Tom Swarbrick grills Tory MP on 'technicality' allowing No.10 party

16 January 2022, 14:23

By Tim Dodd

Cabinet minister Simon Clarke was cornered over the technicality alluded to by the Prime Minister that would've made the "bring your own booze" party in May 2020 "within the guidance".

It comes after Boris Johnson made a grovelling apology to the nation and admitted that he attended a Downing Street lockdown party, but claimed he didn't know it was a party.

He told Parliament: "I should have recognised that even if it [the garden event] could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies."

Tom asked: "The Prime Minister said he spent 25 minutes wandering around with members of staff who were invited to go out and have some drinks to enjoy the sunshine. Was making the most of the good weather essential for work purposes?"

"The Prime Minister's been clear that in hindsight he would not have done that," Mr Clarke said.

"So it wasn't essential for work purposes?" Tom fired back.

Read more: PM's wife regrets 'lapse of judgement' after partying with pals during lockdown

"It's the Prime Minister who says that the rules may technically have allowed this, so there must be some understanding of what rules technically allowed this to take place," he continued.

Mr Clarke said: "As for the specifics of these events, we do need to await Sue Gray's report. And I genuinely don't think it would be right for me to conduct an inquiry of my own when we have got the proper independent process that will report very shortly."

Tom then asked Mr Clarke if he had attended any social events at work during lockdown, to which he replied "I didn't attend any".

Read more: No10 says sorry to the Queen after lockdown-breaking party night before Philip's funeral

"Why not, if the rules technically allowed it? Why would anyone not attend a nice drinks event at work during lockdown if the rules technically allowed it as the Prime Minister said this week?" Tom replied.

Tom reiterated that he didn't understand how the PM could've said that the gathering didn't technically break any rules "if there's no suggestion of what rules allowed it".

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