Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate

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Boris Johnson is facing further pressure as two ministers slammed him over lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street – just hours after Dominic Cummings said he would take the stand having accused the Prime Minister of misleading Parliament. 

The PM’s former top adviser said last night that he discussed a May 2020 BYOB event with Mr Johnson before it happened but his concerns were ‘waved aside’. 

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The claim contradicts Mr Johnson’s statement to the House of Commons last Wednesday. Ahead of PMQs he insisted that he believed that the knees-up organised by his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds – currently being probed by senior civil servant Sue Gray – was a work event that did not breach regulations.

Downing Street has mounted a full-scale rescue plan to bolster the PM after last week’s astonishing slew of revelations, code-named Operation Red Meat, and has fiercely denied Mr Cummings’ claims.

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Elsewhere, two of Mr Johnson’s ministers have openly criticised No10 over Partygate, warning the scandals have caused ‘serious damage’ to public trust in the government.

Science minister George Freeman said he was ‘shocked and flabbergasted’ by the revelations, and questioned why staff were able to enjoy such gatherings while his constituents ‘couldn’t see dying loved ones’, according to the Times.

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Similarly, health minister Maria Caulfield insisted that regardless of whether the rules were ‘technically’ breached or not by the parties, ‘the spirit of the rules’ was.

She added that she would ‘consider what action is needed’ when Ms Gray’s report into the events is published. 

It comes after Mr Cummings suggested in a post on his Substack blog on Monday, that worse might still be to come for No10.

‘Amid discussion over the future of the Cabinet Secretary (Simon Case) and PPS (Reynolds) himself, which had been going on for days, I said to the PM something like: ”Martin’s invited the building to a drinks party, this is what I’m talking about, you’ve got to grip this madhouse”,’ he wrote.

‘The PM waved it aside. I had told him repeatedly the PPS should be replaced, as had other competent officials who knew the whole structure needed a huge upgrade in personnel and management.’ 

He added: ‘Not only me but other eyewitnesses who discussed this at the time would swear under oath this is what happened.’ 

Downing Street has denied the claims, as a No 10 spokesman said in response: ‘It is untrue that the Prime Minister was warned about the event in advance. As he said earlier this week he believed implicitly that this was a work event.

‘He has apologised to the House and is committed to making a further statement once the investigation concludes.’

It came as a new opinion poll tonight gave Labour a 13-point poll lead over the Tories amid the crisis.

Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
The PM’s former top adviser said tonight that he discussed a May 2020 BYOB event with Mr Johnson before it happened but his concerns were ‘waved aside’. Writing on his Substack blog today, Mr Cummings suggested that worse might still be to come for No10. He added: ‘Not only me but other eyewitnesses who discussed this at the time would swear under oath this is what happened.’ George Freeman Maria Caulfield Mr Cummings suggested in a post on his Substack blog on Monday, that worse might still be to come for No10

Dorries freezes BBC licence fee to help PM 

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries today confirmed the BBC licence fee will be frozen at £159 for the next two years as she also announced a review into the long-term future of the annual levy. 

Ms Dorries told MPs that the licence fee will remain fixed until April 2024 when it will then rise in line with inflation for the following four years, up to the end of the current Royal Charter on December 31, 2027. 

She said the broadcaster had been pushing for rises in line with inflation every year which would have seen the fee increase to more than £180 by 2027.    

But she said the ‘global cost of living is rising’ and the Government does not believe it would be justified to hit families in the pocket in the next two years. 

Meanwhile, Ms Dorries said ‘it is also time to look further into the future’ as she announced a review into the way the BBC is funded.

She said: ‘It is time to begin asking those really serious questions about the long term funding model of the BBC and whether a mandatory licence fee with criminal penalties for individual households is still appropriate.’ 

The Culture Secretary has previously signalled that she is in favour of scrapping the licence fee after 2027.   

The Government’s decision on the licence fee is part of Boris Johnson‘s policy blitz dubbed ‘Operation Red Meat’, which aims to rebuild support among Tory MPs and voters after the Partygate row.   

BBC bosses have pledged to ‘continue to make a strong case to the Government for investing’ in the corporation. 

In a message sent to staff today, director-general Tim Davie and chairman Richard Sharp said they ‘welcomed’ debate and ‘look forward to engaging in a discussion about public service broadcasting in the UK and how best to fund it’.

 

The January 17 survey by Redfield and Wilton Strategies showed Labour on 43 per cent, up four, while the Tories were on 30 per cent, down five, in the space of a week.

At the same time Mr Cummings, who was fired in late 2020 after losing a Downing Street power struggle, sent an ominous warning to the PM that there could be more scandal to come.

He wrote: ‘There are many other photos of parties after I left yet to appear. I’ll say more when SG’s report is published.’

