UK Covid stay: Boris Johnson can’t defend No 10 social gathering by claiming it was work, says Labour | Politics

Good morning. Like many politicians, Boris Johnson usually lives by the dictum, “By no means apologise, by no means clarify”. (It’s a saying attributed to varied folks, however the most effective supply for it I can discover is Jacky Fisher, first sea lord within the first world conflict, who wrote in a letter to the Occasions “By no means contradict, by no means clarify, by no means apologise”.) However as we speak, in relation to the experiences that he attended a workers social gathering within the Downing Road backyard on 20 Could 2020, when the nation was in lockdown and outside gatherings had been banned, Johnson is sort of definitely going to must provide you with some type of apology and a few type of clarification. Yesterday No 10 was attempting to stay to the road that it might wait till Sue Grey, the senior civil servant investigating all of the partygate allegations, produces her report. However anybody following the Westminster information from yesterday for greater than about 30 seconds may have twigged that that line can now not maintain.

Right here is the Guardian story summing up the scenario in a single day.

Johnson shall be within the Commons for PMQs at 12pm. Final evening there was speculation about some type of assertion beforehand, however that most likely referred to a plan to start PMQs with a remark addressing the partygate affair, to realize some credit score forward of Keir Starmer’s first query. That is precisely what Johnson did on 8 December, when he was underneath intense stress due to the discharge of the video displaying Allegra Stratton, his then spokesperson, successfully confirming a separate lockdown-busting No 10 social gathering (on 18 December 2020), and laughing about it, at a briefing rehearsal. (The newest allegation is way worse, for causes defined right here yesterday.)

The character of Johnson’s clarification/apology could nicely decide how lengthy he stays as prime minister. Clearly some individuals are more likely to be extra forgiving than others, however what’s going to matter most for Johnson would be the response of Tory MPs, who’ve the facility to set off a confidence vote in the event that they conclude this afternoon that he stays an excessive amount of of a legal responsibility. Finally the general public’s response shall be extra vital (as a result of that may form whether or not Tory MPs conclude he stays viable as a frontrunner), nevertheless it would possibly take longer to evaluate what the general public’s thought of view is.

On condition that some Tory MPs have stated Johnson must resign if he knowingly attended a social social gathering, Johnson is more likely to argue that the 20 Could occasion final yr was basically a piece operate, however in a backyard, with alcohol. Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy chief, has been doing interviews and he or she informed the In the present day programme that this clarification can be implausible. She stated:

I don’t settle for that sending out invites to convey your personal booze – the climate’s pretty, come out into the backyard – to 100 workers as work, to be sincere. I believe it’s very clear that that breaks the Covid guidelines.

Requested if she accepted that the No 10 backyard might be seen as a office, Rayner replied:

Many key employees are NHS workers who had been working very heavy shifts, 12-hour shifts with full PPE on – they didn’t escape into the backyard with cheese and wine and produce your personal booze situations.

They had been working extremely onerous watching folks’s family members die, holding good telephones and iPads in entrance of them so they may say goodbye to their family members – it isn’t acceptable to say: ‘This can be a office backyard, so all of us cracked open the bubbly as a result of it was a very nice day.’

Many individuals on the time understood the principles, and the principles had been very clear.

Largely Johnson’s future shall be decided by what he says at PMQs, however there might be different partygate-related developments as we speak too. A couple of hours after PMQs on 8 December Stratton resigned. Martin Reynolds, who as Johnson’s principal non-public secretary despatched out the invitation to the 20 Could social gathering, is extensively anticipated to go sooner or later and it’s fairly doable that that might be as we speak.

Aside from PMQs, there may be not a lot on the agenda. In the present day the weblog shall be largely centered on Johnson and partygate.

I attempt to monitor the feedback beneath the road (BTL) however it’s unimaginable to learn all of them. In case you have a direct query, do embody “Andrew” in it someplace and I’m extra more likely to discover it. I do attempt to reply questions, and if they’re of basic curiosity, I’ll submit the query and reply above the road (ATL), though I can’t promise to do that for everybody.

If you wish to entice my consideration shortly, it’s most likely higher to make use of Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you may e-mail me at

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