuesday as No 10 insisted that the criminal probe meant that parts of an internal report by Ms Gray would not be published until it was completed. 

    This stance, seemingly kicking the most potentially damaging parts of the report into the long grass, was swiftly abandoned, however, after Scotland Yard said full publication would not affect its inquiries, which carry fines as the most serious punishments.

    Government sources insisted the final decision will be taken by Ms Gray after discussions with lawyers, and there is no ‘pressure’ from Downing Street. Sources suggested that she could now release the full report as soon as Wednesday.

    That would force the Prime Minister to come to the Commons this week and could intensify efforts by Tory backbenchers to oust him from office. 

    Conservative Andrew Bridgen said he hoped Ms Gray’s report into allegations of Downing Street lockdown parties would be published on Wednesday.

    The MP for North West Leicestershire told Channel 4 News the conclusions of the civil servant’s inquiry should be published ‘unredacted’. 

    Mr Johnson also faced claims that he kept news of the police probe from senior ministers when Cabinet met on Tuesday morning, leaving them to find out from the media when they turned on their phones as they left No10.

    The Prime Minister’s spokesman said he was aware of ‘speculation’ that the Met did not object to the publication of the report.

    He said: ‘The advice that I have had is that there are still ongoing discussions, there are still details that need to be worked through between both the police and the investigations team.

    The spokesman said decisions on publication were a matter for the Cabinet Office and police and ‘we are not, as in No 10, seeking to block that in any way’.

    He said it ‘certainly remains the case that we would want it to be published as soon as possible’ although ‘I would not want to be perceived as putting undue pressure on either the investigations team or the police’.

    It added up to yet another day of crisis and drama surrounding Mr Johnson, who faces the prospect of becoming the first PM to be grilled by police as a potential lawbreaker within living memory.

    Addressing MPs today In the Commons, he said he welcomed the police move, saying it could give the public ‘clarity’ and ‘draw a line’ under the allegations. 

    In a brief reference before making a statement on Ukraine, he insisted the government would remain ‘100 per cent focused on dealing with the people’s priorities’.

    The PM’s spokesman insisted he will ‘cooperate fully’ if required to be interviewed. 

    It is not clear whether Mr Johnson was personally involved in any of the the incidents under criminal investigation. The offences carry £100 fixed penalty fines. 

    The chaos erupted on Tuesday after it was revealed that a birthday party, complete with cake and singing, was held for Mr Johnson in No10 in June 2020. 

    Boris Johnson came out fighting in the Commons today after police dramatically launched an investigation into Partygate

    Boris Johnson came out fighting in the Commons today after police dramatically launched an investigation into Partygate

    Scotland Yard chief Dame Cressida Dick announced that the force has now launched a probe into lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall over the past two years

    Scotland Yard chief Dame Cressida Dick announced that the force has now launched a probe into lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall over the past two years

    Downing Street has conceded staff "gathered briefly" in the Cabinet Room following a meeting after it was alleged 30 people attended and shared cake despite social mixing indoors being banned.

    Downing Street has conceded staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room following a meeting after it was alleged 30 people attended and shared cake despite social mixing indoors being banned.

    Jacob Rees-Mogg

    Liz Truss

    Cabinet was meeting as the new dropped from the Met, with Jacob Rees-Mogg and Liz Truss among those attending 

    Before the latest revelations there were signs that the Tories might be clawing back some ground on Labour after months of slumping support

    Before the latest revelations there were signs that the Tories might be clawing back some ground on Labour after months of slumping support

    Former Cabinet minister David Davis, who called for Mr Johnson to quit last week, said today that the 'nightmare gets even worse'

    Former Cabinet minister David Davis, who called for Mr Johnson to quit last week, said today that the ‘nightmare gets even worse’

    Lockdown law: What rules and penalties were in force when Boris had his birthday party at No10? 

    Boris Johnson celebrated his 56th birthday with a party in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street on June 19, 2020.

    It is alleged that as many as 30 people were in attendance.

    Now the Met has launched a criminal probe into the incident, Number 10 staff face being charged with perjury if they knowingly make a false statement, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. 

    These are the Covid rules which were in place at the time:

    – England was coming out of the first national lockdown, which had been imposed in March.

    – Groups of up to six people were able to meet outdoors in England from Monday June 1, including in gardens and other private outdoor spaces, provided strict social distancing guidelines were followed.

    – People from different households were told to stay two metres apart and not to spend time inside others’ homes other than to get to the garden or use the toilet.

    – Indoor gatherings remained against the law, but there were exemptions ‘if reasonably necessary’ for work purposes. 

    The Government’s original Covid regulations which were put in place in March 2020 gave the police powers to hand out fixed penalty notices for breaches of the rules. 

    Initially, these fines were worth £60 or £30 if paid within 14 days. 

    However, the value of the fines increased in England from £60 to £100 on May 13, 2020, lowering to £50 if paid within two weeks.         

    Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister and Covid rules expert, tweeted today that ‘Fixed Penalty Notices are an alternative to prosecution – so generally the police gave FPNs first and if they weren’t paid they could proceed to prosecution’. 

    He added: ‘In this case it will almost certainly be FPNs rather than prosecution.’

    In June 2020, social gatherings were limited to two people from different households indoors, and six people outdoors. There were get-outs for work purposes, but gatherings had to be 'reasonably necessary'

    In June 2020, social gatherings were limited to two people from different households indoors, and six people outdoors. There were get-outs for work purposes, but gatherings had to be ‘reasonably necessary’ 

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    Mr Bridgen said: ‘I think the sooner the report comes out now the better, if it is completed, because we can’t sit under this cloud, paralysing the Prime Minister, paralysing the Government.’

