Watch: Partygate video threatens to derail Johnson honours’ list

Will Partygate ever be over? Today’s front page of the Sunday Mirror splashes on leaked footage of Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign team enjoying an illicit Christmas party in December 2020. At least two dozen revellers were filmed drinking and laughing while two even twirled past a sign that reads ‘Please keep your distance’. The news hook for this story is that two of those involved – Bailey himself and his aide Ben Mallett – have just been given honours in Boris Johnson’s resignation list. Bailey gets a peerage while Mallett had to make do with an OBE. The latter might be feeling especially embarrassed today because he’s currently running Moz Hossain’s campaign

Why Boris Johnson might escape a partygate punishment

After several months of anticipation, two contentious legal submissions from Lord Pannick KC and a bumper 52-page witness statement, Boris Johnson finally made his appearance before the Privileges Committee yesterday. Regular select committee watchers might have been surprised to see the panel of seven MPs conduct a forensic examination of Mr Johnson, sticking doggedly to their task, asking detailed questions and marshalling the facts at their disposal with some skill. Harriet Harman proved an adept Chair, keeping the committee on track and precluding too much lengthy meandering by the witness. Johnson was provoked to tetchiness, and even anger. But he could not be goaded into any explosive revelations. This public

Does Boris Johnson’s partygate defence stand up to scrutiny?

This morning, Boris Johnson’s response to the accusations against him was published in a substantial dossier to the Privileges Committee. It comes just a day before the unprecedented hearing that is likely to determine his political future. This submission was a long time coming. In its interim report, published on 3 March, the Committee noted that it had first written to Johnson asking for his version of events as long ago as 21 July last year. Spectator books editor Sam Leith – who worked with Johnson in his former role as Daily Telegraph comment editor – suggested that this late submission was very much ‘on brand for the great man’. What

Geidt of the long knives: what the PM’s ethics adviser’s resignation means

Boris Johnson has lost his second ethics advisor since entering No. 10. This evening Lord Geidt announced his resignation as the Prime Ministers’s independent adviser on ministers’ interests: ‘With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests.’ It’s clearly not good news, yet the timing could have been worse There have been rumours for some time that Geidt – who previously served as the Queen’s private secretary – could be on the brink of resigning. He was brought in last April to replace Sir Alex Allan, who quit the role in late 2020 after Priti Patel, the Home

What Boris needs to do to survive

Most people date the beginning of Boris Johnson’s current woes to the start of the partygate scandal, and especially to the revelations from 10 January 2022 onwards about the ‘bring your own booze’ event that Johnson himself had attended. But Johnson’s problems can also be seen as having started at an earlier date and from a different source. In mid-December Lord Frost resigned from Johnson’s Cabinet, rejecting the additional restrictions proposed in response to Omicron, a few days after Steve Baker and the Covid Recovery Group had led about 100 backbenchers in a revolt against new measures. This meant Boris felt he had to take proposals for a Christmas 2021

The game is up, Boris Johnson

The worst possible outcome for the Conservative and Unionist party is also a pretty lousy result for the country. That this needs saying – that Tory MPs need reminding of this – is itself yet another data point supporting the proposition that Boris Johnson’s leadership has thoroughly corrupted the party. So what to do now? This is now the necessary question. Since Johnson will not depart voluntarily he must be pushed. Those cabinet ministers with an ounce – imperial measurements, obviously – of moral fibre must surely recognise the game is up. This barky won’t float. You cannot credibly lose the support of 40 per cent of the party –

Wolfgang Münchau

How Boris can cling on

What is happening in the UK right now is similar to the later Berlusconi years, the opera buffa phase of Italian politics with bunga-bunga parties, and worse. Readers may remember Berlusconi’s infamous put-down of recession warnings in 2009, when he remarked that he was not worried because the restaurants were still full. I remember having a conversation with a senior minister in his cabinet at the time, who said it was absolutely clear that Berlusconi had to go, and it was just a matter of time. It took another three years. And it was the euro crisis that did it, an event still unforeseen in 2008. History never quite repeats

Partygate is not going away

Tory MPs just want partygate to go away. The hope that the Sue Gray report would be the end of things was always likely to be thwarted by the fact the privileges committee was going to investigate the government too. But before that inquiry has even got going, the story continues to rumble on. This evening brings an annual report from Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on the ministerial code, which is written in Sir Humphrey-esque language but still makes clear how cross he is: It may be especially difficult to inspire that trust in the Ministerial Code if any Prime Minister, whose code it is, declines to refer to it.

