Sunak's tepid support for Boris over 'partygate' stands out

Rishi Sunak’s tepid support for Boris Johnson stands out like a sore thumb as he is BACKED by 26 Cabinet ministers in fight to survive after grovelling apology for attending ‘partygate’ bash

  • Rishi Sunak gave his under-fire boss Boris Johnson tepid support over the ‘Partygate’ lockdown scandal
  • The PM’s cabinet were ordered to publicly back him following his apology for attending a No10 gaterhing 
  • Mr Johnson has been backed by more than 20 Cabinet ministers including Sajid Javid and Dominic Raab
  • The PM admitted that he attended ‘party’ Downing Street garden at the height of lockdown in May 2020
  • He said he believed it was ‘work event’ but in ‘hindsight’ he should have found another way to thank staff 
  • Senior Conservative MPs had told him he must resign if wrongdoing is proved or face a no confidence vote  

How could Boris Johnson be ousted by Tory MPs?  

Boris Johnson is under huge pressure over Partygate, with speculation that he might even opt to walk away.

But barring resignation, the Tories have rules on how to oust and replace the leader. 

What is the mechanism for removing the Tory leader? Tory Party rules allow the MPs to force a vote of no confidence in their leader.

How is that triggered? A vote is in the hands of the chairman of the Tory Party’s backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

A vote of no confidence must be held if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to the chairman. Currently that threshold is 55 MPs.

Letters are confidential unless the MP sending it makes it public. This means only Sir Graham knows how many letters there are. 

What happens when the threshold is reached? A vote is held, with the leader technically only needing to win support from a simple majority of MPs

But in reality, a solid victory is essential for them to stay in post.

What happens if the leader loses? 

The leader is sacked if they do not win a majority of votes from MPs, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand.

However, they typically stay on as Prime Minister until a replacement is elected. 

Rishi Sunak offered his under-fire boss Boris Johnson  tepid support over ‘Partygate’ last night, after the PM’s cabinet were ordered to publicly back him following his ‘half-hearted’ apology for attending a boozy No10 gathering during the first Covid shutdown. 

The Chancellor, a potential successor as Tory leader who avoided yesterday’s stormy PMQs by travelling more than 200 miles from London to Devon, said on Twitter late on Wednesday that Mr Johnson was ‘right to apologise’ over the lockdown party scandal.

More than 20 ministers including Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Communities Secretary Michael Gove were despatched to the airwaves and social media to publicly support the PM after his statement to the Commons failed to quell anger among Tory backbenchers.

One senior Conservative said the Chancellor had ‘done himself a lot of damage’ by trying to distance himself from the row while others pitched in to help. But other MPs stepped up pressure on the PM after he admitted spending 25 minutes at a boozy staff party in the No10 garden on May 20, 2020.

And in another stinging blow for Mr Johnson, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross last night called for the PM to quit, calling his position ‘no longer tenable’.

He told STV: ‘What we also heard from the Prime Minister today was an apology and he said with hindsight he would have done things differently which for me is an acceptance from the Prime Minister that it was wrong, and therefore, I don’t want to be in this position but I am in a position now where I don’t think he can continue as leader of the Conservatives.’

Ministers praised the PM following his admission in the Commons yesterday that he attended a ‘Bring Your Own Booze’ gathering in No10 on May 20, 2020.

He told the Commons that he thought the event was work-related, before touring the private tearoom at Parliament and apologising to MPs for putting them through ‘cr*p’. Others said that the PM conceded that he was being ‘electrocuted by the anger of the public’ over the scandal.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries was the first out of the blocks to back her boss, saying an inquiry led by senior official Sue Gray must be allowed to go ahead.

Ms Dorries wrote on Twitter that the ‘PM was right to personally apologise earlier’, adding: ‘People are hurt and angry at what happened and he has taken full responsibility for that. The inquiry should now be allowed to its work and establish the full facts of what happened’.

Responding to her message, Mr Gove: ‘Nadine is right.’

And the former leadership hopeful also backed up the PM to the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, where he is reported to have said Mr Johnson ‘gets the big calls right’ and urged colleagues not to be ‘flaky’.

What were the rules for work gatherings on May 20, 2020 and how could Boris claim the No10 event did not break them?

On the date of the Downing Street ‘party’ on May 20, 2020 the rules on social gatherings were clear.

No more than two people from different households could mix indoors or outdoors.

Further than that, people were only allowed to leave home with a ‘reasonable excuse’. 

However, there have been exemptions for those whose jobs require them to go to a workplace or work in larger groups.

While he acknowledged that the Downing Street bash should not have happened, Boris Johnson told the Commons that he had ‘believed implicitly that this was a work event’.

The PM insisted the event ‘could be said technically to fall within the guidance’.

The regulations from the time state that gatherings of more than two people are permitted in a ‘public place’ where ‘essential for work purposes’.

Guidance from the time adds that ‘workers should try to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace’.

But lawyers have noted that the Downing Street garden would not count as a ‘public place’.

The ‘reasonable excuses’ for leaving home include ‘to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living’.

It is not clear whether that would catch individuals who had travelled ‘for the purposes of work’, but decided not to return home immediately afterwards.   

Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister who has spent the pandemic interpreting complex coronavirus laws and explaining them to the public on social media, said the PM’s statement was ‘obviously lawyered’ and ‘very much about his personal liability.’

In a series of posts on Twitter, he said: ‘The Johnson apology was carefully worded and obviously lawyered. He said that he attended because he ‘believed implicitly that this was a work event’, that ‘with hindsight’ he should have sent everyone back inside, and ‘technically’ it could be said to fall within the guidance…

‘This was only what *he* thought the event was … So defence is a personal one only and leaves open the possibility the event was something else without him realising.

‘This is very much about his personal liability – he is implicitly denying he knew what the event was, had seen the email or had anything to do with it. Because here’s the key point: on the wording of email (‘bring your own booze’) this couldn’t technically have been a work event.’  

Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab told ITV it was a ‘daft question’ when asked whether he would run again for the Tory leadership.

‘I’m fully supportive of this Prime Minister and I’m sure he will continue for many years to come,’ he said last night.

Miss Patel and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng are reported to have expressed their support in a Whatsapp group for Tory MPs.

Mr Javid said: ‘I completely understand why people feel let down. The PM did the right thing by apologising. Now we need to let the investigation complete its work. We have so much to get on with including rolling out boosters, testing and antivirals — so we can live with Covid.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Times Radio: ‘I think the Prime Minister was very contrite today, he apologised and he took full responsibility.’

Meanwhile, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told the broadcaster: ‘I think the Prime Minister has got things right again and again and again. But like us all, he accepts that during a two-and-a-half-year period, there will be things that with hindsight would have been done differently.’

Asked if the PM will resign if Ms Gray’s report found wrongdoing, Environment Secretary George Eustice said: ‘I don’t think we should get ahead of ourselves here. We should take this a step at a time.’

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also backed the PM, as did International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden, Attorney General Suella Braverman and Cop26 President Alok Sharma.

However, Mr Sunak tepidly said on Twitter the PM was ‘right to apologise’ and that he supports Mr Johnson’s ‘request for patience’ as Ms Gray conducts her investigation.

And other Tories broke cover to slam the premier. York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said the claim the gathering at Downing Street was work-related ‘will not wash with the British public, who at the relevant time were making significant sacrifices’. Fellow Conservative William Wragg said Mr Johnson’s position was ‘untenable’.

Addressing the House yesterday, Mr Johnson said he understood public ‘fury’ and ‘took responsibility’, but said he had ‘implicitly’ believed it was a work event – even though around 100 people were invited and urged to bring drinks.

‘I bitterly regret it. I wish we could have done things differently,’ he said.

Covid rules in England at the time made clear that all social gatherings of more than two people were banned, and people were only meant to leave home if they had a ‘reasonable excuse’ such as going to work. But there was no specific restriction on drinking alcohol in workplaces.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer responded that the PM should do the ‘decent thing and resign’, saying the public knows he is ‘lying through his teeth’.

‘The party is over, Prime Minister,’ he taunted.

The picture had been looking grim for Mr Johnson, with Tories up in arms following the emergence of a bombshell email from his top civil servant inviting 100 staff to the event.

Challenged on whether he would resign if she found he breached lockdown rules, Mr Johnson merely said he would respond ‘appropriately’.

Tory MPs studiously dodged asking questions about ‘Partygate’ during the session, instead going on topics including abolishing the BBC licence fee, bus services and Roman fossils.

Adam Wagner, a barrister who specialises in interpreting Covid regulations, said the PM’s statement was ‘obviously lawyered’ and ‘very much about his personal liability.’

On another day of intense political drama:

  • Dominic Raab was forced to issue a ‘categorical’ denial that he attended the Downing Street party on May 20, 2020 or had been invited to it, after a Tory MP suggested he had been there; 
  • Keir Starmer faced Mr Johnson at PMQs after returning negative Covid tests and being released from his sixth period of isolation; 
  • A major Conservative donor issued an ultimatum to Mr Johnson to ‘sort it out or step aside … so that the Tories aren’t wiped out at the next election’;
  • The PM has refused to sack his principal private secretary, whose bombshell email inviting 100 staff to the gathering sparked the crisis;
  • His advisers were on alert over fears photographic evidence of the party could emerge;
  • It was claimed that one senior official at the garden party event joked about the risk of surveillance by drones;
  • The civil servant who runs Mr Johnson’s private office was facing claims of involvement in another boozy gathering that may have broken the rules.