    Referencing the threat of Russian invasion into Ukraine, he continued: ‘These issues that are hanging over our Government at the moment, they need to be dealt with as soon as possible and I do hope that Sue Gray gets her report in tonight and it is published tomorrow.’

    Told that Conor Burns, a minister and ally of the Prime Minister, had said Boris Johnson had been ‘ambushed with a cake’ during the latest allegation of a birthday party in June 2020, Mr Bridgen replied: ‘You can spin it how you want to.

    ‘This isn’t about cakes, this isn’t about parties, this is about misleading Parliament and whether we can trust the word of the Prime Minister.’

    The news broke during Cabinet this morning, and Mr Johnson informed ministers of the development at the end – but there was no discussion, prompting rumours of irritation. 

    Despite a mounting Tory revolt, a slew of MPs gave noisy support to the premier in the chamber, branding the accusations ‘vexatious’ and asking why Keir Starmer was not under investigation.

    During a hearing at the London Assembly, Dame Cressida pointed out that under guidelines police have not examined historical allegations of lockdown breaches unless there is clear evidence and a lack of a defence. 

    ‘We have a long-established and effective working relationship with the Cabinet Office, who have an investigative capability,’ she said.

    ‘As you well know they have been carrying out an investigation over the last few weeks.

    ‘What I can tell you this morning is that as a result of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and, secondly, my officers’ own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations.’

    Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors, the Metropolitan Police’s lead for Covid-19 who was previously embroiled in row over policing of the Sarah Everard vigil, has been put in charge of the investigation.

    A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: ‘The Special Enquiry Team will lead the investigations. DAC Jane Connors will oversee the investigation in her role as the Met’s lead officer for Covid.’ 

    Jacob Rees-Mogg walked out of Cabinet and straight over to cameras to vow loyalty to Mr Johnson.

    ‘I am honoured to be under his leadership,’ the Commons Leader said. 

    But former minister David Davis – who last week called for Mr Johnson to quit – said: ‘With the police now investigating, this nightmare gets even worse. We have to be able to get back to dealing with real threats as quickly as possible.’ 

    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted this morning that he was ‘upset’ by the latest allegations that up to 30 people gathered in the Cabinet Room, presented Mr Johnson with a cake and sang to him.

    Sent out to field questions, Mr Shapps was pushed on why interior designer Lulu Lytle, who had been refurbishing Mr Johnson’s flat, had come down three flights of stairs and was present at the alleged party. 

    ‘You are asking me questions I can’t provide the answer to because I wasn’t there,’ Mr Shapps said. 

    Mr Shapps – usually one of the most loyal ministers who has been a key figure trying to quell the revolt up to now – 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.

    Boris could be first PM to be suspect in criminal probe  

    Boris Johnson could make some unwanted history if he is interviewed by the police over Partygate.

    It is unprecedented in modern times for a PM to be a suspect in a criminal probe. 

    Tony Blair was interviewed as a witness twice during Scotland Yard’s cash-for-honours affair in 2006 and 2007.

    However, the questioning was not carried out under caution – meaning that he was classified as a witness.

    At the time there was speculation that Mr Blair would have needed to resign if he was treated as a suspect. 

    The Met’s cash-for-honours investigation dragged on for more than a year.

    But that probe required far more extensive evidence to be gathered than appears to be the case with Partygate, and the punishments were potentially far more severe.  

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    The minister seemed to lay the blame squarely on Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie – sometimes dubbed Carrie Antoinette by critics due to her influence behind the scenes – who is believed to have organised the gathering in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020. 

    ‘Look, as the Prime Minister’s said, where mistakes were made, even though it wasn’t… I mean, he would have turned up and the cake would have been there,’ he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

    ‘He didn’t know about it, and it clearly shouldn’t happen.

    ‘But Sue Gray will get to the bottom of that; the Prime Minister’s already said there will be consequences falling out from the Sue Gray report, and my hope is we can get to see that very quickly.’

    He added: ‘We know that this was a surprise, the Prime Minister obviously wasn’t involved in that surprise, but we need to have a full understanding of all of that.’ 

    Tory MPs are on high alert for more damaging revelations after it emerged that the PM’s 56th birthday celebration included a Union Jack cake, Marks and Spencer’s nibbles and singing.

    The event, first revealed by ITV, was apparently already on Ms Gray’s radar. Earlier that day Mr Johnson had posed with his arms outstretched with children at a school in Hertfordshire to show the importance of social distancing. 

    In March, Mr Johnson had praised a girl named Josephine who wrote to him saying she was cancelling her seventh birthday while the pandemic was raging.  

    Getting to his feet in the Commons this afternoon, Mr Johnson said: ‘A few weeks ago I commissioned an independent inquiry into a series of events in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office as well as some other Whitehall departments that may have constituted potential breaches of the Covid regulations.

    Top cop running Partygate probe was embroiled in Sarah Everard vigil row   

    The senior police officer taking charge of the Partygate investigation was previously embroiled in controversy over the Sarah Everard vigil.  

    Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors, the Metropolitan Police’s lead for Covid-19, has been put in charge of the probe.

    A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: ‘The Special Enquiry Team will lead the investigations. DAC Jane Connors will oversee the investigation in her role as the Met’s lead officer for Covid.’ 