Sunday shows round-up: Minister ‘absolutely confident’ No. 10 did not pressure Sue Gray

Andrei Kelin – Russian war crimes allegations are ‘a fabrication’ Clive Myrie took the reins of the BBC’s Sunday Morning show, and the centrepiece was a pre-recorded interview with the Russian ambassador Andrei Kelin. Myrie confronted Kelin with evidence of war crimes by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, as in the town of Bucha and the razing of Mariupol. Kelin spent the interview stonewalling most of Myrie’s claims: Brandon Lewis – If we don’t stand up to Russia now, what’s next? Myrie went on to interview the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis. He asked Lewis if the UK government was prepared to ask Ukraine to cede territory to Russia in order

Boris Johnson’s biggest problem

When the Sue Gray report was published on Wednesday, the most noticeable response was the silence among many Tory MPs. While a handful of Tories came out to criticise the Prime Minister and several came out to back Boris Johnson, the majority kept their powder dry. Since then, there hasn’t been a mass backlash against Johnson. But there has been a steady trickle of Conservative MPs coming out to say Johnson should go (the full list is here). Since Wednesday, MPs Julian Sturdy, Stephen Hammond and Bob Neill are among those to submit letters. Meanwhile, 2019 MPs Angela Richardson, Alicia Kearns and Paul Holmes – who resigned as a PPS

Has Boris Johnson really been ‘humbled’ by the Gray report?

What is Boris Johnson actually accepting responsibility for when he says he is ‘humbled’ by Sue Gray’s report into partygate? Humility isn’t a word often used in connection with Boris Johnson, although it’s hardly valued at all in Westminster, so perhaps he is following a slightly different definition to the rest of us. Or perhaps his line that he is ‘humbled’, which he used again at his Downing Street press conference just now,  was written for him which is why he delivered it with a lack of conviction. He certainly doesn’t seem to be accepting responsibility for attending leaving parties for staff: this afternoon, he once again defended this as being an

Katy Balls

Boris’s new ‘masochism strategy’

How humbled is Boris Johnson by the publication of Sue Gray’s report into partygate? Speaking in the Commons chamber, the Prime Minister attempted to strike a solemn tone at the first of three events today which have been dubbed a ‘masochism strategy’ of taking pain in the chamber, a press conference and then appearing before Tory MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee. Johnson told MPs: ‘I am humbled and I have learned a lesson’. He went on to point out how ‘the entire senior management has changed’ including a new chief of staff, a new director of communications and a new principal private secretary. He described Starmer as ‘Sir Beer

Gus Carter

The dreary truth about partygate

I’m starting to get a bit annoyed about partygate. Well no, that’s a lie. I’m angry in theory. On paper I’m fuming. In real life? Meh. This whole saga has trundled on for so long now I’ve just stopped caring. I’m probably annoyed about something else. Train timetables or maybe the fact that broccoli is £1.60 in M&S. Given how miserable the rest of us were during lockdown, those making the rules should really have done the polite thing and followed them. But then when you read the details of ‘partygate’, you can’t help but think that they weren’t really enjoying themselves. A Colin the Caterpillar cake in between meetings? ‘Wine time

The partygate scalp hunters can’t complain about the fallout now

Robert Peston, the fiercely well-connected political editor of ITV News and a contributor to Coffee House, reports ‘a sense of injustice and considerable upset’ in Downing Street that ‘the 126 Partygate fines have been levied disproportionately on women and junior officials’. Robert quotes a source who complains that ‘the majority’ of those fined are ‘very junior diary managers’ on salaries of roughly £24,000 and that ‘these fines are really stacking up for them’. It seems there is considerable discontent among female staff fined ‘for events they were at with their male bosses who seem to have got away no problem’, and that ‘lawyering up’ appears to have made the difference.

