Boris Johnson set to apologise as Sue Gray finally releases report

24 May 2022, 06:23 | Updated: 24 May 2022, 15:07

By Daisy Stephens

Boris Johnson is set to apologise again over Partygate after more photos leaked from Downing Street.

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It is reportedly due to come as Sue Gray publishes her report on Wednesday, after criticism over meetings between her and the Prime Minister.

He is expected to address the fallout from the senior civil servant's report across a series of appearances, including PMQs, a Commons statement and a press conference.

Grant Shapps has told LBC he was "angry" and "disappointed" to see the photos of Boris Johnson at a party while the country was in lockdown.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, the Transport Secretary said he was angry because he made sacrifices throughout the pandemic, but said the Prime Minister had not intentionally misled MPs.

"Like many of your listeners I couldn't see my own dad for four months, who was in hospital during this period, it makes me angry to see pictures," he said when Nick asked him about the photos.

"We know that the police have thoroughly investigated.

"They haven't fined the Prime Minister for that event and I think the Prime Minister came to the house and said what he said, believing that he had literally just popped by.

"Presumably he'd left his office, walked by there, raised a glass to a longstanding member of staff who was leaving and left the room, and I assume that's why the police have not provided a Fixed Penalty Notice."

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When Nick asked who his anger was directed at, Mr Shapps said: "I think that the Downing Street operation, as the Prime Minister has said, was a let-down.

"The Prime Minister has apologised, he agrees."

"He's responsible for it, isn't he, Mr Shapps?" challenged Nick. He asked if Mr Shapps was angry at Mr Johnson for attending the event.

"The Prime Minister has already said he's disappointed in himself for what happened over that period of time, and let's remember the Prime Minister himself had only been in hospital during that year in a very touch and go situation, he lost his mum during coronavirus, he was affected in many different ways by what happened in coronavirus," said the Transport Secretary.

"So I don't think he was going out of his way to break rules but I think he's disappointed, as am I, about what happened."

The photo shows Mr Johnson raising a glass with at least eight other people, including the photographer
The photo shows Mr Johnson raising a glass with at least eight other people, including the photographer. Picture: ITV News

Boris Johnson is facing fresh accusations he lied to Parliament after photographs emerged of him raising a glass at a Downing Street leaving party during lockdown, with even MPs from his own party calling for him to resign.

The images - obtained by ITV News - were taken at a do for departing communications chief Lee Cain on 13 November 2020, just days after Mr Johnson had ordered a second national lockdown in England.

Asked last December in the Commons whether there had been a party in No 10 on that date, the Prime Minister said "no" and added he was sure the rules were followed at all times.

Read more: Boris Johnson pictured raising a glass at Downing Street party during lockdown

Read more: There may be trouble ahead as the PM and his enemies await Sue Gray's report, says Andrew Marr

Veteran Conservative backbench MP Sir Roger Gale became the first Tory MP to call for Mr Johnson to resign, saying "honourably, there is only one answer" after the Prime Minister "misled us from the despatch box".

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has also called for Mr Johnson to explain his behaviour, and his predecessor Baroness Davidson said the Prime Minister's position had become untenable.

Conservative MP Steve Baker did not call for Mr Johnson to resign, but he posted an image on Twitter of one of the Government's adverts.

It shows a Covid patient in an oxygen mask and reads: "Look into her eyes and tell her you never bend the rules."

Mr Baker did not put a caption in the tweet.

Labour said there was now "no doubt" that Mr Johnson had "lied" to MPs.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: "Boris Johnson said repeatedly that he knew nothing about law-breaking – there’s no doubt now, he lied.

"The Prime Minister has demeaned his office.

"He made the rules, and then broke them. The British people deserve better."

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey hit out at Mr Johnson and Tory MPs who "continue to let him stay" in office, highlighting a report from The Times that Mr Johnson tried to encourage Sue Gray not to publish her report into lockdown-breaching parties.

"Now we discover Boris Johnson not only broke the law and lied about it, but tried to hide the whole Sue Gray report," he said.

"Yet Tory MPs still continue to let him stay in Number 10.

"They are taking the British people for fools."

Boris Johnson later told MPs no party was held on that day and said all the rules were followed
Boris Johnson later told MPs no party was held on that day and said all the rules were followed. Picture: Alamy

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police is facing questions as to why Mr Johnson was not fined in relation to the event when photographs showed him, drink in hand, alongside a table strewn with food and wine bottles.

There were at least eight other people in the room at a time when people were banned from social mixing, other than to meet one person outside, and at least one individual has received a fixed penalty notice in relation to an event on that date.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper has written to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) calling for it to examine the Met's Operation Hillman inquiry into events in No 10 and Whitehall.

The latest revelations come as Sue Gray, the senior civil servant who investigated lockdown breaches in Whitehall, is preparing to publish her final report.

Supporters of the Prime Minister have been growing in confidence that he can survive calls for his resignation after receiving just one fine over a gathering the Cabinet Office for his 56th birthday.

But there is still nervousness at Westminster that his position could come under renewed pressure if - as many expect - Ms Gray is highly critical of the culture in No 10 and Whitehall which resulted in repeated violations of the rules.

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The Times has reported Mr Johnson suggested to Ms Gray that there was now no need for her to publish her report following the completion of the police investigation.

The paper quoted a Whitehall source as saying: "He asked her was there much point in doing it now that it's all out there."

There was no immediate comment from No 10.

In the short term, Mr Johnson's fate will lie with Tory MPs who will have to decide whether Ms Gray's findings are sufficiently serious to warrant a push to oust him as leader.

On Monday, Scottish Tory leader Mr Ross demanded the Prime Minister explain why he believed his behaviour was "acceptable" when most people would think the pictures published by ITV News were "unjustifiable and wrong".

Sir Roger, a long-standing critic of Mr Johnson, said it was clear that he should go.

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"It's absolutely clear that there was a party, that he attended it, that he was raising a glass to toast one of his colleagues," he told Times Radio

"And therefore, he misled us from the despatch box.

"And, honourably, there is one answer."

His comments were echoed by the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Baroness Davidson, who said Mr Johnson's position had become untenable.

"There is now photographic evidence that when the Prime Minister stood up in Parliament and was asked directly 'was there a party in No 10 on this date' and he replied 'no', he lied to Parliament," she told Channel 4 News.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: "The Cabinet Office and the Met Police have had access to all information relevant to their investigations, including photographs.

"The Met have concluded their investigation and Sue Gray will publish her report in the coming days, at which point the Prime Minister will address Parliament in full."