Cabinet ministers denies PM lied to parliament over Partygate
Conservative former minister Tobias Ellwood says Boris Johnson should “show leadership” by giving MPs the chance to back him in a vote of confidence.
Asked about the ongoing Partygate saga, which last week saw the prime minister fined for breaking his own coronavirus laws, Mr Ellwood told bbc breakfast that now was the time for a vote on Mr Johnson’s future.
“Unfortunately, many MPs continue to be very, very concerned by where we’re going,” he said, adding: “If I was the prime minister, I would show leadership here, recognize this requires crisis management as such, and say that ‘these are difficult times, I will give you the opportunity to support me through an actual vote of confidence’.”
It comes as Mr Johnson is expected to make a “full-throated apology” to MPs on Tuesday in his first statement to the Commons since he was fined by the Metropolitan Police for attending a birthday bash – thrown in his honor – in the Cabinet room in June 2020 while strict Covid restrictions were in place.
What time is PM speaking today? All we know about Partygate speech
As we’ve been reporting, Boris Johnson will face MPs today for the first time since he was fined by the Metropolitan Police for breaking Covid laws.
The PM will address the House of Commons this afternoon at around 3.30pm, after parliament returns from the Easter recees, writes Matt Mathers.
According to the Telegraphhe will stop short of going into detail about the gathering for which he was hit with a fixed penalty notice and any other “Partygate” events.
It comes after Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie, and the chancellor Rishi Sunak were all issued with – and paid – for attending a birthday bash held for the PM in June 2020. He is understood to have been present at at least six of the 12 events being investigated by the Met and is braced for more purposes potentially to come.
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 10:59
Watch: Cabinet minister denies PM lied to parliament over Partygate
Cabinet ministers denies PM lied to parliament over Partygate
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 10:55
Starmer: ‘Offensive’ for PM to use Ukraine war as ‘shield’ in Partygate row
More from Keir Starmer’s Lorraine interview now, during which the Labor leader rejected the “offensive” assertion that Boris Johnson could not be removed from office while the Ukraine war raged on.
“I don’t really buy into this idea, by the way, that Johnson is the only person of any importance in the Ukraine crisis,” he said.
Any Tory successor would share similar views on Ukraine and there was support across the parties for the UK’s position, he said, meaning there was no need to keep Mr Johnson in place.
It comes after Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood – a former soldier – made similar remarks this morning, telling bbc breakfast No 10 should refrain from using the war in Ukraine as a distraction against the Partygate saga. He also said any potential new PM would likely want to support the eastern European country as much as Mr Johnson has.
Sir Keir accused Mr Johnson of using the conflict “as a shield” and added: “I think that’s pretty offensive.”
He also said he believed that one day he will be the UK’s prime minister, which you can watch here:
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 10:53
Starmer condemns ‘pathetic’ Tory attempt to wash over PM’s fine
Labor leader Keir Starmer has dismissed the argument put forward by some of Boris Johnson’s aides and allies that his police fine was “like a speeding” ticket.
“I have never had anybody break down in front of me because they couldn’t drive at 35mph in a 30mph zone; I have had no end of people in tears – in real bits – about complying with rules that really, really hurt them,” he said in an interview on ITV’s Lorraine.
He added there had been a “pathetic display of Tory MPs going out to defend the indefensible” and it is “something they all ought to be ashamed of”.
Asked what he thinks the PM should do next, Sir Keir said he expected Mr Johnson to “apologise and then excuse himself” over the Partygate fine. He said:
“The prime minister makes the laws, tells the country to obey the laws, then breaks them and then – in my view – lies to parliament about it.”
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 10:42
Comparing PM’s party fine to parking ticket ‘insult to bereaved families’, says Davey
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey has called Brandon Lewis’s comments this morning (see my last post) “an insult to bereaved families”.
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 10:10
Brandon Lewis panned for comparing PM’s fine to speeding ticket
A closer look now at some of the commentary by Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis this morning.
Over the last week, some of Boris Johnson’s allies have told journalists that the Partygate fine he was given is no different to receiving a parking ticket, or a speeding offense. Brandon Lewis tried arguing the same this morning, much to the dismay of critics. I have told Sky News:
“I think we do see consistently, whether it is through parking fines or speeding fines, ministers of both parties over the years have been in that position. We’ve had prime ministers in the past who have received penalty notices, from what I can see, and also front bench ministers.
