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Public ‘WON’T accept PM’s claims’ over party scandal as Tory MPs call for him to QUIT

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THE PUBLIC “won’t accept” Boris Johnson’s claims that he thought the Downing Street garden party was a “work event” amid growing calls for the PM to quit.

Northern Ireland First Minister Paul Givan said the controversy surrounding the Prime Minister was proving a distraction to efforts to convey public health messaging in Northern Ireland.

“I don’t think the public accepted that justification, if it was an attempt to justify that this wasn’t a party and that it was work-related,” he said.

“So ultimately, Boris Johnson needs to be able to convince the general public, he also needs to be able to convince his own party. It is they who will decide the future of the Prime Minister. Either he takes a decision himself around his future or it’ll be the Conservative Party that will take that decision.

“And this report, I think, is going to be very important, which Sue Gray is responsible for. I think there is an imperative for that work to come to a conclusion so that we can all draw a line under this and ensure that the wider public health messaging is consistent, rather than being distracted by what’s going on at Downing Street.”

The news comes as Boris Johnson apologised to the Commons yesterday over his involvement in the Downing Street lockdown parties – but a number of Tory MPs are calling for him to quit.

Read our covid live blog below for the latest news and updates…

  • Statement by Jonathan Van-Tam

    Confirming the news of his departure, he said “My time as DCMO have been the most challenging of my professional career, especially the Covid response.

    “We all wish Covid had never happened. Notwithstanding, it has been the greatest privilege of my professional career to have served the people of the UK during this time.”

  • Long week ahead

    Mr Johnson will now spend an agonising weekend awaiting the results of an investigation by Whitehall sleaze-buster Sue Gray.

    He had spent almost 48 hours trying to avoid discussing the leaked party invite that has rocked Westminster, insisting he could not comment while the probe was ongoing.

  • Met Police will NOT investigate Downing Street lockdown parties

    THE Metropolitan Police will NOT investigate any of the Downing Street parties unless and until the Sue Gray inquiry finds evidence of criminality.

    Boris Johnson yesterday apologised in Parliament for attending an event at No10 during lockdown but claimed it was a “work event”.

    The Met Police said in a statement: “Officers do not normally investigate breaches of coronavirus regulations when they are reported long after they are said to have taken place.

    “However if significant evidence suggesting a breach of the regulations becomes available, officers may review and consider it.”

    It continued: “The Cabinet Office is conducting an inquiry into gathering at Number 10 Downing Street and the Department for Education.

    “The Met has ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office in relation to this inquiry. If the inquiry identifies evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.”

    The Prime Minister said he went into the sunshine 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.”

  • Explained: Who are the 1922 Committee?

    The 1922 Committee has 18 executive members who organise weekly meetings and other business.

    They earned the nickname “men in suits” or “men in grey suits” in the 1980s after prompting the resignation of Margaret Thatcher.

    Committee Chair Sir Graham Brady resigned in May 2019, but was re-elected in July 2021.

    Here’s a list of current executive members:

    • Sir Graham Brady (Chair)
    • William Wragg (Joint Vice-Chair)
    • Nusrat Ghani (Joint Vice-Chair)
    • Bob Blackman (Joint Executive Secretary)
    • Gary Sambrook (Joint Executive Secretary)
    • Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Treasurer)
    • Sir Bernard Jenkin
    • Karl McCartney
    • Sir Bernard Jenkin
    • Jason McCartney
    • Nicola Richards
    • Sheryll Murray
    • Richard Holden
    • Martin Vickers
  • UK data watchdog orders for No.10 staff (continued…)

    The ICO said in a statement: “It is an important principle of government transparency and accountability that official records are kept of key actions and decisions.

    “Relevant information that exists in the private correspondence channels of public authorities should be available and included in responses to information requests received.

    “Erasing, destroying or concealing information within scope of a Freedom of Information request, with the intention of preventing its disclosure is a criminal offence under section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act.”

  • UK data watchdog warns No.10 staff not to delete messages

    The UK’s data watchdog has warned that it is important “official records are kept” as Downing Street staff face an investigation over allegations of lockdown-breaking.

    The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it was potentially a “criminal offence” to erase communications, including messages which takes place within “private correspondence channels of public authorities”.

    The statement comes amid reports that No 10 staff have been told to wipe their phones of any information that could potentially be incriminating during senior civil servant Sue Gray’s investigation into claims that Government parties were held in contravention to coronavirus restrictions.

    Cabinet Office official Ms Gray is said to be interviewing Government staff as she looks to determine the facts behind the allegations.

    The Independent said it had spoken to two No 10 sources who claimed a senior member of staff told them it would be a “good idea” to remove any messages implying they had attended or were aware of events that could “look like a party”.

    The sources told the paper the “clean-up” suggestion was made early last month after the first reports emerged of parties at Downing Street.

  • Kit Malthouse steps out in support of PM

    Kit Malthouse, crime and policing minister, said Boris Johnson was right to apologise and people should wait for the outcome of civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry.

    He said: “I think he was right to apologise and, absolutely, I do support him.

    “Over the last couple of years he’s done an extraordinary job bringing us through the pandemic.