Boris Johnson is driven away from the House of Commons, after attending PMQs on January 12, 2022

However, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who is viewed as a potential successor as Tory leader and was notably absent on a visit to Devon earlier in the day, gave the PM tepid backing late on Wednesday

The backing for Mr Johnson from the Tory benches seemed muted – and Keir Starmer raged that he should do the ‘decent thing and resign’, saying the public thinks he is ‘lying through his teeth’


At a stormy PMQs, Mr Johnson (left) said he wanted to ‘thank’ staff at the event in May 2020 but recognised that in ‘hindsight’ it should not have happened. But Keir Starmer, right, said he should resign 

In a brutal attack in the House, Sir Keir told Mr Johnson: ‘The party is over, Prime Minister.’

The Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 staff to bring their own drinks to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20, 2020 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’, an email leaked to ITV News shows 

Senior ministers started rallying around Mr Johnson in what looked to be a coordinated effort to shore his position 

Some Tory MPs also called for a pause in the wake of the PM’s partial apology

Veteran Tory MP Roger Gale – a regular critic of the PM – said after the PMQs exchanges that Mr Johnson was on ‘very thin ice’ 

Scotland Yard was under growing pressure last night to investigate the Prime Minister for ‘potentially unlawful behaviour’ after he admitted attending the party at No 10 during lockdown .

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick faced demands for Boris Johnson to be interviewed under caution as part of a full criminal investigation into the ‘illegal gathering’ on May 20, 2020.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey wrote to her, saying: ‘It is vital you take urgent action to investigate potentially unlawful behaviour on the part of all those who attended the party, including Boris Johnson.’

He urged Dame Cressida to ‘reassure the public there isn’t one rule for them and another for Boris Johnson’ by confirming police would probe the ‘illegal gathering’ and interview the Prime Minister under caution.

He suggested any who attended, including Mr Johnson, should ‘be charged and fined in the same way as ordinary members of the public’.

More than 17,700 people were fined by the Met for breaching Covid laws during the pandemic, including 113 for holding a gathering of more than 30, figures show. Sir Ed, the MP for Kingston, said: ‘The police must reassure the public that justice will be done.’

Former shadow attorney general Lord Falconer also said Mr Johnson should be fined or face charges, suggesting a judge would not accept his ‘ridiculous’ explanation about the party being a work event.

‘The Prime Minster acknowledged that he attended an event which was in breach of the law,’ he told Radio 4’s World at One. ‘He broke the law and he admitted it.

‘The police, in the light of that admission, should either give him a fixed penalty notice or charge him.’

He added: ‘The public have to have confidence that the law applies to everyone equally.

‘When the Prime Minister admits a breach of these critical laws, it cannot just be swept under the carpet.’

The Metropolitan Police said yesterday its position had not changed, insisting it was a matter for the Cabinet Office to investigate.

One Tory aide watching the scenes in the chamber at lunchtime told MailOnline: ‘This is so very very excruciating.’ 

However, No10 will have been initially relieved that few of Mr Johnson’s own benches laid into him afterwards. 

One of them was veteran Tory MP Roger Gale – a regular critic of the PM – who said Mr Johnson was a ‘dead man walking’ and on ‘very thin ice indeed’. 

But this evening the criticism seemed to be ramping up again.

In a statement to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Sturdy said: ‘The fact is, that at a time when people were not allowed to attend the funeral of their loved ones or comfort their dying relatives, when fines were being issued for people meeting for a coffee in the park, Downing Street should not have been holding social events of any sort.

‘I share the frustration and disappointment of the many constituents who have contacted me over this, and assure them that I will make this known in holding the Prime Minister to account.’

Mr Wragg told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme it was a ‘tragedy’ that the situation had arisen but he could not see a way for the issues to ‘go away’.

‘A series of unforced errors are deeply damaging to the perception of the party.

‘The Prime Minister’s position is untenable.’

Mr Wragg said Tory MPs were ‘worn out of defending what is invariably indefensible’ and Mr Johnson should ‘do the right thing’ so the party can move on.

‘I’m afraid the inevitable conclusion is the only way to do that is with a change,’ he said. 

Tory MP Neil Hudson said the PM’s apology was an ‘important step forward’ but ‘I will not defend the indefensible’ and there should be ‘serious consequences’ if rules were broken.

The Penrith and the Border MP said: ‘I was in the House of Commons Chamber today and I welcome that the PM came and admitted that he was at the May 20 2020 gathering and that he apologised for that.

‘That was an important step forward.

‘As I said yesterday, let’s see the result of the investigation by the Civil Service and potentially the Metropolitan Police and see what the findings tell us.

‘But I will not defend the indefensible and I fully share the country’s outrage and upset when people up and down the land were making huge personal and sometimes tragic sacrifices to do the right thing and obey the public health rules. 

Another senior backbencher told MailOnline Mr Johnson was in a ‘holding pattern’ again, but added: ‘The trouble is with holding patterns is that they need fuel to be sustained.’ 

Further damaging allegations about parties in Downing Street are circulating today, and nerves are growing among Mr Johnson’s aides about the scale of the threat to his position. Snap polls have suggested that up to two-thirds of the public believe he should quit. 

In a desperate effort at damage limitation, Mr Johnson told the packed Commons chamber: ‘I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.

‘I know the anguish they have been through – unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love. 

‘I know the rage they feel with me and with the Government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.

Only socialise with ONE person outdoors and work meetings must be ‘essential’: The lockdown rules for England on May 20, 2020

Much of Britain was paralysed in a state of fear over coronavirus on May 20, 2020, with the country only two months into the first national lockdown.

About ten days earlier the Government had launched a ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’ campaign, and the first vaccines would not be given for another seven months.

Indoor socialising with other households was strictly banned and only two people were allowed to meet outside in a public space such as a park while at least 6ft (2m) apart.

There was an exemption on gatherings where ‘essential for work purposes’ – but guidance said workers should try to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace’. 

No10 has relied on the get-outs for work when responding to other claims about parties.

Two women at Wandsworth Common in London on May 20, 2020

Britons were regularly washing their hands to stay safe and many mourners had to watch funerals from home on live-streams, with official guidance saying the only people allowed to attend were ‘members of the deceased person’s household and close family members’.

Some mothers were giving birth without partners, shoppers were queuing outside supermarkets which limited numbers of shoppers and others had vital medical appointments put back as hospitals struggled to cope with Covid-19 patients.

As for working from home, Boris Johnson said on May 10, 2020 that people should ‘work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home’ and also advised them to avoid public transport to maintain social distancing. 

Queues at a McDonald’s in Peterborough opening on May 20, 2020  

On May 20, 2020, there were 2,700 daily positive cases while the seven-day average stood at 2,328 – a number that was falling after hitting an average of 4,774 one month earlier.

There were also 268 deaths within 28 days of a positive test on May 20, 2020, with a seven-day average of 255. This was also down, from a peak of 976 on April 10.

As for the global picture, experts at Johns Hopkins University said at least 323,286 people were known to have died from Covid-19 while at least 4,897,567 had been infected.

Police at the Peterborough McDonald’s at lunchtime on May 20, 2020

And then-US president Donald Trump said having more cases in the US than any other country was a ‘badge of honour’, because it meant the US had ‘more testing than anybody else’.

In Britain, non-essential shops were shut and hospitality businesses remained closed, although a handful of fast food chains began reopening for takeaway on the day.

Photographs from the day show police patrolling a park in London to look for rule-breakers, and a group of swimmers in Edinburgh being broken up by officers. 

Thousands of people at Durdle Door beach in Dorset on May 20, 2020

May 20 also saw huge queues outside McDonald’s drive-thrus as 30 were reopened to the public from 11am.  

The move led to police being called to a drive-thru branch of McDonald’s in Cambridgeshire after dozens of customers arrived when it opened.

Cars were queuing around the car park as customers rushed to get their hands on burgers, fries and milkshakes. There were similar scenes at a KFC in Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough. 

A backlog of cars at a KFC outlet in Middlesbrough on May 20, 2020

Britons were also enjoying the warm weather at the time, with thousands of sun seekers photographed flocking to the iconic Durdle Door beach in Dorset on that day.

Dominic Cummings had already made his infamous 30-mile trip to Barnard Castle in County Durham to allegedly test his eyesight by this point, on April 12, although this was not revealed until newspaper reports about it on May 22. 

‘And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility.’

Mr Johnson argued that he believed the drinks bash was a ‘work event’ – even though an invite had been sent out to 100 staff telling them to ‘bring your own booze’.   

‘No 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus.

‘When I went into that garden just after six on May 20, 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.’

In the closest thing to an apology so far, Mr Johnson said: ‘With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.

‘I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies.

‘All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established.’

Yesterday the premier faced a ferocious backlash from families who were prevented by lockdown rules from saying a proper farewell to loved ones.

And senior Tories warned that his survival in No 10 depends on addressing the claims and restoring trust.

Several said he will have to resign if he was at the ‘BYOB’ bash, while others suggested he could soon face a confidence vote.