Mr Johnson was forced to apologise last week after it emerged his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 members of staff to a ‘bring your own booze’ party in the No 10 garden in May 2020 during the first lockdown.

The PM admitted he attended but argued he believed it was a work event that could ‘technically’ have been within the rules.

There were claims aides used a suitcase on wheels to go out and pick up booze for the gathering from a nearby shop. 

Tories warned Mr Johnson today his ‘Operation Red Meat’ policy blitz might not be enough to save his bacon today as ministers hesitated about saying he is ‘safe’.

The PM is now believed to have been grilled by top civil servant Sue Gray, who could deliver her report on the bewildering array of allegations about lockdown breaches in Whitehall within days.

The government has been gearing up for a huge effort to rescue Mr Johnson, with crowd-pleasing announcements on bringing in the military to tackle the Channel migrant crisis and reforming the BBC.

There is also speculation that he is ready to jettison some of his most senior aides and ban alcohol in Downing Street in order to shore up his premiership. 

In a round of interviews this morning, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi insisted Mr Johnson ‘feels the pain’ of the public at the apparent flouting of the restrictions the country was living under.

He argued that Mr Johnson was ‘human’ and had apologised for his ‘mistake’ in attending a social event on May 2020. But Mr Zahawi had to be asked three times on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme before saying the premier was ‘safe’ in his job.

And MPs have returned from their constituencies reporting a beasting from voters on the doorstep and in mailbags. One Northern MP told MailOnline that the response was ‘terrible’, and even worse than during the notorious Barnard Castle row involving Dominic Cummings.

‘It’s worse because he was breaking the rules that he himself made and told everyone to obey. He can relaunch, hide behind reports, do what he wants. The public have made their minds up,’ the Tory MP said. 

Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
© Provided by Daily Mail Boris Johnson
Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
© Provided by Daily Mail Sue Gray

Another said they were getting grief from ‘a good number of Tories and just ordinary people who don’t say their politics but feel compelled to write to say they want Boris to resign’. However, they voiced hope that the focus might finally be starting to shift to other stories.

In the latest Partygate allegations, it emerged that Mr Johnson attended a leaving do for defence adviser Captain Steve Higham before Christmas 2020, where he gave a speech.

The PM’s spokesman has also been forced to deny extraordinary claims that Mr Johnson and his staff refer to him as ‘big dog’.

With half-a-dozen Tory MPs already openly calling for Mr Johnson to quit, backbencher Andrew Bowie has warned that Mr Johnson’s half-apology to the Commons last week ‘didn’t cut it’.

‘There is a real sense of anger and disappointment within the party and I think that many MPs therefore are struggling with the decisions that they may have to take over the next few weeks,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.

Another Conservative, Chris Loder, said he had received 400 emails over recent days with the ‘vast, vast majority’ critical of the PM – and suggested this week could be decisive.

‘It’s very difficult… I think people will be comparing notes about that and I think we will see over the next week or so what those determinations are,’ he said.

 

Long-standing Downing Street drinking culture saw people start boozing at lunchtime and ‘wake up in their clothes’ after crashing on sofas, says former aide summarily sacked by Dominic Cummings

Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
© Provided by Daily Mail Sonia Khan highlighted the historic behaviour at the heart of Government amid signs Boris Johnson is considering imposing an alcohol ban to quell rising anger about Partygate

Downing Street could start boozing at lunch and wake up in the same clothes after crashing on sofas as part of a long-standing drinking culture, a former aide claimed today.

Sonia Khan highlighted the historic behaviour at the heart of Government amid signs Boris Johnson is considering imposing an alcohol ban to quell rising anger about Partygate.

Ms Khan worked in No10 and the Treasury during the premierships of David Cameron and Theresa May before being summarily sacked in a row with Dominic Cummings after Boris Johnson came to power but before the pandemic – later settling an unfair dismissal claim.

In an interview, she said drinking had long been ‘normalised’ in Downing Street.

But she argued that the previous culture was ‘totally different’ to the allegations of partying while the public was ordered to abide by restrictions to tackle coronavirus.

Mr Johnson was forced to apologise last week after it emerged his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 members of staff to a ‘bring your own booze’ party in the No 10 garden in May 2020 during the first lockdown.

The PM admitted he attended but argued he believed it was a work event that could ‘technically’ have been within the rules.

There were claims aides used a suitcase on wheels to go out and pick up booze for the gathering from a nearby shop.  

Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
© Provided by Daily Mail In an interview, Ms Khan said drinking had long been ‘normalised’ in Downing Street

Tory MPs report ‘terrible’ weekend canvassing voters and warn ‘Operation Red Meat’ policy blitz won’t quell Partygate row 

Tories warned Boris Johnson his ‘Operation Red Meat’ policy blitz might not be enough to save his bacon today as ministers hesitated about saying he is ‘safe’.

