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Boris Johnson news – live: UK told to ‘move on’ from party scandal despite Prince Philip funeral revelation

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Liz Truss suggests British public should ‘move on’ from partygate scandal.mp4

Liz Truss has suggested people should “move on” from so-called partygate, hours after Boris Johnson’s ex-communications chief apologised for an event held in his honour last April at No 10 to mark his departure from the government.

In a statement released on Friday morning by News UK, publisher of The Sun, of which James Slack is now the deputy editor, he said: “I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility.”

It came after it was reported that two events were held on the evening of Friday 16 April 2021 – when England was under step 2 Covid restrictions, which banned indoor mixing and restricted numbers of funerals and weddings, and marked the night before Prince Philip’s funeral that saw the Queen sit alone at a socially-distanced ceremony.

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.

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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.”

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 11:59

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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.

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 11:54

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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”.

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 11:38

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Rayner: PM ‘insulting public’s intelligence’ amid latest party allegations

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has called on Boris Johnson to publicly address the latest party allegations, insisting the PM 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,” she said in a statement issued by the Labour Party’s press office.

“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.

“The Prime Minister needs to make a public statement on this latest revelation today, quickly followed by his resignation.”

Rayner is the MP for Ashton under Lyne

(PA)

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 11:06

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Truss tells people to ‘move on’ from No 10 parties scandal

Foreign secretary Liz Truss says people should “move on” from the so-called partygate scandal in the government, after Boris Johnson apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street garden last year.

Asked about the latest reports of parties taking place the night before Prince Philip’s funeral, and the PM’s “moral authority”, Ms Truss told reporters: “The prime minister apologised on Wednesday. He was very clear that mistakes have been made.

“I do think we need to look at the overall position we’re in as a country: the fact that he has delivered Brexit, that we are recovering from Covid – we’ve got one of the fastest-growing economies now in the G7 and we’re delivering the booster programme.

“He has apologised, I think we now need to move on and talk about how we are going to sort out issues … And we now need to get on with that and, of course, wait for the results of the Sue Gray inquiry.”

Pushed on the matter, she added: “I completely understand people’s anger and dismay about what has happened. The prime minister apologised to the House on Wednesday, I 100 per cent support him to continue getting on with the job.”

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 11:00

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MSP denies Tories split in two after Ross told PM to quit

Over to Scotland, where a Tory MSP has denied the Conservatives are now “two parties”, following Douglas Ross’ call for the PM to resign.

Craig Hoy also reacted to the latest allegations of Downing Street parties, saying that it was “very hard to understand” how anyone thought the behaviour was acceptable.

Mr Ross, leader of the Scottish Tories, called for Boris Johnson to quit on Wednesday, which led to Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg calling him “quite a lightweight figure”.

Speaking on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme, it was put to My Hoy that the Conservatives sounded like “two different parties”. But, he responded: “We’re not two parties at all. There’s absolute unanimity that we believe in Scotland remaining in the UK.

“We want to take the fight to the SNP, we want to hold Nicola Sturgeon to account for her failures in office.”

Asked about Mr Rees-Mogg’s view of the Scottish Tory leader, Mr Hoy said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg is entitled to his view and it is no surprise to you that I disagree with him, [but] I think if you look across the cabinet, there was no support for what Jacob Rees-Mogg said.

In fact, he added, “many MPs and also members of the cabinet, including [Scottish secretary] Alister Jack, disagreed with him”.

Hoy has been MSP for the South Scotland region since May 202

(PA)

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 10:50

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Ministers warned not to leak details of partygate inquiry to media

Back to the reports of No 10 parties. Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has warned the government it would be “entirely inappropriate” for any details of the inquiry into alleged Whitehall and Downing Street parties to be leaked.

He said this morning it would “be discourteous to the House for any findings of the inquiry to be released to the media before being announced to” MPs in the chamber first.

“I cannot be clearer on this matter and expect the government to announce the findings of the inquiry to this House first, and I will treat any failure to do so as a gross discourtesy to this House,” Sir Lindsay told those in the Commons.

Sir Lindsay was responding to a point of order from Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain after she raised concerns over reports in The Telegraph of the two parties said to have taken place in No 10 last year. James Slack, the PM’s former communications director, has already apologised for one of the events held in his honour. The government is yet to confirm, or or deny, the other party took place.

Ms Chamberlain also referred to a Times report which detailed the likely conclusion of the inquiry, and questioned what guidance Sir Lindsay could offer to government ministers and officials to ensure “they do not leak the outcomes” of the investigation.

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 10:18

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Barry Gardiner: The Labour MP under spotlight for links to Lee

Following my last post, here’s a bit more on the Christine Lee story. One particular aspect, which is capturing the nation’s attention, is the suspected Chinese spy’s link to Labour MP Barry Gardiner.

Former shadow cabinet minister Mr Gardiner, who received more than £500,000 over six years from Ms Lee, has said he was “deeply distressed” to learn one of his biggest donors had been illegally trying to influence British politicians. He also insists Ms Lee “gained no political advantage for the Chinese state from me”, but admitted to discussing Labour policy with her.

The link between Mr Gardiner and Ms Lee – a Chinese lawyer, whose central London firm acts as a legal adviser to the capital’s Chinese embassy – was first reported on in 2017. But it was thrust into the spotlight on Thursday when Ms Lee was accused by security agency MI5 of covert “political interference”.

So, how damaging is the pair’s friendship for the Brent North MP? We take a look.

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 10:01

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Security minister announces review into ‘Chinese agent’ Westminster activity

Let’s step away from partygate for a moment. A government security minister has said there will be a review into how suspected Chinese spy Christine Lee got “so close” to senior British politicians.

Damian Hinds was asked how Ms Lee gained access to former PMs Theresa May and David Cameron, to which he told LBC: “You have operators who specialise in trying to, you know, find ways of getting into influential positions and work in all manner of different ways.”

He said the security services had been “aware of this individual for some time”.

Asked if there would now be a review of how she operated for so long, he said: “Yes, I mean, we’re learning all the time, all the implications, of course, have to be able to be taken into account.”

It comes after MI5 issued a warning to MPs yesterday about Ms Lee, a Chinese lawyer accused of working for her country’s government to seek covert influence over British lawmakers and lobby UK parliamentary figures over Chinese investment interests in nuclear power and battery technology.

China has since denied any involvement in interfering with British politics.

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 09:54

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Issues with PM’s leadership ‘goes back to Barnard Castle’ – Tory MP

More from senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale now, who said this morning the PM’s judgment is “flawed” and that he has been calling for him to step down since the Barnard Castle debacle involving former No 10 aide Dominic Cummings.

When asked how damaging more recent revelations of rule-breaking will be for the Tories, Sir Roger told Sky News: “I don’t think the image of the Downing Street brunch with the majestic wine-ware is doing us any good at all, that clearly has to end.”

Pushed on the future of the PM’s position, he said: “I have been described as a serial critic of the prime minister and, in a sense, that is true. My letter calling for a leadership election goes back to the Barnard Castle event when the prime minister failed to take what I regarded as appropriate decisions and actions to remove Mr Cummings from office, because what happened then was quite wrong.

“I decided then that if the prime minister was not capable of exercising the right kind of judgment, then we had to have another prime minister.”

Finishing off his interview, Sir Roger praised Boris Johnson’s delivery of the vaccine rollout and for “getting Brexit Done”, but added: “The problem is that the man’s judgment is flawed.”

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 09:47

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