Conservatives are split between those who believe the allegations are fatal to the PM and those who regard them as highly damaging.

Piling into Mr Johnson after his partial apology, Sir Keir said: ‘There we have it. After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road. His defence … that he didn’t realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public.

‘He’s finally been forced to admit what everyone knew, that when the whole country was locked down he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?’

Mr Johnson replied: ‘I appreciate the point that he’s making about the event that I attended. I want to repeat that I thought it was a work event and I regret very much that we did not do things differently that evening.

‘I take responsibility and I apologise. But as for his political point, I don’t think that he should pre-empt the outcome of the inquiry. He will have a further opportunity, I hope, to question me as soon as possible.’

Sir Keir asked: ‘Why does the Prime Minister still think that the rules don’t apply to him?’

He said: ‘When the Prime Minister’s former health secretary broke the rules, he resigned and the Prime Minister said he was right to do so.

‘When the Prime Minister’s spokesperson laughed about the rules being broken, she resigned and the Prime Minister accepted that resignation.

‘Why does the Prime Minister still think that the rules don’t apply to him?’

Mr Johnson replied: ‘That’s not what I’ve said and I understand the point that he makes, as I’ve said I regret the way things happened on the evening in question and I apologise, but if I may say to him, I do think it would be better if he waited until the full conclusion of the inquiry, until the full facts are brought before this House and he will have an opportunity to put his points again.’

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who chairs the Commons Standards Committee, demanded to know why he was treating the public like fools. 

‘The Prime Minister didn’t spot that he was at a social event. That’s the excuse isn’t it? Come off it,’ he said.

‘I mean how stupid does the Prime Minister think the British people are. The worst of it is he’s already managed to completely destroy Allegra Stratton’s career, he’s tarnished the reputation of Lord Geidt, and now he’s making fools of every single MP who cheered him earlier, every single one who goes out on the radio and television to defend this shower of shenanigans.

‘Would it not be absolutely despicable if, in the search for a scapegoat, some junior member of staff ends up losing their job, but he kept his?’

Mr Johnson shot back: ‘I don’t agree with him. I’ve come to this House to make amends, to explain what happened on May 20, and to apologise.

‘I really think that with all humility I must ask him to wait for the result of the inquiry, where he will have abundant opportunity to question me again and to make his party political points again. But, until then, I’m going to ignore his advice.’

Before the PMQs clashes, a Cabinet minister told The Times it was ‘not terminal yet’, but added: ‘We’re f***ed unless we resolve it. Everyone knows this thing happened; nobody is disputing that.

‘The row has moved on from whether the party took place to questions around denial and prevarication.’

Tory MP Christian Wakeford, who has a tiny majority in Bury South, said called for ‘openness, trust and honesty’ in politics, and ‘that starts from the top’.

‘How do you defend the indefensible? You can’t! It’s embarrassing and what’s worse is it further erodes trust in politics when it’s already low.

‘We need openness, trust and honesty in our politics now more than ever and that starts from the top!’  

The latest ‘partygate row’ exploded on Monday night when an email invite to the party from Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, was leaked. 

The invite told staff that ‘it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather’ and to have ‘some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden’.

The event was held on May 20, 2020 – a time when the UK was still covered by stringent restrictions and people were banned from meeting up outside in groups of more than two.

Ministers and aides insisted they could not say whether Mr Johnson attended the event while the inquiry by Miss Gray was still ongoing. 

But their bid to ignore questions failed to quell sulphurous anger within the Conservative Party and from the wider public.

Even members of Mr Johnson’s frontbench team privately plunged the knife, with one senior minister telling the Mail the Prime Minister should resign. The minister suggested Mr Johnson should avoid a ‘slow, painful exit’.

In the Commons, Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis insisted the Prime Minister was ‘going nowhere’ in response to opposition calls for him to resign.

But a senior Tory said it was a ‘serious problem’ that ‘there wasn’t a single Government minister on the frontbench’ next to Mr Ellis as he responded to the urgent question. 

‘If the Government cannot even get ministers to defend the indefensible, how can they expect us to?’ the source told the Mail. 

A teacher whose mother died alone five days before the No 10 drinks party branded Mr Johnson a ‘coward’ over his response to the scandal.

Valerie French, 68, was allowed just ten minutes with Marjorie Bourke, 98, before she was left to die from pneumonia and heart failure. 

Meanwhile Phones4U founder John Caudwell, one of the Conservatives’ biggest individual donors at the previous election with £500,000, has joined in on the criticism, issuing an ultimatum to Johnson.

Tory MP Christian Wakeford, who is defending a tiny majority in Bury, has added his voice to calls for ‘honesty’ from the PM   


Left, a police officer knocks on the door of 10 Downing Street. Keir Starmer (right) has been released from isolation and can take on Mr Johnson at PMQs

He told BBC News: ‘Sort it out, Boris, or step aside and let someone else sort it out so that the Tories aren’t wiped out at the next election.

‘While the rest of us were striving to follow the ever-changing rules – including myself, even when I deemed them to be excessive at best, nonsensical at worst – those who were setting those rules were, apparently freely and frequently, disregarding them.

‘Each one of these new revelations gives greater force to the accusation that areas of the government think it’s one rule for them, one rule for the rest of us. This is disastrous.’  

Mr Johnson was branded a ‘serial liar’ by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, while Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said it would be ‘utterly despicable’ if he flouted rules. saying: ‘The Prime Minister can settle this right now, he can tell people: was he at the party or not?’

Last night former minister Johnny Mercer – now a vocal critic of Mr Johnson – issued a Twitter apology to constituents who had followed the rules, branding the situation ‘humiliating’.

The premier stood accused of going into ‘hiding’ after sending a junior minister to field an urgent question in the Commons yesterday. 

In highly-charged scenes, MPs including the DUP’s Jim Shannon and Labour’s Afzal Khan spoke emotionally about their own bereavements during the pandemic and called for clarity on what had happened in No10. 

Scotland Yard has confirmed that they are now ‘in contact with the Cabinet Office’ over reports of the drinks event. 

The force is thought to be waiting to see if Ms Gray’s inquiry identifies rule-breaking before considering whether further action is needed.

A spokesman for the Met said: ‘The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on May 20 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.’ 

Lawyers have suggested the premier being there might not have broken the law at the time, as it was technically his garden.  

The raging ‘Partygate’ row was not even mentioned at Cabinet this morning, according to No10. 

But bereaved families vented fury and accused Mr Johnson of ‘smirking’ rather than answering the allegations.

And Sir Keir said: ‘Boris Johnson, your deflections and distractions are absurd. Not only did you know about the parties in Downing Street, you attended them.

‘Stop lying to the British public. It’s time to finally come clean.’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is on a visit to Devon rather than at PMQs, although aides insist the trip has been in the diary some time

The PM sent Paymaster General Michael Ellis to answer the urgent question from Labour yesterday – but the benches behind him were sparse


Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross (left) and Phones4U founder John Caudwell, a major Tory donor, have criticised Johnson

Behind the email: Top mandarin who runs Boris Johnson’s private office –  for now 

Martin Reynolds is the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary.

Questions had already been raised over his future after Dominic Cummings last week revealed he was behind the May 20, 2020 party.

But Downing Street denied reports he could be moved into a low profile senior diplomatic role, possibly at ambassador level.

Martin Reynolds (above), the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, is expected to be moved after the Cabinet Office concludes its investigation into whether rules were broken at a series of No 10 gatherings during Covid lockdowns

Mr Reynolds was pictured sitting with the Prime Minister and Carrie Symonds at a ‘cheese and wine’ party held in the No10 garden on May 15, 2020. 

Days later he sent the email to more than 100 people, inviting them out again for a cheeky midweek snifter.  

Mr Cummings revealed the party on Friday in a blog, and claimed he warned colleagues at the time that the gathering broke lockdown rules and should not have gone ahead.

He said he wrote the warning in an email that could be discovered by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who is investigating the allegations that parties were held.

Ms Gray – who has a fierce reputation in Whitehall – is set to deliver her findings as early as next week. 

No10 has rejected reports that a senior figure advised some aides to ‘clean up’ their phones to remove information about potential lockdown breaches.   

A No 10 spokeswoman said: ‘We don’t recognise these claims.

‘Staff were given clear guidance to retain any relevant information. 

‘As set out in the terms of reference, all staff are expected to fully co-operate with the investigation.’

One Conservative aide told MailOnline they personally would not have attended any such event at the time because they are ‘not stupid’. 

Another said the situation ‘really isn’t looking good’. ‘He has to find a new scapegoat now. Reynolds alone won’t be enough.’

They also pointed to a wider problem of trust in the PM, with polls showing his personal ratings plunging. 

A Tory insider told MailOnline yesterday that Ms Gray was seen as ‘evil incarnate’ by some in Whitehall but her duty would be to protect the premier.  

‘Boris is going to protect himself. And people who have been loyal to him are soon going to see how that will never be reciprocated,’ they said. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Rayner said: ‘He doesn’t need an investigation, he doesn’t need a civil servant to tell him whether he attended this party or not.’

Asked whether she had confidence in Ms Gray’s inquiry, Ms Rayner added: ‘I have every confidence in Sue Gray to do her job and diligently do that, but I think this particular allegation does not need to wait for Sue Gray’s inquiry, which is a much wider one around the culture and what was happening at the time within the Government departments.

