Security minister asked ‘what public should think’ about No 10 party held as Queen mourned
Boris Johnson’s former director of communications, James Slack, has apologised “unreservedly” for a party held at No 10 last April to mark his leaving Downing Street, saying it “should not have happened at the time that it did”.
It comes after The Daily Telegraph reported that two events were held on the evening of Friday 16 April 2021 – when England was under step 2 Covid restrictions, which banned indoor mixing and restricted numbers of funerals and weddings, and on the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral that saw the Queen sit alone and wearing a face mask at a socially-distanced ceremony.
In a statement released on Friday morning by News UK, Mr Slack said: “I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility.”
Calls for Boris Johnson to resign have intensified since news broke last night about Mr Slack’s party, as well as another unconfirmed leaving do for the PM’s photographer said to have been held on the same night. Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey demanded “[Mr] Johnson must go”, while Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said she had “no words for the culture and behaviours at No 10”.
Latest Tory to call for PM’s resignation no stranger to submitting letters of no confidence
The latest Tory MP to openly declare he has submitted a letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson has been called out for doing the same in the last three leaders.
As the Daily Mail’s John Stevens reports:
Mr Bridgen, who supported the PM in taking over Britain’s leadership in 2019, said Mr Johnson should stand aside within three months. He is the fifth Conservative MP to publicly call for the PM to quit this week after Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, Sir Roger Gale, William Wragg and Caroline Nokes.
Writing for The Telegraph, Mr Bridgen warned of “a moral vacuum at the heart of our government” in the wake of the “partygate” revelations.
“Sadly, the prime minister’s position has become untenable,” he said. “Leadership is not just about the job title, or even making big decisions – it is equally about having a moral compass, of knowing not just right from left but right from wrong.”
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 08:54
Local Tory association withdraws support for PM
Councillor Simon Ward, of the Sutton Coldfield Conservatives association, an association in a safe Tory seat which last night voted unanimously to withdraw its support from Boris Johnson over No 10 lockdown party allegations, said “the culture starts at the top”.
He also said the group’s decision to stop backing the PM reflected “local views at the very grassroots levels”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier, Mr Ward said: “The conversation we had last night … was really about what I think we have the right to expect from our leaders and the standards of leadership we expect from them, and the trust that we put in them.
“This is about what the right thing is for politics, what the right thing is for our leaders, how this reflects on our country as well, and it’s just massively disappointing and it reflects very, very poorly on us as a nation as well.”
Turning to Mr Johnson’s leadership, the councillor said the PM was enacting a “culture [that] starts at the top … and that’s the really disappointing point”.
“We were asking people all over our country to make massive sacrifices over the last two years,” he said. “I think we have the right to expect everybody in Government and in those positions of leadership to follow those same rules and guidelines as well.”
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 08:43
Watch: Security minister says ‘action can be taken’ if No 10 parties held last April
Security Minister says ‘action can be taken’ if unlawful parties held
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 08:35
PM ‘not responsible’ for parties – but sign of bad leadership, says Tory MP
A senior Tory MP has described parties held in Downing Street during periods when Covid restrictions were in place as “wholly unacceptable”.
And while Sir Roger Gale said he does not hold Boris Johnson “personally responsible” for some of the events, because he wasn’t at all of them, he also said the rule-breaking represented “a culture” of bending the rules in the government.
“I think the events that took place on that evening [in April 202] were wholly unacceptable and completely insensitive, and should never have happened,” he told Sky News this morning.
“That said, I don’t hold the prime minister personally responsible, because he was not there, but it does reveal, I think, a culture within Downing Street that obviously stems from the top and should not be permitted.”
He added: “It is just another event in a chapter of incidents which should not have happened.”
Pushed on what this means for the PM, Sir Roger said he “clearly doesn’t and shouldn’t” know how many of his colleagues have submitted letters to the 1922 backbench committee, to trigger a Tory leadership challenge, but that he believes “there is some momentum which is growing”.
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 08:31
Minister ‘shocked’ to hear about No 10 party held last April
Let’s hear some more from Damian Hinds now, who said this morning he was “shocked” to read about the party held to mark the PM’s former director of communications James Slack leaving Downing Street in April 2021, but that he is “not in a position to comment” because he was not there.
When asked about Mr Slack’s apology for the event on BBC Breakfast, the security minister added: “This was a particularly solemn time for our whole nation, as Her Majesty the Queen was mourning Prince Philip, and I was shocked by these allegations.
“I personally don’t know more about them. This is the first time I have heard that [Mr Slack’s apology].”
Pushed on what the public should think about the latest reports, Mr Hinds repeated that he was “not in a position to talk about what did or didn’t happen, not because I’m holding it back from you, but because I don’t know, I wasn’t there”.
“I think it’s important that we have an investigation ongoing into events, plural, and alleged events,” he said, echoing the sentiments of the PM this week.
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 08:24
‘Action can be taken’ against those who broke Covid rules, says minister
Security minister Damian Hinds refused to be drawn this morning on whether Boris Johnson should be held responsible for the reported parties held at No 10 the night before Prince Philip was laid to rest.
However, he did say that if the reports are true, “action can be taken” against those who broke the rules.
It remains to be seen if the PM will be blamed for the parties taking place in his own house, despite claims he was not present at either of them.
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 08:15
BREAKING: PM’s ex-spokesperson apologises for No 10 party
Boris Johnson’s former director of communications James Slack has said he wants to “apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused” by a party held to mark his leaving Downing Street in April 2021.
It comes after reports that two events were held on the evening of Friday 16 April last year – when England was under step 2 Covid restrictions, which banned indoor mixing and restricted numbers of funerals and weddings, and happened to fall on the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral.
In a statement released on Friday morning by The Sun’s publisher, News UK, Mr Slack said: “I wish to apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused. This event should not have happened at the time that it did. I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility.”
Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports:
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 08:00
Lib Dems and Labour renew calls for Johnson’s resignation
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, says the PM “must go” following the news about parties on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.
Meanwhile, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said she had “no words for the culture and behaviours at No 1, and the buck stops with the PM”.
Both also took the time to remind people of the images of the Queen “sat alone in mourning” at her husband’s funeral, in order to adhere with social distancing rules. “The Queen sitting alone, mourning the loss of her husband, was the defining image of lockdown. Not because she is the Queen, but because she was just another person, mourning alone like too many others,” Sir Ed wrote.
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 07:56
PM’s staff ‘held two parties at No 10’ night before Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral
Downing Street staff attended two separate parties on the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral amid strict Covid rules that saw the Queen sit alone as she bade farewell to her husband of 73 years, it has been alleged.
The Daily Telegraph reported that two events were held on the evening of Friday 16 April 2021 – when the country was under step 2 coronavirus restrictions which banned indoor mixing. Both events were said to be leaving parties for staff working in the prime minister’s inner team. One was reportedly held for James Slack, Boris Johnson’s then-director of communications, and the other for the prime minister’s personal photographer.
Witnesses told The Telegraph that “excessive alcohol” was drunk, attendees danced to music DJ’d by a special adviser, and the gatherings lasted beyond midnight. The paper also reported that the celebrations were initially held separately before merging later in the evening. Around 30 people were allegedly present across both parties.
Tom Batchelor has the full report:
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 07:47
Hello, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling politics coverage.
Stay tuned as we bring you the latest fallout for Boris Johnson amid fresh allegations of Covid-breaching No 10 parties, this time said to be held on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral last year.
Sam Hancock14 January 2022 07:45