Fraser Nelson

The Met’s partygate investigation was worth the cost

In many ways, it has been absurd to have police spend months (and £460,000) investigating birthday cakes, glasses of wine and garden parties. Lord Finkelstein, the Tory peer and commentator at the Times, has come out against it (‘Playing politics is no business of the police’) and the front page of yesterday’s Daily Mail lambasts the cost. I respectfully disagree. If partygate focuses political minds on the wisdom of lockdown rules, it’s well worth it. Keir Starmer and Danny Finkelstein both voted for Boris Johnson’s lockdown laws. If they now find the laws objectionable if used to investigate past offences by politicians: good. That ought to provide cause for reflection as

Starmer must go – and take Boris with him

Sir Keir Starmer has spent the past 24 hours in the witness protection programme. After the Mail on Sunday published an itinerary of the now infamous visit to Durham, complete with a gathering for beer and curry, the Labour leader’s version of events appears to be in doubt. This afternoon he was a no-show at an Institute for Government event. Then he turned up at a press conference at 4 p.m. and took a gamble: No rules were broken — I’m absolutely clear about that — but, in the event that I’m wrong about that and I get a fixed penalty notice, I’ll do the right thing and step down.

What’s going on with the Met and partygate?

I don’t understand the logic behind how the Met Police is conducting its probe into unlawful parties at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office. My confusion reached brain-aching proportions after my ITV colleague Anushka Asthana disclosed on Friday that officials had received fixed penalty notices – fines – for attending perhaps the most famous of all the Downing Street events, the Bring Your Own Booze garden party on 20 May 2020, revealed by an email leaked to ITV News. The point is that I know of at least two relatively junior officials who have been informed by the police that they’ve been fined. So there is no longer any doubt this

Partygate isn’t a constitutional crisis

As you may have gathered despite the understated media coverage, Boris Johnson became the first serving Prime Minister to be found to have broken the law when he was issued a fixed penalty notice (FPN) by the Metropolitan Police for breaching Covid-related laws on gathering for non-work purposes. There has been much written about this in the press, with distinguished commentators and historians declaring variously that it is a ‘constitutional crisis’, that ‘a law-breaker cannot be a law-maker’ and all shades of outrage between. They may well be right that Boris Johnson’s position is untenable, politically speaking. But they are wrong to say this is a legal or constitutional crisis.

Has Boris really lied yet about partygate?

Labour MPs and parts of the media are currently exploring, as part of the partygate scandal, whether if you repeat often enough that someone has lied, you can make that an accepted fact, even if you do not have a shred of evidence or reason to believe it. The latest example came in the Commons this week when MPs referred Boris Johnson to the privileges committee for potentially misleading parliament. The problem is that Boris Johnson did not lie about having received birthday greetings from work colleagues between work meetings. His team literally briefed the event to the press on the day it occurred. In June 2020, during the height

Boris’s grumpy grilling

Boris Johnson’s India trip hasn’t got off to the best of starts. Seeking to escape domestic woes, the Prime Minister jetted off to the subcontinent yesterday, only to face a fresh row about the Commons U-turn on the parliamentary investigation into Partygate. And Johnson’s irritation at the prospect of yet another inquiry was palpable in an interview he gave to Sky’s Beth Rigby earlier today. Throughout the ten-minute long grilling, the PM sighed exaggeratedly, rolled his eyes, looked at his watch and barely concealed his disdain at his interrogator’s questions. He asked Rigby ‘how many’ times she would ask him about Covid parties, claiming that: ‘You promised to get on, you did