    “He’s obviously apologised to the House (of Commons), there’s an inquiry under way.

    “We have to wait and see what the inquiry says, and then see what he has to say in the House of Commons.”

  • No.10 insists Cabinet is behind PM as he faces calls to quit

    Coronavirus lockdown rules had been “very hard for people to obey”, a Cabinet minister said as allies rallied round Boris Johnson over his attendance at a No 10 drinks event while social gatherings were banned.

    The Prime Minister apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, during the first coronavirus lockdown, but insisted he believed it was a work event and could “technically” have been within the rules.

    Members of the Government urged critics of the Prime Minister to wait for the findings of an official investigation into alleged lockdown-busting parties before passing judgment after Tory MPs began publicly calling for him to quit.

    The Prime Minister pulled out of a planned visit to a vaccination centre in Lancashire on Thursday, where he would have faced questions from the media about his actions, because a family member tested positive for coronavirus.

    Senior civil servant Sue Gray is examining a series of parties and gatherings held in No 10 and Whitehall in 2020 while coronavirus restrictions were in force.

  • NI First Minister Paul Givan says pubic don’t accept PM’s claims

    Northern Ireland’s First Minister Paul Givan said the public have not accepted Boris Johnson’s claim that he believed the Downing Street gathering was a work event.

    “I don’t think the public accepted that justification, if it was an attempt to justify that this wasn’t a party and that it was work-related,” he said.

    “So ultimately, Boris Johnson needs to be able to convince the general public, he also needs to be able to convince his own party.

    “It is they who will decide the future of the Prime Minister. Either he takes a decision himself around his future or it’ll be the Conservative Party that will take that decision.

    “And this report, I think, is going to be very important, which Sue Gray is responsible for.

    “I think there is an imperative for that work to come to a conclusion so that we can all draw a line under this and ensure that the wider public health messaging is consistent, rather than being distracted by what’s going on at Downing Street.”

  • Boris Johnson’s family member tests positive for Covid

    The Prime Minister has pulled out of visiting a vaccination centre in Burnley and participating in a pooled TV interview after a family member has tested positive for Covid.

    No10 said Boris will not travel – even though he doesn’t need to isolate.

    Under his own government’s rules, those who are fully jabbed – like the PM is – do not need to quarantine even if a member of their household tests positive.

    A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister will no longer be visiting Lancashire today due to a family member testing positive for coronavirus.

    “He will follow the guidance for vaccinated close contacts, including daily testing and limiting contact with others.”

  • Health secretary spoke in the House of Commons earlier today

    The Health Secretary said: “UKHSA data shows that around two-thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five and we want to use the testing capacity that we’ve built up to help these people leave isolation safely.

    “After reviewing all of the evidence, we’ve made the decision to reduce the minimum self-isolation period to five full days in England.

    “From Monday, people can test twice before they go – leaving isolation at the start of day six.

    “These two tests are critical to these balanced and proportionate plans, and I’d urge everyone to take advantage of the capacity we have built up in tests so we can restore the freedoms to this country while we’re keeping everyone safe.”

  • Major developments

    • Cabinet Minister Brandon Lewis insisted BoJo will win the next election
    • A poll put the Tories at their lowest rating in almost a decade
    • Mr Johnson cancelled a planned visit to a vaccination centre
    • Sajid Javid prepared to make a Covid statement in the Commons
  • Jonathan Van-Tam is a familiar face to many

    The top doc, affectionately nicknamed JVT by ministers, is a familiar face at Covid briefings and was recently knighted in the New Year’s Honours.

    His clear explanation of the pandemic situation – often through fun footballing metaphors – won him a legion of supporters.

    The Boston United megafan also continued working in vaccination centres despite holding the high-profile role.

    His departure comes as Omicron infections appear to have past the peak, with ministers increasingly hopeful of easing restrictions in a few weeks.

  • What PM’s have faced a no confidence motion?

    Here is a list of PMs who faced a confidence motion since 1924:

    • Theresa May (2018)
    • John Major (1992), (1993)
    • Margaret Thatcher (1980), (1981), (1985), (1990)
    • Jim Callaghan (1976), (1977), (1979 – lost)
    • Sir Edward Heath (1972), (1973)
    • Harold Wilson (1964), (1965), (1967)
    • Harold Macmillan (1962)
    • Sir Anthony Eden (1956)
    • Sir Winston Churchill (1952)
    • Clement Attlee (1945)
    • Neville Chamberlain (1940)
    • Ramsay MacDonald (1924 – lost)
    • Stanley Baldwin (1924 – lost)
  • Boris Johnson’s full apology

    Boris Johnson told MP’s: “I certainly wish that things would have happened differently on the evening of May the 20th and I apologise for all the misjudgements that have been made, for which I take full responsibility.”

    And he claimed he thought it was a “work event” and he had thanked groups of staff “before going back into my office 25 minutes later”.

    He said that “with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside… I should have recognised that even if it did fall within the guidance, there would be millions of people who would simply not see it that way.”

  • Boris mocked by many

    Boris Johnson has been mocked online for claiming that he thought that the Downing Street party was a “work event”.