“I saw there was a parking notice that Tony Blair had once. We’ve seen front bench Labor ministers and, let’s be frank, government ministers as well. You’ve asked me, can someone who sets the laws and the rules, can they also be someone who breaks the rules. That clearly has happened with a number of ministers over the years.”
This defense was panned as being too vague, especially considering Mr Blair, the former Labor PM, never drove a car when he was leader.
An hour later, on BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, he tried the argument again. He said there had been cases in the past where Labor or Conservative ministers – without mentioning Mr Blair by name this time – were given speeding ends. When presenter Mishal Husain asked him to clarify this, Mr Lewis said:
“As I say, if somebody gets a speeding ticket – and I’m not in any way trying to equate a speeding ticket that somebody has had with the situation of the sacrifices people made through Covid, I’ll be really clear about that. ..”
However, Ms Husain quickly interrupted, telling him: “You’ve actually literally just done that. These were rules that we were told we couldn’t even flex because lives are at stake… and you are essentially downplaying that by bringing in some spurious reports that you’ve heard without even backing.”
Mr Lewis then retreated, turning instead to the point that Mr Johnson did not knowingly lie to MPs in the Commons.
Green MP Caroline Lucas had this to say about the minister’s defence:
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 10:09
Labor urges Tory MPs to ‘vote the right way’ on PM’s future
Back to Partygate now. Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry appealed to Conservatives this morning to rise above party politics if opposition parties secure a vote on the future of Boris Johnson after he was fined by police for breaking his own Covid laws.
The Labor MP suggested parliament is looking into whether it believes the PM knowingly lied to the Commons, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today program “there are ongoing discussions between the opposition parties and with the Speaker” about how to try to deal with the situation. But she added “it would be wrong for me to cut across those”.
Appealing to Tory MPs, she explained: “Whatever means we take, the difficulty we will always have is that, since the 2019 election, the Conservatives have an 80-seat majority when there is a vote.
“Unless Conservative MPs can look at their consciences and vote the right way, we are not going to get the sort of result that we should get.”
Ms Thornberry also urged the PM to “look to his own conscience and … do the right thing”. Unless that happens, she said:
“We are not going to get the results that we should get and, frankly, the result that the public want us to get, which is that this prime minister should go.”
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 09:48
Watch: Grant Shapps releases bizarre promotional video for ‘Great British Rail Sale’
Grant Shapps releases bizarre promotional video for ‘Great British Rail Sale’
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 09:16
Sending migrants from UK to Rwanda the ‘humanitarian thing to do,’ minister claims
Let’s hear from Brandon Lewis again now, but this time on the widely panned government’s Rwanda immigration plan.
Mr Lewis, who is himself a former immigration minister, defended the move as the “humanitarian thing to do”.
Describing immigration as a “really difficult area” for ministers to get right, he told bbc breakfast:
“There are horrible scenes and stories of what these people smugglers put these people through.
“We’ve got to break this business model and doing something like this with Rwanda, which has such a strong track record, is right for the people of the UK, who can be rightly proud of our humanitarian support because this is a humanitarian thing everything.
“It is ensuring that we are deterring people from taking a treacherous as well as illegal journey to the UK.”
Asked about civil servants reportedly having raised objections to the scheme over its possible cost – an estimated £120m – Mr Lewis said only that he thinks it “will work”.
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 09:02
‘Not in country’s interests’ to replace PM right now – 1922 committee treasurer
More Conservatives are backing Boris Johnson, with the treasurer of the 1922 committee of Tory backbench MPs saying now is not the time for the PM to step down over Partygate.
“And it is certainly not in the country’s interests to think about replacing the prime minister”, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told BBC Radio 4’s Today program this morning.
Citing the UK’s worsening cost of living crisis, the “bloody war” in Ukraine and a “slowdown of the world economy”, Sir Geoffrey said it would be a mistake to “force the prime minister out and have instability at the top of government for at least two months” while a new leader is chosen.
He said he wanted to see “all the evidence” before a decision is made on Mr Johnson’s future, which would include whether more fines are issued, what Sue Gray has to say and what the verdict of the British people is in the local government elections .
Conservative MPs are not calling for the PM to go at the moment because “they are withholding their judgment and waiting to see what happens”, he said, adding he was “absolutely certain” Mr Johnson had not intentionally misled the Commons.
“The culture in Number 10 has to be advised by the most senior civil servants and at the time that the prime minister made that statement in parliament I am absolutely certain that he believed he had not broken any rules.”
Sam Hancock19 April 2022 08:44