‘This is about the Prime Minister and his integrity, and whether he broke the law or not.

‘He can answer that question very simply, he doesn’t need to hide behind a civil servant or anyone else.’

Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood called for Ms Johnson to ‘show some contrition’.

The Commons Defence Committee chairman told Sky News: ‘I strongly urge the Prime Minister to act now, to apologise for No 10’s poor judgment, to show some contrition and to be committed to appropriately respond to Sue Gray’s findings when they come out.

‘We can’t allow things to drift, that is not an option.’

Asked whether he would consider it the ‘end of the matter’ if Mr Johnson ‘comes clean’ over the party claims, the former minister added: ‘It would probably be for the Cabinet then to judge, and then also what he says and how he says it.

‘But we need to get ahead of the story. This is distracting us, it is taking airtime away.’

Snap Savanta ComRes research last night found that 66 per cent believe Mr Johnson should quit over Partygate, including 42 per cent of Conservative supporters.

YouGov had similar results, with 56 per cent saying the premier should fall on his sword and 27 per cent saying the opposite. 

Whitehall ethics chief (and former pub landlady) who has previously ended the careers of ministers

Sue Gray, the civil servant probing all the alleged Downing Street parties, has previously ended the careers of high-flying politicians with investigations into wrongdoing. 

In her former job as director-general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office she had enormous power and long experience in Westminster scandals, and developed a fearsome reputation among ministers and officials. 

It saw her described as the most powerful civil servant you have never heard of. 

But her life has not been completely standard mandarin. In the 1980s she was a pub landlady, running the Cove Bar near Newry in Northern Ireland with her husband Bill Conlan, a country and western singer. 

Last year she told the BBC: ‘I loved it, loved it at the time, I’d never do it again.’

Whitehall heavy hitter Sue Gray is carrying out out inquiries into three alleged gatherings at No10 and the Department for Education in November and December last year, when indoor mixing was banned.

Her inquiry into the so-called Plebgate affair in 2012 led to the resignation of minister Andrew Mitchell for verbally abusing police on duty in Downing Street.

And her investigation into Damian Green led to his forced resignation in 2017 after she discovered he had lied about pornography found on his Commons computer.

Ms Gray is a career civil servant who was drafted in from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities after Cabinet Secretary Simon Case quit his role leading the inquiry.

He was forced to step down after it emerged a December 2020 quiz was held in his own department that he was aware of and spoke at. 

From 2018 to 2021 she served as the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance at the Northern Ireland Executive.

She returned to London to head up work on the Union in 2021. But she admitted last year she wuld not have come back to London if she had won the top Civil Service post in Northern Ireland.

She applied to run the service  after the retirement of previous boss David Sterling, but the powersharing executive overlooked her and two other candidates, leaving the post unfilled.

She told the BBC at the time: ‘Why didn’t I get the job? I’m not sure I’ll ever quite know but I suspect, you know, I suspect people may have thought that I perhaps was too much of a challenger, or a disrupter.

‘I am both. Perhaps I would bring about… too much change.’

As well as the 66 per cent overall who wanted Mr Johnson to quit, Savanta ComRes found 42 per cent of Tories wanted him gone.

Some 62 per cent felt the event in the No 10 garden in May 2020 was a worse breach of trust than the initial Christmas party revelations.

The survey of 1,040 UK adults carried out found the proportion of those who felt Mr Johnson should resign had risen by 12 points since December. Among Tory voters there was a nine-point rise.

And 65 per cent thought Martin Reynolds, the PM’s principal private secretary who organised the garden party, should leave his role.

Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta ComRes, said: ‘That rope for Boris Johnson just got shorter as the latest allegations of further lockdown breaches in No.10 emerge and, crucially, this time Boris Johnson may lack plausible deniability due to the rumours circling that he and his wife attended the drinks event on 20 May while the rest of the country were restricted to meeting just one other person socially outdoors.

‘A 12-point increase in those saying he should resign compared to Christmas Partygate is significant, but ultimately it’s not the court of public opinion that Johnson will be tried in; it’s his own party.’

The separate YouGov poll found 56 per cent of people thought the PM should resign, while 27 per cent said he should stay in his role and 17 per cent did not know.

When a similar question about whether Mr Johnson should remain as leader of the Conservative Party was posed by YouGov on November 22, 48 per cent said he should stand down, 31% that he should stay, while 22 per cent answered that they did not know.

On May 20, 2020, the Met had told people they could have a picnic, exercise or do sport outside providing you are ‘on your own, with people you live with, or just you and one other person’.

Oliver Dowden, then the culture secretary, used a Downing Street press conference that day to remind the public they could ‘meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart’. It is understood Mr Dowden was not at the ‘BYOB’ bash.

A total of 807 fixed penalty notices for Covid-related offences were issued in the week of May 15 – 21 2020 across all forces, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council. 

Mr Reynolds’s email, which was leaked to ITV News, said: ‘Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening. Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!’

Downing Street said yesterday that the PM still has ‘full confidence’ in his PPS. 

Sir David Normington, a former Whitehall permanent secretary and former First Civil Service Commissioner, suggested there should have been an external probe into the Partygate claims. 

But he said Ms Gray was the ‘best person’ within Whitehall to look into the allegations.

‘She will be very aware that she has the reputation and possibly the careers of senior civil servants and possibly of the Prime Minister in her hands, and that is a very difficult position to be in, however fair and fearless and rigorous you are,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Calling the position Ms Gray finds herself in ‘very odd’, the former Home Office mandarin added: ‘She has in her previous role as head of propriety and ethics investigated Cabinet ministers, the behaviour of Cabinet ministers and so on, but I think it is fairly unprecedented for her to be investigating behaviour of the Prime Minister and, of course, of the Cabinet Secretary and the principal private secretary in No 10.

‘This is a step beyond, I think, anything she will have done in the past.’

Asked whether there should have been an external investigation into what went on in Downing Street, Sir David said it might have been ‘better to have someone from outside’, but added: ‘If we are going to have a civil servant doing it, Sue Gray is the best person to do it.

‘She has the confidence both of people who worked in previous governments, Labour governments and Conservative governments, so we are where we are.’

Mr Johnson’s authority has come under serious challenge among backbenchers and Cabinet colleagues in recent months, including over Partygate. 

In December, the PM insisted that a photo of a gathering in the No10 garden where staff were seen eating cheese and drinking wine from May 15, 2020 showed people ‘working’.

Another photo, obtained by the Sunday Mirror, showed Mr Johnson hosting a Christmas quiz in Downing Street in winter 2020.

The PM has also come under criticism for imposing restrictions including facemarks and Covid passes in response to the Omicron variant – an issue that sparked Lord Frost’s dramatic resignation last month.

Barrister Adam Wagner, an expert on Covid regulations, said that on the basis of what was known, the gathering on May 20, 2020 was ‘unlikely to be legal for attendees’.

He added: ‘Being outside the home was illegal at the time unless – the only potentially relevant exception – it was for the need to work. Socially distanced drinks and bring your own booze don’t sound like work.’

However, he pointed to a ‘loophole of people not themselves being liable for having parties in their back gardens’ – which was subsequently closed later in the year. He suggested that as a result the only potential legal threat to the PM would be as an accessory to other people’s breach. 


Labour MP Afzal Khan (left) told the Commons yesterdat: ‘My mum died of Covid in March 2020. She died alone in hospital while I sat in the car outside trying to be as close to her as I could. The DUP’s Jim Shannon (right) broke down as he said his mother-in-law died alone in 2020, and demanded full disclosure of what had happened in Downing Street

A snap poll found that 66 per cent of the public thought the PM should resign over the ‘Partygate’ furore

A Met Police tweet on May 20, 2020 laying down the rules that prevented more than two people from different households from meeting outside 

JASON GROVES: Ministers rally to Boris’ side after his grovelling apology, but where’s Rishi, asked MPs, as they once did of John Major 

The Prime Minister’s grovelling apology yesterday has bought him some political space. But he is by no means out of the woods.

After days of prevarication, Boris Johnson finally went to the Commons and said sorry for the lockdown-busting party in the No10 garden in May 2020 – and acknowledged ‘the rage (people) feel with me and with the Government I lead’.

He also acknowledged he had attended the event advertised by his own aide as a ‘Bring Your Own Booze’ celebration, but had believed it was a ‘work event’ permissible under lockdown rules.

The apology was ridiculed by Labour, with Sir Keir Starmer accusing him of ‘lying through his teeth’ during a bruising encounter in the Commons.

But it did lower the political temperature slightly on the Tory benches.

Conservative whips mounted an ‘Operation Fightback’ campaign, persuading Conservative MPs to attend PMQs and ask questions on subjects ranging from washing machines to dinosaurs – anything but parties.

And by mid-afternoon, Cabinet ministers who had remained silent when news of the No10 party broke slowly began to issue statements of support.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak decided to press ahead with an engagement more than 200 miles away in North Devon, leaving him far from the scene – a point not lost on MPs who accuse him of going missing at the first sign of trouble

It evoked memories at Westminster of John Major, who was chancellor when he failed to back Margaret Thatcher in the 1990 Tory leadership battle. Mr Major blamed inflamed wisdom teeth for lying low – and the PM quit, paving the way for him to take over in Downing Street

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, one of the PM’s biggest cheerleaders, was first out of the blocks, saying Mr Johnson was ‘right to apologise’, but that Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray should be allowed to complete her inquiry before further judgment was made.