The PM is now believed to have been grilled by top civil servant Sue Gray, who could deliver her report on the bewildering array of allegations about lockdown breaches in Whitehall within days.

The government has been gearing up for a huge effort to rescue Mr Johnson, with crowd-pleasing announcements on bringing in the military to tackle the Channel migrant crisis and reforming the BBC.

There is also speculation that he is ready to jettison some of his most senior aides and ban alcohol in Downing Street in order to shore up his premiership. 

In a round of interviews this morning, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi insisted Mr Johnson ‘feels the pain’ of the public at the apparent flouting of the restrictions the country was living under.

He argued that Mr Johnson was ‘human’ and had apologised for his ‘mistake’ in attending a social event on May 2020. But Mr Zahawi had to be asked three times on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme before saying the premier was ‘safe’ in his job.

And MPs have returned from their constituencies reporting a beasting from voters on the doorstep and in mailbags. One Northern MP told MailOnline that the response was ‘terrible’, and even worse than during the notorious Barnard Castle row involving Dominic Cummings.

‘It’s worse because he was breaking the rules that he himself made and told everyone to obey. He can relaunch, hide behind reports, do what he wants. The public have made their minds up,’ the Tory MP said. 

Ms Khan told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: ‘Usually these drinking sessions are sandwiched between pieces of work, so it feels like a very, very routine thing. 

‘Drinks could start at lunch time, they could start a little bit later in the day – different teams do things very differently – but the idea of mini fridges or having drinks underneath your table wasn’t uncommon.’

Ms Khan said ‘senior people at No 10’ going back two decades had used drinks as a way of thanking staff for working ‘very, very long hours’.

Asked if people had been so hungover they had slept on sofas in Downing Street, she said: ‘I did see a few instances of that – people waking up in the same clothes the next day.

‘But obviously I didn’t work during a pandemic and it didn’t happen very often back then, I should say. I can’t speak for what it’s like now.’

Ms Khan said: ‘Drinks in No 10 … feel like such a normalised thing so it doesn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary.

‘Now in a pandemic that’s totally different and you can absolutely say that people should’ve had the oversight, given that they are all so smart and intelligent.’

Ms Khan worked as a civil servant in No 10 under Mr Cameron, before working in the Treasury as a special adviser during Mrs May’s leadership.

She briefly remained in the Treasury after Mr Johnson took over, but was marched out of Downing Street by armed police after being sacked by Dominic Cummings in August 2019 over allegations of leaking.

She later settled a claim against the Government for unfair dismissal.

Mr Cummings hit back on Twitter today insisting there was no drinking culture at No10 in May 2020, and accusing Ms Khan of being a ‘useful idiot’ helping shore up Mr Johnson’s position. 

Meanwhile, Tories have warned Boris Johnson his ‘Operation Red Meat’ policy blitz might not be enough to save his bacon as even ministers hesitated about saying he is ‘safe’.

The PM is now believed to have been grilled by top civil servant Sue Gray, who could deliver her report on the bewildering array of allegations about lockdown breaches in Whitehall within days.

The government has been gearing up for a huge effort to rescue Mr Johnson, with crowd-pleasing announcements on bringing in the military to tackle the Channel migrant crisis and reforming the BBC.

There is also speculation that he is ready to jettison some of his most senior aides and ban alcohol in Downing Street in order to shore up his premiership. 

In a round of interviews this morning, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi insisted Mr Johnson ‘feels the pain’ of the public at the apparent flouting of the restrictions the country was living under.

He argued that Mr Johnson was ‘human’ and had apologised for his ‘mistake’ in attending a social event on May 2020. But Mr Zahawi had to be asked three times on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme before saying the premier was ‘safe’ in his job.

Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
© Provided by Daily Mail Boris Johnson (pictured running this morning) is believed to have been grilled by top civil servant Sue Gray, who could deliver her report on the bewildering array of allegations about lockdown breaches in Whitehall within days
Pressure increases on Boris as TWO ministers slam him over Partygate
© Provided by Daily Mail Mr Cummings hit back on Twitter today insisting there was no drinking culture at No10 in May 2020, and accusing Ms Khan of being a ‘useful idiot’ helping shore up Mr Johnson’s position

And MPs have returned from their constituencies reporting a beasting from voters on the doorstep and in mailbags. One Northern MP told MailOnline that the response was ‘terrible’, and even worse than during the notorious Barnard Castle row involving Mr Cummings.

‘It’s worse because he was breaking the rules that he himself made and told everyone to obey. He can relaunch, hide behind reports, do what he wants. The public have made their minds up,’ the Tory MP said.

Another said they were getting grief from ‘a good number of Tories and just ordinary people who don’t say their politics but feel compelled to write to say they want Boris to resign’. However, they voiced hope that the focus might finally be starting to shift to other stories.   

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