Not an 'easy day' for Boris Johnson: Jacob Rees-Mogg defends PM in partygate scandal

12 January 2022, 19:44 | Updated: 12 January 2022, 19:59

Partygate scandal: Iain Dale challenges Jacob Rees-Mogg

By Asher McShane

House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended Boris Johnson after the PM was forced to issue a humiliating apology over a party in the garden of No10 during lockdown in May 2020.

Speaking to Iain Dale on LBC, Mr Rees-Mogg said: "The natural state of politics is that there will be a brouhaha about something.

"This is obviously serious otherwise the PM wouldn’t have made the statement he made today, and the apology that he gave is recognising the anger that there is with people whose family members died.

"Politics is not about life being easy for Prime Ministers. It would be hard to argue that this is an easy day.

"I used to work in the City where lots of events that were matters of work were fuelled with alcohol.

"Lunch in the City in the early 1990s was not an entirely dry occasion.

Read more: 'Dead man walking': Calls for Boris to quit after he admits going to No10 lockdown party

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"I think what you are asking about is what Sue Gray is looking into and it is really important to wait and see what her inquiry says.

Mr Rees Mogg continued: “ You are absolutely right to say that the Downing Street garden is a place where work takes place."

The PM was accused of "taking the British public for fools" and pouring salt into people's wounds after his apology in Parliament for attending a Downing Street garden gathering during the UK's first coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments come after the PM was facing calls to quit from senior Tory figures.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said he felt Boris Johnson could no longer continue in the position, and senior Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale called the PM a "dead man walking".

Campaigners also branded the Prime Minister a "walking public health hazard", saying he had broken the rules and should resign.

Hannah Brady, from Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said that if Mr Johnson does not step down then his MPs have a "moral duty" to remove him.

Ms Brady's father, Shaun Brady, 55, died just a few days before the "bring your own booze" event on May 20 2020, having contracted Covid on the way to his job as a key worker in Wigan.

His death certificate was signed on the day it was held.

While Mr Johnson apologised at Prime Minister's Questions for attending the event, and acknowledged the public's "rage" over the incident, he insisted he thought it could technically have been within the rules.

He told MPs he went to the gathering for around 25 minutes to "thank groups of staff", adding that he "believed implicitly that this was a work event".

But, speaking on behalf of the campaign group, Ms Brady rejected his explanation.

She said: "The Prime Minister's lies have finally caught up with him. Not content with kicking bereaved families like mine in the teeth by breaking the rules he set and then lying to us about it, he's now taking the British public for fools by pretending he 'didn't know it was a party'.

"Every time he lies to us, he pours more salt into the wounds of those who have already lost so much to this pandemic, but that doesn't stop him.

"He's incapable of telling the truth and he needs to go.

"The Prime Minister is now a walking public health hazard who has lost the trust, respect and good faith of the public.

"If restrictions are needed to protect lives in the future, people will simply laugh at him.

"He has no moral authority and will cost lives.

"He has broken his own rules and if he had any decency he would now resign, rather than hide behind an internal 'inquiry'.

"If he doesn't, his MPs should remove him. They have a moral duty to do so."

Ms Brady was among bereaved relatives who met Mr Johnson in the Rose Garden at Downing Street last year, where she said the Prime Minister looked her in the eyes "and told me you had done everything you could to save him".