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PM 'deserves to be trusted' but partygate response 'not good enough', says Lord Frost

13 April 2022, 00:27 | Updated: 13 April 2022, 08:54

Lord Frost told LBC Boris Johnson "deserves to be trusted" but said so far the Government's response to partygate is "not good enough"
Lord Frost told LBC Boris Johnson "deserves to be trusted" but said so far the Government's response to partygate is "not good enough". Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has told LBC Boris Johnson "deserves to be trusted" by the public - but has said so far the Government's response to partygate is "not good enough".

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Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Lord Frost said a Fixed Penalty Notice is not "in itself grounds for resignation" but said he was 'concerned' about the fact the Prime Minister appeared to have misled parliament.

"That’s why I think it’s not possible just to say ‘that was then, this is now, let’s move on, the world is different’ as the Government is trying to this morning," he said.

"I don’t think that’s quite good enough.

"First of all I think the Prime Minister is on record saying to Parliament that all the rules were observed and there were no parties.

"That’s obviously not the case.

"I think it’s very important in our constitutional system that correct information is given to Parliament, so I hope the Prime Minister will come to the house on Tuesday and make it clear what the actual position is."

He also pointed out that the investigation is ongoing and there could be more fines to come - and called for the full Sue Gray report to be published soon.

"The second concern is that this is an ongoing process, we don’t yet know what other penalties may be issued and to whom, I think as I suggested this morning if there’s some thought in bringing forward the Sue Gray report I think that will be a good idea," he said.

But despite this, he said, whilst Boris Johnson has has to "explain himself to Parliament", he has the "right to be trusted".

When Nick asked if he would have knowingly misled parliament, he said: "No. Absolutely not."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday rejected calls to resign but says people have the right to "expect better" after he was slapped with a fine for breaking lockdown rules at No10.

The Prime Minister, his wife Carrie and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak all apologised on Tuesday and confirmed they had paid fines imposed by the Metropolitan Police over a party held on June 19, 2020 to mark Mr Johnson's 56th birthday.

Mr Johnson said he offers a "full apology" but won't resign over the lockdown breach, saying the best thing he can do now is "focus on the job in hand".

He claims it "did not occur" to him that the gathering might be breaching Covid rules, while Rishi Sunak said he understood that "for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence".

There have been calls for the pair to resign since news broke of the partygate fines, with the latest polling suggesting people have lost confidence in Mr Johnson as PM.

Read more: Boris and Rishi say sorry over Partygate fines but insist they won't quit

Read more: PM, Carrie and Chancellor hit with fines for lockdown-busting party breaches

A poll of 2,464 adults by YouGov has revealed 57% of responders think Boris Johnson should resign as Prime Minister, while 30% say he should stay.

The same proportion said Rishi Sunak should also resign as Chancellor for being at the same event, a birthday party for the Prime Minister in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street.

And 75% of responders said they thought Mr Johnson knowingly lied to Parliament about whether he broke lockdown rules, with just 12% saying he did not.

In his apology, Mr Johnson said he "spoke in completely good faith" when he repeatedly said all guidelines were followed in Downing Street as it did not occur to him that he was in breach of the rules.

"When I said that I spoke in completely good faith because as I've said to you just now I... at the time that I was standing up for nine minutes in the Cabinet Room where I work every day, it didn't occur to me that, as I say, that I was in breach of the rules," he said.

"I now humbly accept that I was."

He said he "fully respects" the outcome of the Metropolitan Police investigation and that he accepts "in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better".

"Now I feel an even greater sense of obligation to deliver on the priorities of the British people," he vowed.

Read more: 'Deeply offensive': tearful daughter of Covid victim calls for Johnson to go

Read more: Alastair Campell: 'Complete charlatan' Boris Johnson must resign over partygate fine

Rishi Sunak had to be talked out of resigning in order to avoid putting pressure on the Prime Minister to do the same, The Times reported on Tuesday.

He eventually issued a statement saying he had paid his fixed penalty notice and is "focused on delivering for the British people", signalling he would stay in his job.

The Chancellor said: "I offer an unreserved apology.

"I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine.

"I know people sacrificed a great deal during Covid, and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry.

Read more: PM staying on 'a very sad moment for our democracy', says David Lammy

Read more: Partygate fines: Eddie Mair grills Tory MP over PM's future

"Like the Prime Minister, I am focused on delivering for the British people at this challenging time."

The bulk of the Cabinet have thrown their support behind Mr Johnson.

Veteran Conservative Sir Roger Gale, who previously called for him to resign, now says the news of the Prime Minister being fined should not distract from confronting Russia.

"It's serious of course," said the MP for North Thanet.

"My position remains that the fact that the Prime Minister has effectively misled the House of Commons is a very serious issue indeed, but we are in the middle of an international crisis and I am not prepared to give Vladimir Putin the comfort of thinking that we are about to unseat the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and destabilise the coalition against Putin."

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross echoed those sentiments, saying it "wouldn't be right" to remove the Prime Minister during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Ross had previously submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson's leadership.

Other senior Tories to offer their backing to the under-fire leader include Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, with cabinet ministers praising Mr Johnson's leadership during Covid and Brexit and also pointing to the war in Ukraine.

Read more: Tearful caller demands Boris Johnson's resignation following partygate fine

However, political critics have piled on the pressure for Mr Johnson to walk away from the top job following the police decision to issue him with a fine.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the police's decision marked the "first time in the history of our country that a prime minister has been found to be in breach of the law".

He accused Mr Johnson of "repeatedly" lying about what happened behind the famous black door of No 10.

Sir Keir also argued that the Tory leader and Mr Sunak had "dishonoured" the sacrifices made by Britons who did follow the rules during the pandemic.

"The British public made the most unimaginable, heart-wrenching sacrifices, and many were overcome by guilt," he said.

"But the guilty men are the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.

"Britain deserves better, they have to go."

Sadiq Khan, who succeeded Mr Johnson as London mayor, said the Prime Minister "isn't fit for office".

"Families made huge sacrifices and obeyed the law. Many said their last goodbyes to loved ones on the phone while the Prime Minister partied," he tweeted.

"Boris Johnson must resign."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said both the Prime Minister and Chancellor "must resign now".

Mr Blackford said: "The Prime Minister repeatedly misled Parliament, lied to the public and at times even simply laughed it off, taking the public for fools.

"In reality, Johnson and Sunak have overseen one of the biggest lockdown breaches that has led to the Metropolitan Police issuing a staggering number of fines for rule-breaking."

Mr Johnson did not rule out the prospect he could be fined again for further events.