    The vigil for the murdered marketing executive descended into violent clashes on Clapham Common last year.

    The Met was accused of being heavy-handed after refusing permission for the vigil during lockdown, but insisted it ‘maintained an appropriate policing plan’. 

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    ‘That process has quite properly involved sharing information continuously with the Metropolitan Police.

    ‘So I welcome the Met’s decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe this will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters.

    ‘But I want to reassure the House, Mr Speaker, and the country that I and the whole Government are focused 100 per cent on dealing with the people’s priorities, including the UK’s leading role in protecting freedom around the world.’

    Dame Cressida told London Assembly members that investigations were carried out for ‘the most serious and flagrant type of breach’ where there was evidence and three criteria were met.

    ‘My three factors were and are: there was evidence that those involved knew, or ought to have known that what they were doing was an offence.

    ‘Where not investigating would significantly undermine the legitimacy of the law.

    ‘And where there was little ambiguity around the absence of any reasonable defence.

    ‘So in those cases, where those criteria were met, the guidelines suggested that we should potentially investigate further and end up giving people tickets.’

    A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘The investigation being carried out by Sue Gray is continuing.

    ‘There is ongoing contact with the Metropolitan Police Service.’

    Dame Cressida said that the police officers on site at Downing Street concentrate on ‘protective security’.

    Who was at Boris Johnson’s lockdown busting birthday party on June 19, 2020? 

    The birthday boy: Boris Johnson   

    Sources close to the Prime Minister insist he didn’t know about the party, which legal experts believe was in breach of his own lockdown rules. Mr Johnson didn’t break up the party.

    Downing Street admitted that the PM attended the event ‘for less than ten minutes’. But No 10 denied claims that the bash had been followed by a second party in the PM’s flat. Instead, Mr Johnson hosted a small number of people outside, including his sister, where food was cooked on a BBQ.

    The organiser: Carrie Johnson   

    A source said members of Johnson’s team had been emailed in advance asking them to come to ‘wish the prime minister happy birthday’. 

    The Prime Minister was allegedly given a Union Jack cake by his wife. Reports said picnic food from Marks & Spencer was eaten during the afternoon gathering lasting for up to 30 minutes

    Those present also sang a chorus of happy birthday. Rules at the time banned indoor social gatherings.     

    The uninvited guest: Rishi Sunak 

    Sources close to the Chancellor have insisted that he wasn’t invited by Carrie, but was arriving for the Covid meeting in the same room afterwards, attending very briefly. A source stressed he was ‘not invited’.  

    The interior designer: Lulu Lytle  

    Interior designer Lulu Lytle admitted attending while carrying out the lavish and controversial work to their flat above No 11 Downing Street, but insisted she was only present ‘briefly’ while waiting to talk to Mr Johnson. 

    Some claim she helped carry the cake.

    Party Marty: Martin Reynolds

    Mr Johnson’s under-fire principal private secretary, was also said to have attended. A month before he had previously invited more than 100 staff to a drinks party at No 10 on May 20, 2020.

    The others 

    No 10’s director of communications: Jack Doyle

    Head of operations: Shelley Williams-Walker

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    She said: ‘There are a number of officers posted in the surrounds of Downing Street and indeed what we call generally the government security zone.

    ‘They have a very clear role and that is protective security. You’ll be aware that the ones you see are all armed, and they have a job to do.

    ‘In relation to anything they may have seen or heard, or done or not done. Again, I’m afraid I’m not prepared to comment.

    ‘But I can assure you that we are carrying out our investigations and if that is a relevant matter, we will find out about that.’

    Told that there must by CCTV of the alleged breaches in Downing Street, Dame Cressida said: ‘I don’t anticipate any difficulty in obtaining the evidence that it is both necessary, proportionate and appropriate for us to obtain in order to get to the right conclusions.’ 

    The Met said it had carried out ‘detailed assessments of these outline findings’ from the Cabinet Office.

    The force is investigating whether regulations were breached ‘during events at Downing Street and Whitehall on a number of dates’.

    ‘The MPS has written to the Cabinet Office this morning with a formal request for it to refer all relevant information gathered from its inquiry in relation to events on the dates in question to support the police investigations,’ the statement said.

    The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘Firstly, the Prime Minister thinks it is entirely right for the police to investigate these matters.

    ‘He commissioned the Cabinet Office to establish the facts and, as set out in the published terms of reference, and as the (Met) Commissioner has said this morning, the independent process has always involved the sharing of information with the Met and the ability for the Met to take forward and investigate matters pertaining to the law, as is right.

    ‘The PM fully acknowledges the public’s anger and concern about what has been reported, he has taken responsibility for his judgments made and it is right the Met should be now given the time and space to undertake their investigations.

    ‘It will provide the public with welcome clarity and help draw a line under these events and everyone required will fully co-operate in any way they are asked.’

    No10 said Cabinet had not discussed the police investigation, although he mentioned it at the end of the session.  

    The spokesman said: ‘That was confirmed by the police while Cabinet was taking place so he didn’t reference it specifically, he alluded to that at the end of Cabinet but beyond that no.

    ‘He made those comments about ensuring the Government is not deterred from getting on with the job, he didn’t go into detail about the Met given that Cressida Dick made her comments while Cabinet was taking place.’

    The spokesman added: ‘The Prime Minister was made aware shortly before Cressida Dick announced that in her session.’