Home Secretary Priti Patel posted a loyal message on the Tory MPs’ WhatsApp group urging colleagues to accept the PM’s ‘heartfelt apologies’ and focus on ‘delivering on the people’s priorities’. 

Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi both took to the Commons tearooms to try to shore up support, while Dominic Raab and Jacob Rees-Mogg gave supportive TV interviews.

Michael Gove told MPs at a restive meeting of the 1922 Committee it was no time to get ‘flaky’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak decided to press ahead with an engagement more than 200 miles away in North Devon, leaving him far from the scene – a point not lost on MPs who accuse him of going missing at the first sign of trouble.

It evoked memories at Westminster of John Major, who was chancellor when he failed to back Margaret Thatcher in the 1990 Tory leadership battle.

Mr Major blamed inflamed wisdom teeth for lying low – and the PM quit, paving the way for him to take over in Downing Street.

Some eight hours after PMQs the Chancellor broke cover, but appeared to fail to express enthusiastic support for Mr Johnson.

Mr Sunak said: ‘I’ve been on a visit all day today, continuing work on our #PlanForJobs as well as meeting MPs to discuss the energy situation. The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her inquiry.’

About an hour later, Liz Truss finally came forward with her full support, saying: ‘The Prime Minister is delivering for Britain – from Brexit to the booster programme to economic growth. I stand by the Prime Minister 100 per cent as he takes our country forward.’

Apologies have been as rare as hens’ teeth during Boris Johnson’s long career. It is a sign of the trouble he is in that he has now made three in as many months – first over the handling of the Owen Paterson affair, then over a leaked video of his former press secretary joking about parties in No10 and now about his own attendance at such an event. 

Veteran Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope said he had ‘never heard such an abject apology from a government minister’.

But it was not enough for some, who pointed out that while Mr Johnson certainly apologised, he was saying sorry for giving the impression rules had been broken, not admitting they had been.

The PM said he had ‘believed implicitly this was a work event’. He said the event, at which drinks and party food were laid out on long tables, ‘could be said technically to fall within the guidance’. 

But he acknowledged there would be ‘millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way’.

Downing Street is fully aware of the gaps in the PM’s explanation.

The PM said he had ‘believed implicitly this was a work event’. He said the event, at which drinks and party food were laid out on long tables, ‘could be said technically to fall within the guidance’. But he acknowledged there would be ‘millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way’

During a 45-minute question and answer session with reporters yesterday, his press secretary insisted Mr Johnson had never been sent the damning email sent by his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds inviting 100 staff to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’

During a 45-minute question and answer session with reporters yesterday, his press secretary insisted Mr Johnson had never been sent the damning email sent by his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds inviting 100 staff to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’.

But, in an epic display of stonewalling, she refused to answer even the most basic factual questions about the PM’s 25-minute attendance at the event at the height of lockdown. 

Did he have a drink himself? Did he make a speech? 

Did his wife Carrie attend the ‘work event’ as sources claim? 

In what way does he believe the event may have been legal under the lockdown rules?

All these and many more went unanswered, with the press secretary simply repeating the answer: ‘Matters around guidance, the nature of the gatherings, the purpose and attendance at them, are a matter for the independent review.’

In truth, the PM was walking a fine line between appearing contrite and not incriminating himself in what could yet become a police investigation.

Some queried whether the contrition was genuine. One MP claimed the PM had been in denial during a tour of the Commons tearoom yesterday, telling onlookers it was ‘not his fault’ and he was bravely ‘taking the blame for others’.

But others insisted he was genuinely remorseful. One MP said Mr Johnson described feeling ‘electrocuted by the anger of the public’ over the issue and apologised for ‘all the crap I’ve put you through’.

Either way, it was not enough for some. Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who is close to long-time Boris Hater Ruth Davidson, called on the Prime Minister to resign.

Select committee chairman William Wragg, a vociferous opponent of lockdown rules, echoed the call, saying the PM’s resignation was ‘inevitable’. More worryingly for No10, a number of low-profile MPs with no obvious axes to grind also voiced concerns.

Chris Loder, who was only elected to represent West Dorset in 2019, said: ‘I don’t think the apology today was enough, I don’t think it is acceptable in the eyes of many of my constituents.’

One veteran former minister described the mood on the backbenches as ‘sullen but not regicidal’, saying that the PM was fortunate there was no obvious successor waiting in the wings. Pictured: Rishi Sunak toured a biotech manufacturing plant in Devon

One veteran former minister described the mood on the backbenches as ‘sullen but not regicidal’, saying that the PM was fortunate there was no obvious successor waiting in the wings.

‘The only thing keeping him in place is the fact that none of his potential successors are ready,’ the source said.

No one knows when the formidable Miss Gray will report on the numerous alleged lockdown parties in No10.

Unfortunately for the Prime Minister she has a reputation for being unbiddable – with a previous report ending the Cabinet career of Damian Green at a time when he was deputy prime minister.

If she finds against the PM then the knives could come out quickly. But even if the report is sufficiently fudged that he escapes direct criticism he may not be in the clear.

One Whitehall source said public anger over the affair was running so high that the PM faced a backlash if the perception took hold that he has overseen a whitewash.

The PM’s apology has won him a stay of execution – and he has shown extraordinary skill in wriggling free of past embarrassments. But he needs to use his time now wisely.

What Boris said… and what it REALLY meant: How Johnson used ‘carefully lawyered’ 300-word Commons statement to try to avoid taking personal responsibility for No10 bash

Boris Johnson’s statement in full 

Mr Speaker, I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months, I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.

And I know the rage they feel with me and with the Government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.

And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility.

Number 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the roll of fresh air in stopping the virus and when I went into that garden just after 6pm on the 20th of May, 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.

But Mr Speaker, with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them and I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who suffered terribly, people who were forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside.

And to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies and all I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established and I will of course come back to this House and make a statement.’

Boris Johnson was accused of using his Commons statement on partygate as a way of avoiding personal responsibility for the boozy event today.

The PM’s admission that he was at the al-fresco soiree in the Downing Street  garden in May 2020 was his first confirmation that he had attended an event whose existence was revealed last week.

But the 300-word address at the start of an angry Prime Minister’s Questions, was very carefully worded, something spotted by legal experts.

Two passages especially could be seen as key; Mr Johnson told the Commons he ‘believed implicitly that this was a work event’. He also said that it might ‘technically … fall within the guidance’ that was in place.

But afterwards, Downing Street declined to say what the basis was for Boris Johnson’s claim that the May 20, 2020 gathering may ‘technically’ have fallen within the guidance. 

They did claim Mr Johnson did not receive or see the email inviting staff to ‘socially distanced drinks’ on May 20, or tell Martin Reynolds to send it.

Asked whether Mr Johnson had received legal advice on the content of his statement, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said: ‘I’m not going to get into how the Prime Minister works on statements as a matter of course.

‘But this was the Prime Minister coming to the house to apologise and to acknowledge, as he has done before, the need for him to take responsibility and to set out what he is able to at this point.’   

Asked what guidance he was relying on, his press secretary said: ‘He is not pre-empting the findings of this review, he is simply setting out his understanding going into that event.

‘As he made clear in other parts of his statement and his answers, he said he believed implicitly it was a work event.’

Asked why he believed that, she said: ‘He believed the events in question were within the rules ‘and that was the assumption on which I operated’.

‘But beyond that, I’m afraid I’m simply going to have to say that matters around the nature of the gatherings and other such details are a matter for the independent review.’

One leading defence lawyer said the account would be ‘laughed out of court’ in a legal case.

Raj Chada, the head of the criminal defence department at Hodge Jones and Allen, said: ‘If any client had tried to use this, it would have been laughed out of court. 

‘The cross examination would have been brutal: do civil servants/politicians normally ”bring a bottle to work events?

‘I cannot see that his defence has any legal basis as you were meant to be working from home if you could.’

Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister who has spent the pandemic interpreting complex coronavirus laws and explaining them to the public on social media, said the PM’s statement was ‘obviously lawyered’ and ‘very much about his personal liability.’ 

Here we look at the rules in place at the time and whether they will help Mr Johnson’s case.

Boris Johnson speaking during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions on January 12, 2022

I believed implicitly that this was a work event’

After spending a few seconds offering something of a mea culpa to the masses, Mr Johnon got to his first hard legal point.

He told the Commons: ‘Number 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the roll of fresh air in stopping the virus and when I went into that garden just after 6pm on the 20th of May, 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.’

Coronavirus rules had changed a week before the party as the Government warned it was considering tougher enforcement measures for anyone flouting the rules.

Lockdown fines rose to £100 in England on May 13, 2020 and could be issued to anyone believed to be breaching restrictions on movement amid the coronavirus outbreak.

While anyone found breaking the law would have had their first fine lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days, the penalty doubled for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.

Existing legislation known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 was updated to reflect the changes.

No more than two people from different households could mix indoors or outdoors.

