oris Johnson has said he “overwhelmingly” believes he should remain in office despite public anger at the “bitter and painful” conclusions of the Sue Gray inquiry into raucous parties in No 10 during lockdown restrictions.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, the Prime Minister said it “did not occur” to him or senior government officials that Covid rules were being breached in Downing Street during lockdown.
The Gray report, released this morning, includes details of 16 boozy events across Whitehall and in Downing Street in breach of Covid laws. Mr Johnson said much of the content of the report was “news to me”.
It shows photographs from Lee Cain’s lockdown leaving party in November 2020 at which the Prime Minister gave a toast in front of a table strewn with half empty alcohol bottles.
Quizzed on why he had consistently told MPs and the public that he believed “no rules were broken” at the heart of Government, Mr Johnson said: “I’ve tried to explain the context of why I was at other events where I was saying farewell to valued colleagues.
“I know that some people will think it was wrong to even do that. I have to say I respectfully disagree, I think it was right.
“When people who were working very hard, for very long hours, when they are giving up a huge amount to serve their country and they are moving on to some other part of government or leaving government service altogether, I think it is right to thank them.”
Show latest updates
Boris Johnson to face backbench MPs in 1922 Committee meeting
Reports are expecting the Prime Minister to meet backbench MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee at 5pm.
In December 2018 Theresa May survived a vote of no confidence but indicated to the 1922 Committee the following March that she would stand down as party leader, which she eventually did in June 2019.
Boris Johnson has said he “overwhelmingly” believes he should remain in office despite public anger at the “bitter and painful” conclusions of the inquiry into raucous parties in No 10 during lockdown restrictions.
The Prime Minister recognised people are “indignant” over the damning findings of Sue Gray’s report into law-breaking at the heart of Government but defied fresh calls to resign.
Covid victim’s family call on ‘selfish’ PM to resign
The grief-stricken daughter of a Covid victim has said she believes “selfish” Boris Johnson must resign after “raucous and savage behaviour” in Westminster during the pandemic was laid bare in Sue Gray’s report.
Safiah Ngah, 29, wept as she recalled how restrictions in place last February meant she was denied a final goodbye in person with her father, Zahari Ngah, before he died.
Ms Ngah said her 68-year-old father, a retired NHS worker, would have been “scared” and vulnerable without his family in hospital during his last days.
The family had to settle for a video call as their last contact with him – meanwhile Government officials were “cheers-ing”, partying and joking about getting away with it, she said.
She told the PA news agency: “It’s disgusting. It makes me embarrassed to be British.
“The Government is completely out of touch with what real people are experiencing and it’s unsurprising. They’re obviously a group of very privileged people with limited experience.”
Sue Gray halted probe into Winner Takes It All event with ‘food and alcohol’ in Downing Street flat
Sue Gray abandoned her investigation into the “Abba party” held in Boris Johnson’s flat despite finding that alcohol was present on the evening Dominic Cummings was forced out of Downing Street.
The senior civil servant found that the Prime Minister did attend the mid-lockdown gathering along with five special advisers but halted her work having only collected “limited” information when the Metropolitan Police began their investigation.
There was no mention in her report of The Winner Takes It All and other Abba songs reportedly heard blaring from the Downing Street residence after the departure of Mr Cummings as chief adviser was announced following a bitter power struggle.
Old Kent Road restaurant owner fined for leaving do
Our Courts correspondent Tristan Kirk points out the flaws in Boris Johnson’s excuse that he wanted to thank people who were leaving Downing Street.
Mr Johnson had offered a few “points of context” in relation to his presence at the gatherings in Downing Street.
“I want to offer a few points of context. No10 is the HQ of the government. Because officials here support the prime minister the regulations allowed them to continue attending work purposes throughout lockdowns.
“When they were leaving their jobs, I briefly attended gatherings to thank them.”
PM declines to comment on officials named in Gray report
The prime minister has declined to comment on the conduct of officials named in Sue Gray’s report, in particular Martin Reynolds boasting about the bring your own booze party.
Mr Johnson told a press conference: “I don’t want to comment on individuals who are named in the report. I don’t think it’s right for politicians to talk about officials in that way.”
He then appeared to say that he was not aware of the May 20 event being arranged by Mr Reynolds and his subsequent reference to “getting away with it”.
Ms Gray’s report says Mr Johnson appeared at the garden event for 30 minutes at 6pm to “thank staff” before heading into a meeting with Mr Reynolds. He did not return, she added.
“So I want to be clear, I didn’t know that,” he said.
“For instance, a lot of the stuff that I saw in the report this morning was news to me. But I think it’s important that everybody who has and everybody who hasn’t been there, everybody who’s in any way involved in this whole sorry business, has got to learn the lessons, and that applies to everybody in the report.”
PM: I only saw the report this morning
Mr Johnson has denied that he saw the Sue Gray report before it was published this morning.
He says his team only saw the report at 10am.
On allegations that he held a flat party in Downing Street in November 2020, which was not named in the Gray report, he said the meeing was a “work event”.
PM: I genuinely didn’t think I was breaking the rules
ITV’s Paul Brand asks the PM whether he is a liar.
He responds: “Look at what I said to parliament and look at what Sue has said.
“It didn’t occur to me or them that it was a breach of the rules.”
‘Why are only you allowed to answer back’, PM snaps at Sky reporter
Asked by Sky News’ Beth Rigby whether he has considered resigning, Mr Johnson says: “Of course I understand why people are indignant, why people have been angry at what took place.
“All I can say is that given everything going on right now, it’s my job to serve people in this country.
He mentions the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis as reasons for him not to resign.
“It’s my job to get on.”
After Beth Rigby repeats her question, he retorts: “Why are only you allowed to come back Beth?”
He then apologises and answers her question, saying: “I’ve got to keep moving forward and we are.”
Sunak reiterates apology for fine
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has repeated his apology over his fine for attending a birthday gathering for Boris Johnson during lockdown but said he wanted to “move forward”.
He tweeted: “I’m grateful to Sue Gray for her report and I sincerely repeat my apologies for the event I received a fine for.
“The Prime Minister has apologised and lessons have been learned. I hope we can now move forward and continue delivering for the British people.”
‘Much of what I saw in the Gray report was news to me,’ says PM
Mr Johnson denies that he knew of much of the behaviour described in Sue Gray’s report.
“A lot of the stuff I saw in the report this morning was news to me,” he says.