    Asked if Mr Johnson knew about the investigation before Cabinet, the spokesman replied: ‘Yes.’ 

    Ms Gray will pause investigating or publishing any party allegations that the police are inspecting but is free to publish other matters in her inquiry, No 10 has suggested.

    Downing Street is fighting battles on multiple fronts – but will Boris survive? 

    The Prime Minister is currently fighting wars on several fronts as he attempts to maintain his premiership. 

    Though Sue Gray’s inquiry into ‘partygate’ is believed to have dug up some extremely damning evidence, here are some of the other challenges facing Downing Street which could prove deadly to Boris’ leadership.

    Allegations of Islamophobia 

    Nusrat Ghani, the first Muslim woman to be elected as a Tory MP in 2015, said she was told by a party whip she was being axed in Feb 2020 because her status as a Muslim woman was ‘making colleagues feel uncomfortable’. 

    She also claimed she was told by the whip that she had been fired for saying to Boris Johnson that they had a ‘women problem’, in attracting female voters.

    Ms Ghani claimed she raised the issue through official party channels but said she was warned that if she continued to do so, she would be ‘ostracised’ by her colleagues and her ‘career and reputation would be destroyed’.

    William Wragg’s allegations of MP blackmail

    William Wragg, a backbencher who accused Downing Street of trying to blackmail rebel MPs, said yesterday he would meet police to discuss his allegations. 

    Downing Street said it had not seen any proof of the behaviour he alleges, but Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards, said about a dozen Tory MPs alleged whips threatened to withdraw funding for their constituencies should they not show support for Johnson.

    Whips have also been accused of heavy-handed attempts to intimidate the rebels with the threat of revealing allegations about their sex lives.

    1922 Committee

    William Wragg and Nusrat Ghani are joint vice-chairmen of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers. 

    The committee’s executive secretary Gary Sambrook has also expressed his desire for a new Tory leader, while treasurer Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown voiced frustration with the PM last year. 

    If Johnson were to win a party confidence vote, he would be immune to another leadership challenge for a year – but the committee is considering cutting this immunity period to six months.  

    Defectors 

    Former Tory MP Christian Wakeford crossed the floor and joined the Labour party last week.

    Though defections are rare in Parliament, there are rumours that more Tory MPs may soon follow suit. 

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    The PM’s spokesman said: ‘As the terms of reference make clear, they won’t publish anything that relates to the work of the police, there are a number of events and allegations that they have looked into that the police said don’t reach their threshold, which they are able to continue looking into.

    ‘And it is my understanding that they will be able to publish detail about those events rather than ones which the police might be taking forward.’

    He added: ‘It’s up to the investigation team when they publish, it’s my understanding they are able to publish the aspects that aren’t a matter for the police.’

    Discussing the events the police are investigating, the spokesman said: ‘I think under the terms of reference that work (for the Gray inquiry) pauses, I don’t know what that means once the Met Police’s investigation concludes, whether they return to them and continue.’

    The terms of reference for the Gray inquiry state: ‘As with all internal investigations, if during the course of the work any evidence emerges of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence, the matter will be referred to the police and the Cabinet Office’s work may be paused.’ 

    Downing Street said this afternoon that ‘there are discussions still ongoing between the investigations team and the police’ on what can be published.

    ‘I am not privy to those discussions, as I think you’ll appreciate,’ the spokesman said.

    ‘That still needs to be worked through, both in relation to what may or may not be published and the ongoing work of both the police and the (Gray) investigation.’

    Tory MP Edward Leigh dismissed the idea that the government was trying to delay the report to lessen the damage, saying Ms Gray would not allow that.

    ‘I assure you that she would not be bullied by anyone,’ Sir Edward said.

    But Lib Dem leader Ed Davey told Sky News that Ms Gray should go ahead.

    ‘It can be published in full,’ he said. That would be the right thing to do.’ 

    Chancellor Rishi Sunak is thought to have attended the birthday bash for Mr Johnson in June 2020 for a short period of time, but sources insisted that he ‘had not been invited’.

    ITV News said that picnic food from M&S was eaten during the afternoon gathering, lasting for up to 30 minutes. Martin Reynolds, Mr Johnson’s under-fire principal private secretary, was also said to have attended.

    Other guests are reported to have included Jack Doyle, the director of communications, and Shelley Williams-Walker, his head of operations.  

    A spokesman told ITV that the afternoon event was a surprise and he stayed for only 10 minutes. The broadcaster also claimed that there was a separate event later on in the PM’s flat.

    A spokeswoman for Ms Lytle said: ‘Lulu was not invited to any birthday celebrations for the prime minister as a guest. Lulu entered the cabinet room briefly as requested, while waiting to speak with the prime minister.’ 

    But No 10 denied claims that the bash had been followed by a second party. Instead, Mr Johnson hosted a small number of people outside. 

    Standards chief warns PM of ‘public concern’ 

    Whitehall’s standards chief today delivered a thinly-veiled warning to Boris Johnson as he said there can be a ‘significant political price to pay’ for failing to maintain high ethical standards in public life.  

    Lord Evans, the chairman of the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, told MPs that voters ‘undoubtedly’ care about the issue after a series of Westminster scandals. 

    He said that while ‘there has never been a golden age of standards’ the events of the last few months have caused ‘a lot of public concern about standards issues’. 

    He said it is ‘very clear’ that politicians can pay the price ‘if the public don’t believe that their representatives or those who are being paid from the public purse are acting in the best interests of the public’.

