Foreign secretary insists PM’s apology should be enough to draw line under scandal
Downing Street has been forced to apologise to Buckingham Palace following reports of two No 10 parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral – but officials will not say if Boris Johnson knew about them.
The PM’s spokesman is also refusing to clarify whether it was acknowledged to the Palace that the gatherings were “social events” – which would have been in breach of Covid rules at the time. It is understood the apology was made by a government official, in a telephone call – rather than in a conversation involving Mr Johnson.
Asked about the latest allegations, Ms Truss, the foreign secretary, said Mr Johnson had apologised for his actions and insisted the public should “look at the overall position we’re in as a country”, citing Brexit and Covid recovery as the PM’s real legacy. “I think we now need to move on … and, of course, wait for the results of the Sue Gray inquiry,” she told ITV News.
Angela Rayner calls for PM’s resignation, saying: ‘He can’t keep hiding’
Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, has also called for the PM to step down.
She said: “Boris Johnson is yet again insulting the intelligence of the British people rather than just doing the decent thing and coming clean.
“So many people lost loved ones in unimaginably lonely circumstances, the denials and excuses from Downing Street are causing them further hurt.
“We have a prime minister up to his neck in scandals of his own making. He can no longer do his job but is so desperate to save his own skin he is looking for anyone else to blame. He can’t keep hiding.”
Keir Starmer: ‘Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign’
Keir Starmer, responding to Downing Street’s apology to Buckingham Palace, said: “This shows just how seriously Boris Johnson has degraded the office of prime minister.
The Labour leader added: “The Conservatives have let Britain down. An apology isn’t the only thing the prime minister should be offering the palace today. Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign.”
Call for Johnson to apologise personally to Queen
The No 10 apology is understood to have been made by an official, rather than Boris Johnson himself.
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: “Boris Johnson should apologise personally to the Queen for the offence he’s caused her, and millions around the country mourning for loved ones.
“He should also use that opportunity to officially hand in his resignation.”
Time for PM to resign, customers at Co-op near Whitehall say
More from our reporter Chiara Giordano now, who is out and about on The Strand, in central London, talking to customers at the branch of Co-op where it is alleged government staff bought booze for their 16 April party.
A customer, who said he knew Boris Johnson, told The Independent he believed it was time for the prime minister to resign.
The man, who did not want to be named, said reaction upon learning of the latest allegations was “disappointment at the character of leaders we have nowadays”.
“I have the feeling standards of behaviour amongst senior individuals across a number of areas of life seem to have fallen,” he said.
“There seems to be a belief that they can get away with an awful lot of things and they have to give the apologies when they get caught out. Many times they do avoid the consequences.
“I think the reality is the people who have control directly of his job don’t really care about the behaviour, they care whether they get re-elected or not. I think the belief that he is an asset is changing – but I think the uncertainty in their mind is not a moral one of right and wrong, it’s whether he is an asset to get re-elected.”
BREAKING: No 10 apologises to Buckingham Palace
No 10 has apologised to Buckingham Palace after it was revealed parties were held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, but is refusing to say if Boris Johnson knew about them.
It is understood the apology was made by a Downing Street official, in a telephone call – rather than in in a conversation involving the prime minister, our deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman refused to say if the apology to the Palace acknowledged that the gatherings were “social events” – which would have been in breach of Covid rules at the time.
No 10 has apologised to Buckingham Palace after parties were held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, but is refusing to say if Boris Johnson knew about them.
Sue Gray’s inquiry to cover parties on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral – report
The fresh allegations of rule-breaking in Downing Street, at least some of which took place on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, will be covered by the Sue Gray inquiry, it has been reported.
It is understood the senior official will consider the reports as part of her investigation into various gatherings across Whitehall – all allegedly held while England had some kind of Covid restrictions in place, reports the PA news agency.
It comes after security minister Damian Hinds said this morning he thought the new revelations would form part of Ms Gray’s probe.
Critics have suggested Ms Gray’s inquiry can’t be considered “independent”, as it has been billed, because she reports to the levelling up secretary Michael Gove – who in turn reports to Boris Johnson.
However, the government maintains Ms Gray is a civil servant and therefore is not a direct employee of the PM’s.
People should ‘move on’ from partygate, says Liz Truss
Following my earlier post (11am), here’s Adam Forrest with more detail on Liz Truss’ remarks on partygate.
Despite mounting pressure on Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary suggested the PM’s apology for attending a “bring your own booze” event in the No 10 garden in May 2020 was good enough to draw a line under the matter for now.
Asked about questions over the PM’s “moral authority”, the senior minister told reporters: “The prime minister apologised on Wednesday. He was very clear that mistakes have been made … I think we now need to move on.”
Ms Truss, one of the favourites to succeed Mr Johnson, added she “100 per cent support him to continue getting on with the job”.
Foreign secretary says she ‘100 per cent’ supports PM to continue in job
Former civil servants ‘disgusted’ by latest No 10 party claims
On that note, our reporter Chiara Giordano is out in central London today, gauging people’s opinions of the PM in the wake of reports there were parties held at Downing Street the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
The general feeling outside the Co-op on The Strand this morning has been one of disappointment.
Two former civil servants said they were “disgusted” by the latest No 10 party allegations, including that a staffer was sent to the supermarket with a suitcase to fill with bottles of wine.
One, who wished to only be named as Richard, told The Independent: “I’m pretty disgusted really because so many people were keeping to the rules and the people who actually were making the rules decided they could break them.”
Asked whether he thought the prime minister should resign over the string of lockdown-breaking allegations in recent weeks, he added: “Yes, he probably should – but as a Labour supporter I’m quite happy for him to be here and to mess things up.”
His wife Hilary said the allegations seemed to be affecting attitudes towards all politicians, which she believed was unfair.She added: “We are both former civil servants – we would not behave like that. That somebody would offer a meeting with alcohol…it’s completely different rules to when we were civil servants.”
Labour takes 11-point poll lead as PM ‘more unpopular than May’
Amid ongoing allegations into potentially illegal lockdown parties, held by government staff, Labour is making gains in the latest political polls.
A YouGov survey, published this morning and conducted between 12 and 13 January, has Sir Keir Starmer’s party 11 percentage points above Boris Johnson’s.
A separate survey by the polling giant shows the PM is now more unpopular among the British public than Theresa May was at any point during her time in office.
Ms May reached a low of -49 points on 14 to 15 May in 2019, but Mr Johnson now stands at -52 with nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of the British public now having an unfavourable opinion of him.
Met Police still refusing to probe No 10 parties on eve of royal funeral
The Metropolitan Police says it will not change its position on investigating Downing Street parties after allegations over two new gatherings.
A spokesperson for the force told The Independent that two reported leaving events for Boris Johnson’s then-director of communications and a personal photographer on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral would not be investigated before a Cabinet Office inquiry ends, writes our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden.
They pointed to a statement released on Thursday, which police “do not normally investigate breaches of coronavirus regulations when they are reported long after they are said to have taken place”.
Force says it will consider any evidence of potential criminal offences from Sue Gray’s report