Further than that, people were only allowed to leave home with a ‘reasonable excuse’.

However, there have been exemptions for those whose jobs require them to go to a workplace or work in larger groups.

The regulations from the time state that gatherings of more than two people are permitted in a ‘public place’ where ‘essential for work purposes’.

Guidance from the time adds that ‘workers should try to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace’.

But lawyers have noted that the Downing Street garden would not count as a ‘public place’. While it is available to the staff in the Downing Street complex, it is not open to the general public.

The ‘reasonable excuses’ for leaving home include ‘to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living’.

It is not clear whether that would catch individuals who had travelled ‘for the purposes of work’, but decided not to return home immediately afterwards.

‘… even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance…’

Later in his statement Mr Johnson added: ‘I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who suffered terribly, people who were forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside.’ 

In a series of posts on Twitter, Mr Wagner said: ‘The Johnson apology was carefully worded and obviously lawyered. He said that he attended because he ”believed implicitly that this was a work event”, that ”with hindsight” he should have sent everyone back inside, and ”technically” it could be said to fall within the guidance…

‘This was only what *he* thought the event was … So defence is a personal one only and leaves open the possibility the event was something else without him realising.

‘This is very much about his personal liability – he is implicitly denying he knew what the event was, had seen the email or had anything to do with it. Because here’s the key point: on the wording of email (‘bring your own booze’) this couldn’t technically have been a work event.’

While Mr Wagner suggested the PM may even say such an event would be considered ‘reasonably necessary for work’ to thank staff for their hard work during the pandemic, he doubted whether this would ‘hold weight’ given the Government guidance in place at the time discouraging workplace gatherings.

He added: ‘The ultimate point is that at the time if anyone had asked the Prime Minister or health minister whether it was lawful to have a social work gathering outdoors for 100 with alcohol and food they would have answered with a very hard ”no”. This is … face saving.’

Mr Johnson’s former top aide turned foe Dominic Cummings put it rather more pithily. He first revealed last week that the May 20 event took place and that the PM attended, despite his warning it was against the rules. 

He tweeted: ‘Whole point of why I & other official told MR (Martin Reynolds – the PM’s personal private secretary)  – WTF YOU DOING HOLDING A PARTY – was cos the invite = obv totally SOCIAL NOT WORK (UNlike all the mtngs in garden). No way ”technically within rules” … bullsh*t cos altern(ative) is admit he broke rules + resign.’ 

What rules were in place and when? 

The emergence of Covid saw the introduction in early 2020 of some of the most stringent restrictions on Britain since the Second World War.

They started on March 16, when the public were told to avoid non-essential travel and work from home where they could. 

Schools were closed four days later to all but vulnerable children and those whose parents were key workers and not at home. The same day, pubs cares and restaurants were forced to shut their doors. 

On March 23, the work from home guidance became an order, with people only allowed to leave for essential shopping, medical appointments and a short list of other vital journeys.

But from May 10, some of the rules began to be loosened. Mr Johnson clarified that  ‘anyyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work’.

‘You should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited,’ he said in a speech. 

‘So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home.’

Days later, on May 13 rules were relaxed to allow people to leave home for reasons other than exercise. But they were only allowed to meet one other person.

These were the rules in place at the time of the Downing Street party. Social distancing did not come in until June 2020. 

Met urged to investigate Boris Johnson for ‘potentially unlawful behaviour’ over Downing Street party as Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey calls for ‘urgent action’

Scotland Yard was under growing pressure last night to investigate the Prime Minister for ‘potentially unlawful behaviour’ after he admitted attending the party at No 10 during lockdown. 

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick faced demands for Boris Johnson to be interviewed under caution as part of a full criminal investigation into the ‘illegal gathering’ on May 20, 2020.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey wrote to her, saying: ‘It is vital you take urgent action to investigate potentially unlawful behaviour on the part of all those who attended the party, including Boris Johnson.’

He urged Dame Cressida to ‘reassure the public there isn’t one rule for them and another for Boris Johnson’ by confirming police would probe the ‘illegal gathering’ and interview the Prime Minister under caution.

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick (pictured) faced demands for Boris Johnson to be interviewed under caution as part of a full criminal investigation into the ‘illegal gathering’ on May 20, 2020

He suggested any who attended, including Mr Johnson, should ‘be charged and fined in the same way as ordinary members of the public’.

More than 17,700 people were fined by the Met for breaching Covid laws during the pandemic, including 113 for holding a gathering of more than 30, figures show. Sir Ed, the MP for Kingston, said: ‘The police must reassure the public that justice will be done.’

Former shadow attorney general Lord Falconer also said Mr Johnson should be fined or face charges, suggesting a judge would not accept his ‘ridiculous’ explanation about the party being a work event.

‘The Prime Minster acknowledged that he attended an event which was in breach of the law,’ he told Radio 4’s World at One. ‘He broke the law and he admitted it.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey wrote to her, saying: ‘It is vital you take urgent action to investigate potentially unlawful behaviour on the part of all those who attended the party, including Boris Johnson’

‘The police, in the light of that admission, should either give him a fixed penalty notice or charge him.’

He added: ‘The public have to have confidence that the law applies to everyone equally.

‘When the Prime Minister admits a breach of these critical laws, it cannot just be swept under the carpet.’

The Metropolitan Police said yesterday its position had not changed, insisting it was a matter for the Cabinet Office to investigate.

Inside the Downing Street lockdown party: How Carrie Johnson ‘enjoyed drink with friend’, Boris wandered round gladhanding people, official joked about risk of being filmed by a DRONE… and No10 staff complained about the MESS left in garden

Carrie Johnson shared a drink with a close friend at the illegal Downing Street garden party where 40 people – including the Prime Minister – washed down sausage rolls and posh crisps with wine and gin while some guests feared being filmed breaking lockdown from the sky.

As 66million Britons were banned from meeting more than one person, the Prime Minister’s wife was said to have been deep in conversation with guest Henry Newman, a former protégé of Michael Gove who worked on Dominic Cummings’ Vote Leave campaign in the run-up to the Brexit referendum.

Boris Johnson and Carrie attended the event and mingled with the 40-or-so officials and advisers boozing when parties were banned. One person who attended told The Times that Johnson was ‘wandering round gladhanding people’ on May 20, 2020, at the height of the first lockdown.

And today the Prime Minister finally said sorry as he finally admitted he spent 25 minutes mingling with political staff and civil servants – but he then told the Commons that he still believes it was a ‘work event’, raising questions about what he was actually apologising for.

Carrie Johnson was said to be drinking with her friend Henry Newman (pictured together with Dilyn her dog). Mr Newman was an aide to Michael Gove and now a senior aide to the PM in No 10

Snapped: The No 10 garden on May 15, 2020. At the bottom are, from left, Dominic Cummings, Martin Reynolds, the PM and his wife Carrie. Five days later there were more drinks – and all of them are said to have attended again, apart from Cummings

At 6pm on May 20, 2020, the spring sky was still a deep blue, with the lawn bathed in dappled sunlight. Those entering the garden were reportedly met with a buffet-style spread of crisps and sausage rolls, while the drinks table was stocked with gin and rosé as well as red and white wine.

Some revellers ‘brought their own booze’ from the claustrophobic Tesco Express store that does a roaring trade in beer, wine and sandwiches next to Westminster Tube station.

Some of the dozens of guests were said to have been looking to the sky with paranoia in case a drone flew over, while other admitted that the trashed garden after the party ended was also a giveaway.

And amid the paranoia, Downing Street staff were allegedly advised to ‘clean up’ their phones by removing information and pictures that could suggest lockdown parties were regularly held at No 10, according to The Independent. A senior member of staff told people it would be a ‘good idea’ to remove any evidence that might even imply they had attended.

Boris Johnson’s litany of lies: the PM’s multiple public and private scandals from lockdown-busting parties and cash for the No10 flat to misleading the Queen, cocaine and multiple affairs 

By his own admission, Boris Johnson’s mistakes ‘are too numerous to list in full’.

But as Downing Street is engulfed by yet another lockdown party scandal with the Prime Minister at its heart, even his keenest Tory supporters are in ‘despair’. 

Mr Johnson’s public and private life have been littered with lies, which saw him sacked as a journalist, fired by Tory leader Michael Howard over an affair and eventually thrown out by his wife Marina, who believed he was having an illicit relationship with Carrie Symonds.

He has been accused of lying on numerous occasions including the sensational sacking as Howard’s shadow arts minister for lying about his affair with Spectator journalist Petronella Wyatt.   

His new wife Carrie has also been dragged into the mire, in the mess caused by the couple’s controversial revamp of their Downing Street flat, complete with gold wallpaper, having accused Theresa May of making it a ‘bit of a tip’.  

His own missteps and misinformation has also seen him apologise for a multitude of other errors, including saying Liverpudlians were ‘hooked on grief’ after Hillsborough.

Here is a list of his most infamous lies and controversies:  

Being sacked by Michael Howard for lying about affair with Petronella Wyatt

In 2004, when reports of his affair with Petronella Wyatt were published, Johnson dismissed them as ‘an inverted pyramid of piffle’.