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    A source told the BBC this involved a meal cooked on a disposable barbecue in the No 10 garden with members of Mr Johnson’s family, including his sister Rachel.

    Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who specialises in Covid regulations, said Downing Street’s statement that the PM was only there 10 minutes ‘appears a clear admission of an illegal gathering’.

    He noted that it is the first time No10 ‘has admitted that the PM was at an, to me, obviously illegal gathering with no real prospect of a reasonable excuse’. 

    Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson is a ‘distraction’ from other issues facing the nation and must quit.

    ‘We welcome this investigation by the Metropolitan police,’ she said.

    ‘With Boris Johnson’s Downing Street now under police investigation, how on earth can he think he can stay on as Prime Minister?

    ‘Millions of people are struggling to pay the bills, but Boris Johnson and his government are too wrapped up in scandal to do anything about it.

    ‘Boris Johnson is a national distraction. Conservative MPs should stop propping him up and he should finally do the decent thing and resign.’

    But at an urgent question in the Commons, Tories staged a show of support for the PM. 

    Stuart Anderson, MP for Wolverhampton South West, highlighted the Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border, adding: ‘Every time the Opposition call for our Prime Minister to resign, does my right honourable friend agree that we’re only strengthening Putin’s hand and destabilising negotiations?’ 

    They are said to have celebrated his birthday after his return from a visit to Bovingdon Primary Academy in Hemel Hempstead (pictured), where the PM showed children how to social distance

    They are said to have celebrated his birthday after his return from a visit to Bovingdon Primary Academy in Hemel Hempstead (pictured), where the PM showed children how to social distance

    Mr Johnson holding a birthday cake presented to him by the staff during a socially distanced visit to Bovingdon Primary School in Bovingdon on June 19, 2020

    Mr Johnson holding a birthday cake presented to him by the staff during a socially distanced visit to Bovingdon Primary School in Bovingdon on June 19, 2020

    Boris Johnson visited Milton Keynes Hospital today as he awaits the results of the Sue Gray inquiry into Partygate

    Boris Johnson visited Milton Keynes Hospital today as he awaits the results of the Sue Gray inquiry into Partygate

    The rising tensions between Scotland Yard and senior Tories: Cressida Dick has faced fierce criticism including from Home Secretary after series of Met scandals 

    By Rory Tingle, Home Affairs Correspondent for MailOnline  

    Cressida Dick’s decision to announce an investigation into the Partygate scandal risks further inflaming tensions between the Met commissioner and senior Conservatives that have been raging for years.

    Dame Cressida has reportedly drawn the ire of Tory ministers, including Home Secretary Priti Patel, in the wake of a string of scandals that have dogged her career both before and after she rose to the top job.

    These have been both frequent and wide-ranging, from the Met’s handling of environmental protests and Covid street parties to her role in disasters like Operation Midland and the official reaction to Sarah Everard’s murder. 

    The shocking revelation that the 33-year-old student had been murdered by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens, 48, in March 2021, saw senior Tories mount their most intense and public criticism of Dame Cressida to date.

    Iain Duncan-Smith was among those calling for her to step down, with the former party leader saying the time had come for new ‘leadership and focus’ at the Met.

    The tragedy also renewed long-standing tensions with Home Secretary Priti Patel, who declared she was ‘upset’ by footage of police breaking up a vigil for Miss Everard on Clapham Common a week after she was found dead.

    She ordered a ‘full report’ into what happened, which eventually cleared the force of wrongdoing.

    Following Couzens’ conviction, Miss Patel was said to be furious at the Met’s advice urging women who suspected they were about to be abducted by a police officer to call 999 or flag down a bus.

    According to The Times, she was also irritated at Dame Cressida’s decision to announce a review of the Met’s standards and culture when she had been told by Miss Patel that she would use her speech at the Tory conference the next day to announce an independent inquiry.

    Operation Midland – the Met’s disastrous investigation into fake claims of a Satan-worshipping paedophile ring in Westminster that wrongly implicated several senior Tory politicians – has also prompted a raft of uncomfortable headlines.

    In February, it emerged Dame Cressida had been responsible for supervising the senior investigating officer who said the claims by former star witness Carl Beech – which were subsequently shown to be false – were ‘credible and true’.

    Following a highly critical letter by former judge Sir Richard Henriques published in the Daily Mail, Miss Patel initially failed to express her confidence in Dame Cressida during a live interview, although her spokesman later insisted the Met chief enjoyed her ‘full confidence’.

    Another source of recurring tension between the Met and senior Tories has been the force’s handling of disruptive protests by green campaigners.

    The Met was widely criticised for its ‘light-touch’ policing of Extinction Rebellion protests, with anger increasing further when Extinction Rebellion activists began blocking motorways last year.

    In September, footage emerged of a Met Police officer allowing protesters to walk in front of cars, a frustrated Miss Patel urged forces to take ‘decisive action’ to stop further blockades.

    A government source went further, telling the Telegraph: ‘The British public does not expect the police to be standing by while protesters disrupt people’s daily lives.’ The Met defended the response as a necessary move to stop the activists injuring themselves.

    June 2020 saw another instance of Miss Patel publicly piling pressure on Dame Cressida, after disturbing footage showed officers being overpowered and forced to flee a ‘mini riot’ after a block party in Brixton.

    The Home Secretary announced she would demand a ‘full explanation’ from the Met commissioner after 22 officers were injured in the violence, while Tory MP Andrew Bridgen accused her of ‘losing control of the streets’.

