Labour launches attack ads after PM sends minister to field party questions

Sienna Rodgers

Labour plans to hit Tory MPs with personalised attack ads after Boris Johnson went into “hiding” and sent a minister in his place to respond to allegations that the Prime Minister attended an illegal party in his garden at the height of lockdown.

“Despite having no official engagements listed today, the Prime Minister has again failed to turn up to parliament and face the music. His absence speaks volumes. Boris Johnson holds the British public in contempt,” Angela Rayner said.

“While key workers toiled round the clock on the frontline, families lost loved ones and the entire country sacrificed our freedoms, the Prime Minister was partying. The government is rotten to its core.”

Labour’s deputy leader told the House of Commons this afternoon that it was “incredible” but “not surprising” that Michael Ellis, the Paymaster General, was answering the urgent question rather than Johnson.

The opposition party is now setting up an ad criticising Ellis for spending his time in parliament “defending Boris Johnson’s lockdown parties”. The attack will be targeted at voters in his seat of Northampton North.

Ellis has represented Northampton North since 2010, but his majority at the 2019 general election was just 5,507 votes. Labour intends to hit any Tory MP who defends Johnson with ads in their constituencies.

LabourList also understands that later in the opposition day debate on removing VAT from households energy bills, Labour will set up ads to target “hero voters” in the seats where Tories vote against the motion.

Labour strategists have identified “hero voters” as those in so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats who were key workers during Covid and who voted Tory in 2019. They are seen as a key way for the party to win back constituencies lost in 2019.

In the debate following Labour’s urgent question on the party scandal, Rayner told the Commons that “it won’t wash to blame this on a few junior civil servants” because “the Prime Minister sets the tone”.

“If the Prime Minister was there, he certainly knew. The invitation was sent to 100 staff, many of them his own most senior political appointees,” she added. “This was organised in advance.”

Ellis reminded MPs that Johnson would be coming to parliament on Wednesday to answer questions. When asked by Labour’s Tulip Siddiq whether Rishi Sunak attended the party, Ellis replied: “I do not know.”

Labour MP Afzal Khan said: “My beloved mum died of Covid in March 2020. She died alone in hospital while I sat in the car outside, trying to be as close to her as I could. Even burdened with our grief, my family obeyed the rules.”

DUP MP Jim Shannon cried as he told the chamber that his mother-in-law “died alone”. He asked whether the Paymaster General could confirm when there would be a “full and complete disclosure” of the results of the inquiry.

Ellis replied that the results of the investigation would be made public. He also told MPs today that the Sue Gray investigation could be paused if evidence emerges that there was criminal wrongdoing.

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