Days later her mother revealed the socialite, 35, had an abortion as a result of the relationship. Within hours Johnson, then editor of the Spectator magazine, was sacked as Michael Howard’s shadow arts minister

In 2004, when reports of his affair with Petronella Wyatt were published, Johnson dismissed them as ‘an inverted pyramid of piffle’.

His affair with Spectator columnist ‘Petsy,’ daughter of the late Lord Woodrow Wyatt, had been the subject of months of innuendo in gossip columns.

Days later the pyramid toppled over after her mother revealed the socialite, 35, had an abortion as a result of the relationship.

Within hours Johnson, then editor of the Spectator magazine, had been sensationally sacked as Michael Howard’s shadow arts minister for lying.

He has insisted that he never spoke directly to Tory leader Mr Howard – who had initially stood by Johnson – about the affair.

Asked shortly after he was sacked if he had lied to Mr Howard, Johnson claimed: ‘No, I certainly didn’t.’

At the time his friends said he had only spoken to Guy Black, Mr Howard’s press secretary, when a Sunday newspaper first broke the story of the affair.

But Tory officials said: ‘He completely denied it to Guy Black, David MacLean (the Tory chief whip) and the Press. Is he seriously suggesting it was OK to lie to newspapers providing he did not lie to the party leader’s face?’

Boris was asked about it in a notorious interview with Eddie Mair and said: ‘I never had any conversation with Michael Howard about that matter.’ 

Forgetting whether or not he had ever taken cocaine

Boris Johnson has faced repeated questioning over his own drug-taking history in recent years.

The issue burst into life during the 2019 Tory leadership election which he went on to win, after it emerged that Michael Gove – now the Levelling Up Secretary – had taken cocaine.

Mr Johnson has admitted on several occasions to taking the drug at university.

In a 2005 appearance on Have I Got News For You he said he ‘unsuccessfully’ tried to take cocaine ‘a long time ago’ because he had sneezed.

Two years later, in 2007, he told GQ magazine he ‘tried it at university’ and ‘remembered it vividly’, adding: ‘It achieved no pharmacological, psychotropical or any other effect on me whatsoever.’ 

But the remarks came back to haunt him as he sought the keys to number 10 in 2019. Asked about the GQ remarks by the Daily Mail he flailed before saying: ‘I think the canonical account of this event when I was 19 has appeared many, many times.

‘I think what most people in this country want us to focus on is what we can do for them and this great country.’

In the same election campaign he  owned up to cycling on the pavement today as the ‘naughtiest’ thing he would admit to having done.

The Prime Minister, known as a keen cyclist who was mayor of London when the so-called Boris Bikes were introduced, apologised for having ‘not always obeyed the law’ for the leg-powered two-wheeled vehicles.

But pulled up on Sky over whether this was the naughtiest thing that he had ever done he insisted that he was agreeing with a caveat from interviewer Sophy Ridge that it not be something ‘terminally politically damaging’.

His relationship with Jennifer Arcuri 

Jennifer Arcuri has claimed that she and Boris Johnson had four-year affair while he was mayor of London.

Jennifer Arcuri has claimed that she and Boris Johnson had four-year affair while he was mayor of London.

She stated that she and Mr Johnson, who was Mayor of London at the time, began the affair during his second term in office when he was married to now ex-wife, high-flying barrister Marina Wheeler – with whom he shares two sons and two daughters.

At the time she received thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money in grants for her firms. 

In November last year she said he pledged to help her firm in order to ‘win my love’ while he was mayor of London. 

In a diary extract seen by the Observer, she accused Mr Johnson of promising to use his own political power to help US tech entrepreneur while they were in a relationship.

The GLA is investigating her presence at trade missions carried out to boost business for the capital, which she attended events for.

Boris Johnson has never publicly commented on the alleged affair but has said he acted with ‘honesty and integrity’.

Boris on giving an Old Etonian friend a journalist’s address so he could dole out a ‘ couple of black eyes and broke rib’

The attack never happened and Mr Johnson said in 2013 he was just ‘humouring’ an old acquaintance.

In the summer of 1990 Johnson was rung by his Eton and Oxford pal Darius Guppy for help in tracking down a journalist. Guppy had arranged to have himself and his business partner in a gemstones company tied up in a New York hotel room to make it look as if they had been robbed of jewels worth £1.8m. They then claimed the cash under their insurance.

When Stuart Collier, a reporter at the News of the World, had begun making inquiries into the affair, Guppy decided to frighten him off and phoned Boris – then a journalist based in Brussels – for Collier’s address.

The 21-minute conversation was secretly taped by accomplice, Peter Risdon, who had turned against Guppy. Asking if he has Collier’s number, Johnson replies: ‘There is a guy at the moment going through his files.’

After Guppy says ‘there is nothing I won’t do to get my revenge’ Johnson asks: ‘Uh, how badly are you going to hurt this guy?’

Guppy says he won’t have his arms broken but adds: ‘He will probably get a couple of black eyes and a cracked rib…but he will get scared.’ Johnson says he has approached four people to trace Collier, only two of whom he trusts. By the end of the conversation, he says: ‘OK, Darry, I said I’ll do it and I’ll do it. Don’t worry.’

The attack never happened and Mr Johnson said in 2013 he was just ‘humouring’ an old acquaintance. 

His former boss at the paper, Max Hastings, wrote in the Daily Mail in 2012: ‘If the day ever comes that Boris Johnson becomes tenant of Downing Street, I shall be among those packing my bags for a new life in Buenos Aires or suchlike, because it means that Britain has abandoned its last pretensions to be a serious country.’

Sacked by The Times after putting words into his godfather’s mouth 

Johnson decided to spice up the story with a reference to gay sex among the royals and then fabricated a comment from an Oxford don, Sir Colin Lucas (left)

After graduating from Oxford in 1987, Johnson became a trainee journalist with The Times and was given the job of revealing the discovery of King Edward II’s long-lost palace on the south bank of the Thames in London.

Johnson decided to spice up the story with a reference to gay sex among the royals and then fabricated a comment from an Oxford don, Sir Colin Lucas.

To make matters worse Lucas was Johnson’s godfather and an expert on the French revolution, not medieval England. The quote from Sir Colin claimed that the King ‘had enjoyed a reign of dissolution with his catamite, Piers Gaveston’ in the palace, which was built in 1325.

Gaveston was beheaded in 1312. Johnson’s godfather, exposed to academic ridicule, complained and Boris was sacked. In subsequent interviews Johnson described the incident as his ‘biggest cock-up’.

He insisted he did speak to Lucas but had wrongly attributed his own mistake about Gaveston to him.

‘I was asked to provide detail about Edward II. In desperation, I rang up Colin.

He brilliantly extemporised some stuff about silken-haired youths and Piers Gaveston which I put in.

‘The problem was that the castle had not been constructed while Gaveston was still alive. A lot of whingeing, snivelling, fact-grubbing historians wrote asking sarcastically was this the same Colin Lucas who was an expert on the French revolution.

‘I had applied Colin’s description of life in Edward II’s court to the palace which he did not intend.

Colin showed his ruthlessness in vindicating the accuracy of his remarks.

‘To make it even worse, that very week Colin was trying to become master of Balliol College. He later succeeded – but not that time. Of all the mistakes I’ve made, I think that takes the biscuit.’

He later said: ‘Well, I mean, I mildly sandpapered something somebody said, and yes it’s very embarrassing and I’m very sorry about it.’ 

On Hillsborough

Mr Johnson claimed Liverpudlians were ‘hooked on grief’. Some 97 people died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989

In the same opinion column he also blamed drunken fans for contributing to the horrific death toll. The fans were later exonerated completely by an inquest

In 2004 Boris Johnson apologised for his ‘outdated stereotype’ of Liverpool as he prepared to visit the city to say sorry for remarks made in his magazine about beheaded hostage Ken Bigley.

He had come under fire over a leader written in The Spectator, which he edits, which claimed Liverpudlians were ‘hooked on grief’.

In the same opinion column he also blamed drunken fans for contributing to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which claimed 96 lives.

In an open letter in the Liverpool Daily Post, Mr Johnson repeated his apologies for the article.

He wrote: ‘I am sorry, too, for the hurt and dismay we have so evidently caused in our description of Liverpool.

‘There may well be Liverpudlians who still answer to the characteristics in question, just as there are all over the country. We should not have generalised.

‘And we should clearly not have blamed drunken fans at the back, when this cause was specifically ruled out by the inquiry report.

‘Anyone, journalist or politician, should say sorry to the people of Liverpool – as I do – for misrepresenting what happened at Hillsborough.

‘I repeat that the leader made a serious point about risk and sentimentality, and the culture of blame, and I stick by it. In so far as it imposed an outdated stereotype on the whole of Liverpool, and thereby caused offence, I sincerely apologise.’

Vote Leave’s battle bus claiming Brexit would save £350million a week for the health service

Vote Leave’s claim leaving the EU would save Britain £350million a week that could instead by spent on the NHS was a central campaign message that fuelled the Brexit vote.

Boris Johnson was accused of ‘conning’ the public after he reignited an angry row over his claim Brexit will save £350million a week for the NHS. 

Despite critics claiming the figure was made up, Mr Johnson said he believed it was not high enough. 

Then Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson also criticised Mr Johnson over rehabilitating the figure. She branded it a ‘lie’ during the referendum battle in 2016.