    Despite Dame Cressida’s repeated scandals, Miss Patel agreed to renew her contract when it came up for renewal in September 2021, saying the move would ‘ensure continuity’ during the pandemic.

    One senior Tory MP said Scotland Yard desperately needed a new commissioner, but the alternatives to Dame Cressida were far too ‘woke’. ‘She has presided over some humdingers, not just as commissioner but in her career,’ the MP said. ‘The time is right to get a new commissioner. But we don’t want to replace her with ”commander woke”.’  

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    Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis replied: ‘He is quite right to focus on what matters around the world and indeed to the Prime Minister of this country.’

    Another backbencher, David Morris, complained ‘there is no difference’ between the events that took place in Downing Street and the ‘activities’ of Sir Keir – in an apparent reference to photographs the Labour leader drinking beer in an office during lockdown. 

    The MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale said: ‘Would the paymaster general consider the Metropolitan Police or any other police force looking into the activities of the leader of the Opposition with his beers party? As far as I can see, there is no difference.’

    Mr Ellis replied: ‘My honourable friend makes an interesting point. But of course, police investigations and how they conduct themselves are operationally independent. I’m sure they will have heard what he said.’

    Mr Rees-Mogg strode straight over to reporters outside No10 after Cabinet broke up.

    ‘The leadership of Boris Johnson this country has had has been so brilliant – that he has got us through this incredibly difficult period and he’s got all the big decisions right,’ he said.

    ‘We have opened up faster than any other European country thanks to the Prime Minister, and I’m honoured to be under his leadership.’

    Some ministers and Tory MPs tried to shrug the latest furore off overnight – pointing out that the growing chaos in Ukraine could quickly overshadow the controversy – but others warned that it could herald a new more dangerous phase for Mr Johnson.

    One senior MP told MailOnline that the premier was facing huge damage that would not end. ‘It just keeps piling on,’ they said. 

    A Tory who so far has not submitted a no confidence letter added that the gathering on June 19 was ‘clearly social’ and ‘changes things – a lot’.

    A frontbencher also referred to the mounting possibility of the PM losing a no confidence vote, saying if a third of the payroll voted against the PM then he needs ‘at least half of all backbenchers to back him’, adding: ‘That seems pretty unlikely. You can see things get dangerous quickly.’ 

    As allies desperately mobilise an ‘Avengers’ operation to save the PM, 70 Tories including five Cabinet ministers held an online meeting to discuss his situation yesterday.

    Housing minister Chris Pincher, a former whip, is said to have warned the group that an election could follow within months if Mr Johnson is ousted. 

    Whitehall’s standards chief today delivered a thinly-veiled warning to Boris Johnson as he said there can be a ‘significant political price to pay’ for failing to maintain high ethical standards in public life.  

    Lord Evans, the chairman of the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, told MPs that voters ‘undoubtedly’ care about the issue after a series of Westminster scandals. 

    He said that while ‘there has never been a golden age of standards’ the events of the last few months have caused ‘a lot of public concern about standards issues’. 

    He said it is ‘very clear’ that politicians can pay the price ‘if the public don’t believe that their representatives or those who are being paid from the public purse are acting in the best interests of the public’.

    Before the police announcement, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood condemned the ‘latest twist in which has been quite a horrible series of events’, telling Nigel Farage’s show on GB News: ‘Very sad to read these latest headlines. 

    ‘The nation is rightly very angry by what’s happened. We’re almost in a holding pattern as we wait for Sue Gray’s report. 

    ‘I’m curious as to whether this was allowed to leak out in the build up to that report or whether she’s going to have to require an extension indeed to include the study of this latest event. This is all a massive distraction from where we should be focusing. 

    ‘There are both domestic issues, huge challenges nationally, but also internationally that require attention. So it’s very sad to see this latest twist in which has been quite horrible series of events rolling out for the last three or four months.’

    Months before the party, Mr Johnson had praised a schoolgirl who cancelled her birthday celebration because of the lockdown. 

    He tweeted: ‘Josephine sets a great example to us all by postponing her birthday party until we have sent coronavirus packing.’ 

    Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries attempted to defend the PM, tweeting: ‘So, when people in an office buy a cake in the middle of the afternoon for someone else they are working in the office with and stop for 10 minutes to sing happy birthday and then go back to their desks, this is now called a party?’

    She also attacked former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Ms Davidson had said her partner ‘shares a birthday with the Prime Minister’ but did not think to break any rules in 2020.

    But Ms Dorries responded: ‘Ruth, you were at home with your partner.

    ‘The PM was working in Downing St with 100s of staff in Covid war room offices. Where/what is the comparison?’

    And Environment Secretary George Eustice described the latest allegations as not ‘serious’, saying ‘at the end of the day a small group of staff brought in a birthday cake’.

    He told Sky News: ‘My understanding is the prime minister had a small number of family, close family members, with him outdoors in the garden to celebrate his birthday.’

