Boris Johnson birthday party ‘breathe from hard work’, says minister



Boris Johnson’s law-breaking birthday party was viewed as a “positive story” by the media in 2020 and was merely “respite” from his hard work, a government minister has claimed.

The PM is under renewed pressure after he was told to resign by former chief whip Mark Harper, despite apologizing dozens of times for the fine received for his birthday bash at No 10.

However, business minister Paul Scully defended the July 2020 event – ​​and pointed out it had been mentioned in The Times the day after.

“The newspapers … didn’t think he broke the law,” he told Sky News. “The prevailing view at the time was that the prime minister’s birthday, and he had a few moments of respite.”

The minister told Times Radio: “At the time it was literally covered in the newspaper, in a diary piece, as a bit of respite from hard work. At the time, that was the view he took – that it was a pause out of his workplace from him.

Mr Scully added: “You’re looking at things two years on with a different prism. He was under the belief that what he did was acceptable … but the police have come to a different conclusion, and he absolutely respects that.”

The business minister told BBC Breakfast the birthday party “was seen as a positive story”, adding. “In the context of what’s happened over the last couple of years a different view is taken.”

Mr Scully also said the PM had attended the birthday event “in the heat of the moment, but he’s accepted he’s done wrong, he’s accepted he’s made a mistake”.

The Times reported the day after the law-breaking bash that Mr Johnson had celebrated his 56th birthday “with a small gathering in the cabinet room”.

The PM is preparing to depart for the official trip to India on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s Labor motion calling for the privilege committee to determine whether he misled parliament with his Partygate denials.

Conservative party whips have told all MPs to vote against the Labor motion, with several Tory MPs reportedly ready to abstain over fears it could be used against them at the general election.

Mr Scully defended the prime minister over his comments to MPs in December that Covid rules were followed at No 10. “I don’t believe he did knowingly misled parliament,” said the minister.

Pressed on whether he accepted that Mr Johnson broke the law, the minister said: “The police have found that”.

Mr Scully also said the PM also “accepts that the police have found him to have broken the law” – though Mr Johnson has yet to say he does accept he broke the law.

Tory MP Craig Whittaker, one of the Conservatives to call for Mr Johnson’s resignation, urged him to refer himself to avoid taking colleagues to “the brink”.

Noting Mr Johnson denies intentionally misleading the House, Mr Whittaker told BBC Newsnight: “What I would like to see is the prime minister referring himself to the privileges committee so that he doesn’t take all of my colleagues, including myself, to the brink on Thursday evening.”

One rebel Tory did challenge him at Tuesday night’s meeting to agree to a privileges committee probe if he had “nothing to hide”. But the PM repeatedly challenged his MPs to consider whether they would “rather have Labour”.

Another Tory MP told The Independent the PM was “not brilliantly contrite” at last night’s meeting, but he appeared to have done enough to keep existing backers onside.

The backbencher added: “The mood in the party is not great. I think everyone expects more ends, and that will make things more difficult. If the local elections are really bad, some will change their minds on the idea that he’s a vote winner.”


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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