Mr Johnson has previously been warned by the statistics watchdog that the figure is wrong because it does not take account of Britain’s rebate from Europe.

Vote Leave’s claim leaving the EU would save Britain £350million a week that could instead by spent on the NHS was a central campaign message that fuelled the Brexit vote.

The UK Statistics Authority issued an official statement in May 2016 describing the claim as ‘misleading’, but Mr Johnson repeated it in an article in the Telegraph in September 2017.  

A spokesman for the now Prime Minister said at the time: ‘I should make it clear that because of the interest in this case that it is absolutely denied by Mr Johnson that he acted in an improper or dishonest manner at any time.’ 

He was also accused of hypocrisy after it emerged his Brexit battle bus he launched this morning was made in Germany and Poland.

The former London Mayor – one of the leading voices in the Vote Leave campaign – kicked off his nationwide tour urging voters to back Brexit in Truro, Cornwall this morning, unveiling the £400,000 giant Vote Leave campaign bus.

But it was immediately branded the ‘Boris blunder bus’ after research found that leaving the EU would slap an extra £56,000 to the cost of that type of vehicle.  

‘I didn’t say anything about Turkey during the Brexit campaign’ 

Ali Kemal Bey spent time in Britain and married before returning to Turkey. He was Mr Johnson’s great-grandfather

Boris Johnson claimed he did not mention Turkey during the referendum.

He denied being involved in pushing the claim that 80million Turks would come to Britain unless the UK left the EU.

But he had co-signed a letter stating that ‘the only way to avoid having common borders with Turkey is to vote Leave and take back control’.

He was also quoted as saying: ‘I am very pro-Turkish but what I certainly can’t imagine is a situation in which 77 million of my fellow Turks and those of Turkish origin can come here without any checks at all. That is mad – that won’t work.’ 

His own cousin said at the time: ‘He doesn’t strike me as being very honest’.

Boris and Mr Kuneralp share the same ancestor, the flamboyant Turkish politician – and Anglophile – Ali Kemal Bey who spent time in Britain and married before returning to Turkey. 

Parties at No 10 

Boris Johnson seems unable to give a straight answer on allegations of multiple parties at No 10 throughout national lockdowns.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson’s decision to swerve the confrontation – emulated by most Tory MPs – ‘speaks volumes’.

In highly-charged scenes, MPs including the DUP’s Jim Shannon and Labour’s Afzal Khan spoke emotionally about their own bereavements during the pandemic and called for clarity on what had happened in No10.

Boris Johnson seems unable to give a straight answer on allegations of multiple parties at No 10 throughout national lockdowns.

A bombshell email revealed that the Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds invited 100 Downing Street staff to the event in the No 10 garden at a time when lockdown rules meant all parties were illegal.

Mr Reynolds encouraged staff to ‘bring your own booze’ and ‘make the most of the lovely weather’ on May 20 2020.

Witnesses said the Prime Minister and his wife Carrie attended the event along with up to 40 officials. 

It also threatened to place Mr Johnson at the centre of the alleged party culture in No 10, which is already being investigated by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray.

The PM did not deny attending the party, saying only: ‘All that, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation by Sue Gray.’ Barrister Adam Wagner, an expert on Covid regulations, said that on the basis of what was known, the gathering was ‘unlikely to be legal for attendees’. 

He was branded a ‘serial liar’ by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, while Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said it would be ‘utterly despicable’ if he flouted rules, saying:  ‘The Prime Minister can settle this right now, he can tell people: was he at the party or not?’

The premier stood accused of going into ‘hiding’ after sending a junior minister to field an urgent question in the Commons.

In highly charged scenes, MPs including the DUP’s Jim Shannon and Labour’s Afzal Khan spoke emotionally about their own bereavements during the pandemic and called for clarity on what had happened in No10.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson’s decision to swerve the confrontation – emulated by most Tory MPs – ‘speaks volumes’.

Mr Johnson is under growing pressure following a series of allegations of rule-breaking stories that are now being investigated.  

A photograph emerged of Mr Johnson and his wife sitting with No 10 staff including Martin Reynolds on the terrace with a bottle of wine and cheese.

Downing Street has previously insisted that the photograph showed a work meeting.

There was also controversy following footage of No 10 staff laughing and joking about an event on December 19 2020.

In that video, the Prime Minister’s then spokesperson Allegra Stratton suggested that there had been ‘no social distancing’ at the event, which staff jokingly referred to as a ‘business meeting’ with ‘cheese and wine’. 

Wallpapergate

Although the PM was yet again cleared of breaking the ministerial code over the ‘wallpapergate’ scandal by his sleaze watchdog Lord Geidt, he had to make a ‘humble and sincere apology’ for not giving him the crucial text messages months earlier.

Johnson faces sleaze claims after it emerged that he had helped advance a pet project of the Tory donor who paid for the Downing Street flat revamp.

The Prime Minister told Lord Brownlow he was looking into his idea for a new Great Exhibition – and soon afterwards the businessman had a meeting with the Culture Secretary to discuss it.

Mr Johnson mentioned the plan in a previously hidden WhatsApp conversation in which he also asked the peer for more money for the lavish redecoration of the No 11 living quarters – complaining that it was ‘still a bit of a tip’.

Although the PM was yet again cleared of breaking the ministerial code over the ‘wallpapergate’ scandal by his sleaze watchdog Lord Geidt, he had to make a ‘humble and sincere apology’ for not giving him the crucial text messages months earlier.

The revelations about his promotion of the proposed event at the Royal Albert Hall – although it never went ahead – have prompted new accusations of ‘cash for access’.

Mr Johnson and his now-wife Carrie had hired top interior designer Lulu Lytle to transform the ‘John Lewis furniture nightmare’ left by Theresa May in the PM’s flat, using gold wallpaper costing £840 a roll.

A number of official probes were launched into the secret plans to get a charitable trust, funded by Conservative party donors, to pay for the upkeep of Downing Street including the flat.

Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests Lord Geidt concluded in May that Mr Johnson had acted ‘unwisely’ by not finding out who was behind the renovation, but had not breached the ministerial code.

But his judgment was based on the PM’s assurance that he had not known about the complex funding arrangements for the £112,549 refurbishment until February.

This was undermined last month when a separate Electoral Commission report revealed that Mr Johnson had in fact messaged Lord Brownlow in November 2020.

It prompted Lord Geidt to demand answers as to why he had not been told about the WhatsApp messages or the fact that the political funding watchdog had got hold of them.

In correspondence on the ‘missing exchange’ published by the Cabinet Office, Lord Geidt said it was ‘plainly unsatisfactory’ he had not been given all the relevant messages.

Downing Street’s explanation was that the Prime Minister had to change his mobile phone after gossip newsletter Popbitch revealed that his number was publicly available online.

Misleading the Queen to shut down Parliament

The Prime Minister was accused of misleading the Queen over the prorogation of Parliament after the Supreme Court ruled the move as ‘unlawful’ in 2019.

In a devastating ruling, the 11 justices agreed unanimously that the five-week prorogation in the run-up to Brexit was ‘void and of no effect’.

The judges refused to say if he had lied to the Queen – but many of Johnson’s critics claim the ruling is tacit confirmation that he misled the monarch.

Mr Johnson is said to have called the Queen to personally apologise for embarrassing her after the Supreme Court ruled the prorogation of Parliament was unlawful.

A Downing Street source said Mr Johnson ‘got on to the Queen as quickly as possible to say how sorry he was’ after the ruling almost three years ago.

But later asked if he had lied to the monarch about his reasons for the suspension of Commons business, he replied: ‘Absolutely not.’ 

Under British law, a crime of disloyalty against the crown is known as high treason.

Regularly thought of as the most serious of offences, the charge is traditionally met with the severest sentencing possible as it is seen as threatening the state.

The usual punishment, up until the 19th century, was to be hung, drawn and quartered.

Denying saying inflation fears were unfounded, after saying it on camera 

Boris Johnson has found himself in hot water over the current cost of living crisis. There are fears that inflation, soaring gas prices and a planned National Insurance hike in April will batter families already struggling to recover from the pandemic.

At Prime Minister’s Questions last week he was grilled on the issue by Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner. She pointed out that he had last year said that fears about raising inflation were ‘unfounded’. 

He fired back that he had not said any such thing. Which might have worked had he not said it in a recorded television interview that was still available online.

A Sky News clip from October showed him saying: ‘People have been worrying about inflation for a very long time… and those fears have been unfounded.’ 

His supporters suggested he was pointing out that he as saying that inflation had not started to rise at that time.

But it is something very much on the horizon now. 

Shortly after Christmas a report warned families face a ‘cost of living catastrophe’ next year thanks to soaring energy bills, tax increases and the highest inflation in 30 years.

It predicted that 2022 will be the ‘year of the squeeze’, with households facing a hit of at least £1,200.

With inflation projected to reach 6 per cent in spring, wages next Christmas could be no higher in real terms than they are today, the study by the Resolution Foundation think-tank forecast.

Meanwhile, it said rising gas prices could add at least £600 to family budgets when the energy price cap is reviewed in spring.

On top of this, households face higher taxes from April when National Insurance goes up by 1.25 percentage points to fund the NHS and social care – a rise that will affect middle-income earners more.

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