    In another potential blow to the Prime Minister's authority, ITV News claims he hosted a gathering partly organised by his wife Carrie in the Cabinet Room in No10 (pictured) on June 19, 2020, to celebrate turning 56

    In another potential blow to the Prime Minister’s authority, ITV News claims he hosted a gathering partly organised by his wife Carrie in the Cabinet Room in No10 (pictured) on June 19, 2020, to celebrate turning 56

    The broadcaster claims guests included the interior designer Lulu Lytle (pictured), who was responsible for a six-figure revamp of the PM's official flat, who joined in with a chorus of happy birthday as the PM was presented with a cake

    The broadcaster claims guests included the interior designer Lulu Lytle (pictured), who was responsible for a six-figure revamp of the PM’s official flat, who joined in with a chorus of happy birthday as the PM was presented with a cake

    Mr Eustice continued: ‘I do think that in this saga there have been some quite serious allegations made – those have been investigated.

    ‘I don’t think that these latest allegations that have been made fit into that category. I think they have gone slightly over the top.’

    A No 10 spokeswoman said: ‘A group of staff working in No 10 that day gathered briefly in the Cabinet Room after a meeting to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday. He was there for less than 10 minutes.’

    Regarding allegations of a later event in the No11 flat she added: ‘This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time the Prime Minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.’

    A spokesman for Lulu Lytle confirmed she was in Downing Street, saying: ‘Lulu was present in Downing Street on 19 June working on the refurbishment. 

    ‘Lulu was not invited to any birthday celebrations for the prime minister as a guest. Lulu entered the Cabinet Room briefly as requested, while waiting to speak with the Prime Minister.’ 

    Baroness Warsi told Channel 4 News: ‘During lockdown when so many of us could not go on to do the things that we wanted to do with our families, including birthdays – I had a 50th in the middle of Covid and we had a Zoom Party, my husband had his 50th and we spoke to our children over the telephone… those of us in public life were making decision that erred on the side of caution because we were people who were involved in making sure that legislation for Covid went through both houses. 

    ‘Therefore it was right that we interpreted that in the strictest way possible because we needed to be seen to be following the rules that we were making.

    ‘Anybody who was at a party where rules were broken, whether that’s a Prime Minister, ministers, special advisers, or civil servants, [they] should resign. If you are in a place which makes the rules and you are seen not to be following those rules then you should fall on your sword, you should say ‘I got this wrong’ and therefore, the way to deal with it is through a resignation. 

    ‘And therefore, that’s not just talking about the Prime Minister, that’s talking about anybody who was present when those rules were broken.’

    The latest claims of alleged rule-breaking at Downing Street was described as ‘completely sickening’ by a group representing those bereaved in the pandemic.

    Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said ‘Like thousands of others, I remember June 19th vividly.

    ‘It was the day before what would have been my dad’s 73rd birthday, shortly after he had passed away from Covid-19. It was a horrible time for my family, but we stuck to the rules, not even being able to hug to comfort each other.

    ‘It’s completely sickening that the Prime Minister spent the evening sharing cake with 30 friends indoors and though we’re not even surprised any more, it still brings fresh pain. Whilst dozens sang happy birthday to him, families couldn’t even sing in memory at their loved ones funerals.

    ‘Regardless of any report, the Prime Minister clearly needs to resign. He’s lost all credibility.

    ‘Every day and every fresh scandal pours salt on the wounds of the hundreds of thousands who have lost loved ones. If he had any decency he would do what we and the country is calling for him to do and go.’

    Labour (Co-op) MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport Luke Pollard tweeted two pictures of his ‘lockdown birthday’ in 2020, questioning the Prime Minister.

    One picture shows a card which read ‘April 2020 – Definitely the most s**t birthday you have ever had’.

    ‘For my lockdown birthday in 2020 I had a wonderful day with my lovely boyfriend at home,’ he tweeted.

    ‘No parties. No rules broken. If I could do it, why couldn’t the Prime Minister?’

    Scottish National Party MP John Nicolson recalled his late mother’s final birthday, celebrated over FaceTime, after an allegation of a birthday party in Downing Street for Boris Johnson.

    The MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, tweeted: ‘In June of 2020 my mum died shortly after her birthday which we ‘celebrated’ over FaceTime.

    ‘I hadn’t been able to see her for many weeks. She was very lonely. But we agreed we should follow the rules.

    ‘I can’t express how much I despise this cruel charlatan and his acolytes.’ 

    Lord Agnew announced he was resigning at the despatch box in the Upper House - drawing gasps from peers

    Lord Agnew announced he was resigning at the despatch box in the Upper House – drawing gasps from peers

     

    Cabinet split over new Partygate crisis? Boris Johnson loyalists like Nadine Dorries, Jacob Rees-Mogg and George Eustice DEFEND PM amid birthday bash anger but Grant Shapps is ‘upset’ and senior ministers like Rishi are conspicuous by their silence 

    Boris Johnson loyalist mounted a desperate rearguard action around the beleaguered Prime minister as he faced yet more damning Partygate claims. 

    Senior Cabinet ministers including Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries downplayed the seriousness of the PM attending the bash with cake and nibbles in a No10 stateroom in 2020.

    They insisted that the gathering of around 30 people specifically to mark the PM’s  56th birthday in June 2020 could be seen as a extension of the workplace.

    Ms Dorries also took to Twitter today to lash out at senior Tories including former Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson, who criticised the Prime minister in the wake of the ITV News’ revelations.

    But other normally loyal ministers like Transport Secretary Grant Shapps were tepid in their backing for the PM this morning. 

    On a morning media round he admitted he was ‘upset’ by the latest allegations.

    And other ministers said to have an eye on replacing Mr Johnson have yet to comment. 

    Chancellor Rishi Sunak was understood to have briefly attended as the gathering was breaking up as he entered the room to attend a Covid strategy meeting. 

