Angela Rayner has said Boris Johnson has “demeaned his office” after photographs were published appearing to show the Prime Minister drinking at an event in Downing Street during lockdown in November 2020.
The pictures, obtained by ITV News, were taken at a leaving party for Lee Cain, the Prime Minister’s director of communications, and appear to show Johnson drinking with a group of eight people. Covid restrictions at the time allowed two people from different households to meet indoors.
The deputy Labour leader said: “While the British public were making huge sacrifices, Boris Johnson was breaking the law. Boris Johnson said repeatedly that he knew nothing about law-breaking – there’s no doubt now, he lied. Boris Johnson made the rules, and then broke them.
“The Prime Minister has demeaned his office. The British people deserve better. While Labour has a plan for tackling the cost-of-living crisis, Tory MPs are too busy defending the indefensible actions of Boris Johnson.”
The Metropolitan Police announced that it had completed its investigation into ‘partygate’ last week. The Met revealed that it had issued a total of 126 fines to 83 people, including to Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and Rishi Sunak.
The Prime Minister has resisted calls to resign over the fines. Reacting to the news of Johnson’s own fine, imposed in April, Keir Starmer said: “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign. The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern.”
Several Tory MPs have also urged the Prime Minister to step down since he was issued with a fine, including backbencher Steve Baker, who told MPs in April that Johnson “should be long gone” and “should just know the gig is up”.
A report on partygate by civil servant Sue Gray is expected to be published in the coming days. Starmer today accused the government of trying to “undermine” Gray’s investigation after it was revealed that No 10 instigated a private meeting between Gray and Johnson to discuss the report.
A Labour motion in April proposing a further investigation into allegations that Johnson misled parliament over partygate was passed unopposed by MPs. The inquiry will be undertaken by the Commons privileges committee.
Johnson told parliament that all “the guidance was followed” when initially questioned about the allegations. The ministerial code outlines that ministers who knowingly misled parliament “will be expected to offer their resignation”.
After a video was released showing No 10 staff laughing about a party on December 18th 2020, Johnson said he had been “repeatedly assured” that “there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken”.
Labour MP Catherine West specifically asked Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions in December 2021 whether there was a party in Downing Street on November 13th 2020, the date of Cain’s leaving party.
Responding to West, the Prime Minister said: “No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed, and the rules were followed at all times.”