    The trolling started after the PM finally admitted that he did attend the garden party and apologised – but claimed he believed it was a work event.

    He told furious MPs in the House of Commons that he had only gone into the garden for 25 minutes before going back to work.

    Twitter has exploded with hundreds of users reacting to his comments, many poking fun at Boris’ claims.

    One user compared the Prime Minster to Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Wolf of Wall Street.

    Another mocked up a meme of the Prime Minister taking part in hit show “Would I Lie to You” – with the caption “I once spent 25 minutes at a party but mistook it for a work event.

  • Boris Johnson labelled ‘health hazard’ by campaigners

    Raging campaigners branded him a “walking public health hazard” for trying to defend it as a work gathering – and demanded he quit.

    Meanwhile, exhausted NHS doctors said they felt “insulted” as they tried not to pass out taking care of Covid victims for hours on end in layers of PPE in the heatwave taking place at the time.

    It came after the PM issued a grovelling apology this lunchtime, admitting he did attend the May 20 bash – but thought it was a work event.

    Breaking cover for the first time since the leaked email invite was revealed, he said in hindsight it should not have happened and he should have ordered everyone to go home, rather than thanking staff before heading back to his office.

    Hannah Brady from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, who met the PM in the very same garden the drinks took place in, said MPs had a “moral duty” to boot him out now for attending the gathering.

  • Boris Johnson’s grovelling won’t save him

    This is a comment piece by Trevor Kavanagh

    “MR Speaker, I want to apologise.”

    Boris Johnson’s grovelling apology to the House of Commons was as dramatic as it was abject.

    The question now is not if or when he will be challenged as Prime Minister but how.

    Public opinion is settled. Two out of three voters want him out of Downing Street.

    Four out of ten Tories agree.

    Yesterday’s performance is unlikely to change those views.

    Boris has been on a final warning since losing rock-solid North Shropshire in last month’s catastrophic by-election.

    His legendary capacity for dodging bullets has run out of steam amid a near-total collapse in public trust.

    There is only so much punishment a Prime Minister can take.

  • Who are the members of the 1922 Committee?

    The 1922 Committee has 18 executive members who organise weekly meetings and other business.

    They earned the nickname “men in suits” or “men in grey suits” in the 1980s after prompting the resignation of Margaret Thatcher.

    Committee Chair Sir Graham Brady resigned in May 2019, but was re-elected in July 2021.

    Here’s a list of current executive members:

    • Sir Graham Brady (Chair)
    • William Wragg (Joint Vice-Chair)
    • Nusrat Ghani (Joint Vice-Chair)
    • Bob Blackman (Joint Executive Secretary)
    • Gary Sambrook (Joint Executive Secretary)
    • Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Treasurer)
    • Sir Bernard Jenkin
    • Karl McCartney
    • Sir Bernard Jenkin
    • Jason McCartney
    • Nicola Richards
    • Sheryll Murray
    • Richard Holden
    • Martin Vickers
  • New rules explained

    Under new rules, which will come into force on Monday (January 17), people in England with Covid can leave isolation after five full days.

    This is providing they test negative on lateral flow tests on day five and six however.

    So, if you didn’t have any symptoms but tested positive on a lateral flow, you must wait until you get a negative test on the fifth and sixth day after you had that first result.

    And if you did have Covid symptoms and then tested positive on a lateral flow, you can take tests on the fifth and sixth day after the first day you noticed symptoms.

  • 79% of Adults have had booster

    Sajid Javid says 79% of eligible adults have now had a booster, following the great vaccine effort.

    The figure for over 50’s is also at 91%.

    The Health Secretary has said the UK is the most boosted large country in the world, per capita.

  • Labour welcomes the changes

    Wes Streeting, The Shadow Health Secretary, says Labour welcomes the announcement the health secretary has made on the reduction of the Covid isolation period to five days.

    However Wes Streeting urged Javid to ‘sort out’ the accessibility of testing after many struggled to get test kits.

    He said “Workforce shortages are one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS and the wider economy.”

  • Omicron is less severe

    The Health Secretary said: “Omicron is less severe, but no one should be under any illusions. It is severe for anyone who ends up in hospitals.

    “We started this year as the freest country in Europe, thanks to the decisions we made in the summer.

    “The virus is still with us and there are likely to be difficult weeks again.

    “According the to ONS data published yesterday there are encouraging signs.”

  • Omicron is less severe

    The Health Secretary said: “Omicron is less severe, but no one should be under any illusions. It is severe for anyone who ends up in hospitals.

    “We started this year as the freest country in Europe, thanks to the decisions we made in the summer.

    “The virus is still with us and there are likely to be difficult weeks again.

    “According the to ONS data published yesterday there are encouraging signs.”

  • Self-isolation CUT to five full days

    The Health Secretary revealed the major rule change will coming in next Monday to ministers today in the House of Commons.

    Calls had come to slash the isolation period to stop mass staff absences, which have left the NHS struggling.

    Health chiefs had resisted doing this sooner, after reducing isolation from ten to seven days just before Christmas.

    But after Government research suggested the rule change would only result in an extra two in 100 people ending quarantine while still infectious, ministers changed their minds.

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