    The Loyalists: 

    Nadine Dorries – Culture Secretary

    Ms Dorries was one of the first out of the blocks to defend the PM last night afer the allegations emerged.

    Ms Dorries was one of the first out of the blocks to defend the PM last night afer the allegations emerged.

    Ms Dorries was one of the first out of the blocks to defend the PM last night after the allegations emerged. She tweeted: ‘So, when people in an office buy a cake in the middle of the afternoon for someone else they are working in the office with and stop for 10 minutes to sing happy birthday and then go back to their desks, this is now called a party?’ 

    And she continued her spirited backing for the PM, taking on his internal Tory critics after former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson criticised him.

    In a tweet, Ms Davidson had said her partner ‘shares a birthday with the Prime Minister’ but did not think to break any rules in 2020, to which Ms Dorries responded: ‘Ruth, you were at home with your partner. The PM was working in Downing St with 100s of staff in Covid war room offices. Where/what is the comparison?’

    Jacob Rees-Mogg – Commons Leader 

    Jacob Rees-Mogg walked out of No10 at shortly after 10.30am and straight over to cameras to vow loyalty to Mr Johnson.

    Jacob Rees-Mogg walked out of No10 at shortly after 10.30am and straight over to cameras to vow loyalty to Mr Johnson.

    News of the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into Partygate  broke as the Cabinet held its weekly meeting in Downing Street,.

    Jacob Rees-Mogg walked out of No10 at shortly after 10.30am and straight over to cameras to vow loyalty to Mr Johnson.  

    ‘The leadership of this country that Boris Johnson has had, has been so brilliant that he has got us through this incredibly difficult period,’ he said.

    ‘He has got all the big decision right and we have opened up faster than any other European country thanks to the Prime Minister and I’m honoured to be under his leadership.’

    George Eustice – Environment Secretary

    Environment Secretary George Eustice (pictured today) was sent out to bat for the PM last night

    Environment Secretary George Eustice (pictured today) was sent out to bat for the PM last night

    Environment Secretary George Eustice was sent out to bat for the PM last night. He told reporters: ‘What really happened here is a small group of staff who had been working closely with the Prime Minister brought in a birthday cake at the end of the day and there was 10 minutes there around sharing a piece of cake.

    ‘I don’t think that really constitutes a party in the way some of the more serious allegations that are being investigated maybe do.’

    But human rights lawyer Adam Wagner, an expert on Covid regulations, said he ‘can’t see how it could have been lawful’ if the reporting was accurate.

    ‘It’s obviously not within the rules and nobody from the Government at the time would have said for a moment it was,’ he said.

    Wavering:

    Grant Shapps – Transport Secretary

    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted this morning that he was 'upset' by the latest allegations

    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted this morning that he was ‘upset’ by the latest allegations

    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted this morning that he was ‘upset’ by the latest allegations that up to 30 people gathered in the Cabinet Room, presented Mr Johnson with a cake and sang to him.

    Sent out to field questions, Mr Shapps was pushed on why interior designer Lulu Lytle, who had been refurbishing Mr Johnson’s flat, had come down three flights of stairs and was present at the alleged party.

    ‘You are asking me questions I can’t provide the answer to because I wasn’t there,’ Mr Shapps said.

    Mr Shapps – usually one of the most loyal ministers who has been a key figure trying to quell the revolt up to now – 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.

    The minister seemed to lay the blame squarely on Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie – sometimes dubbed Carrie Antoinette by critics due to her influence behind the scenes – who is believed to have organised the gathering in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020.

    ‘Look, as the Prime Minister’s said, where mistakes were made, even though it wasn’t… I mean, he would have turned up and the cake would have been there,’ he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

    ‘He didn’t know about it, and it clearly shouldn’t happen.

    ‘But Sue Gray will get to the bottom of that; the Prime Minister’s already said there will be consequences falling out from the Sue Gray report, and my hope is we can get to see that very quickly.’

    He added: ‘We know that this was a surprise, the Prime Minister obviously wasn’t involved in that surprise, but we need to have a full understanding of all of that.’

    Quiet:  

    Rishi Sunak – Chancellor

    Sajid Javid – Health Secretary

    Liz Truss – Foreign Secretary

    Nadhim Zahawi – Education Secretary

    Liz Truss today

    Sajid Javid today

    Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, clashed with the PM at the weekend by calling for a probe into claims by Muslim Tory MP that she was sacked as a minister over her faith. Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, as also yet to publicly back the PM over the birthday party.

    Chancellor Rishi Sunak is implicated in this latest gathering, with reports he briefly attended as the gathering was breaking up as he entered the room to attend a Covid strategy meeting.

    Chancellor Rishi Sunak is implicated in this latest gathering, with reports he briefly attended as the gathering was breaking up as he entered the room to attend a Covid strategy meeting.

    A raft of senior ministers have yet to comment publicly on the latest Partygate allegations. 

    Chancellor Rishi Sunak is widely seen as being on maneuvers to replace Mr Johnson and has previously offered only tepid, qualified support, awaiting the results of the Sue Gray probe.

    His is also implicated in this latest gathering, with reports he briefly attended as the gathering was breaking up as he entered the room to attend a Covid strategy meeting.

    Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, and Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, have also been silent so far. They clashed with the PM at the weekend by calling for a probe into claims by Muslim Tory MP that she was sacked as a minister over her faith. It forced the Pm to agree to the investigation yesterday.

    Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, as also yet to publicly back the PM over the birthday party.