Monday, 22 Apr 2024

Boris Johnson calls new Partygate claims 'a load of absolute nonsense'

Boris Johnson has dismissed suggestions he may have taken part in further rule-breaking during the pandemic ‘a load of absolute nonsense’.

Claims of potential further lockdown breaches emerged last week when he was referred to the police by the Cabinet Office over alleged events in Downing Street and at Chequers.

It relates to entries in the former prime minister’s official diary and came to light during a review of documents ahead of the Covid public inquiry.

Asked by Sky News in Washington DC whether he had broken the law, Mr Johnson said: ‘No. The answer is as I said before, there was absolutely no rule-breaking.’

He went on: ‘You want my honest view, I think this whole thing is completely nonsensical. This whole thing is a load of absolute nonsense.

‘I think it was absurd that it was decided to pass entries in my diary to the police.’

Pressed on what the entries show, he replied: ‘They merely record events in my day.’

Mr Johnson was previously fined for attending a gathering in Downing Street to mark his birthday in June 2020 – one of a series of political crises that ultimately led to the end of his premiership.

He said: ‘This whole thing is a load of nonsense from beginning to end… I think it’s ridiculous that elements in my diary should be cherry-picked and handed over to the police, to the Privileges Committee without even anybody having the basic common sense to ask me what these entries referred to.’

Asked whether he believes Rishi Sunak is trying to stitch him up, he said: ‘I just think it’s totally nonsensical and bizarre.

‘There are tens of thousands of entries in the prime ministerial diary… None of them constitute a breach of the rules during Covid.’

Mr Johnson suggested none of the entries in question relate to periods when the country was in lockdown, but times when other restrictions were in place.

He added: ‘For reasons that – somebody, somewhere, thinks it’s sensible to do this – I don’t.’

The Privileges Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into whether Mr Johnson lied to Parliament about the Partygate scandal, has also been informed of the new information.

The fallout adds to the problems confronting Mr Sunak, who was handed a fixed penalty alongside Mr Johnson over the June 2020 event and now faces unrest from the former PM’s allies.

Mr Sunak’s press secretary insisted he ‘definitely’ did not go to the grace-and-favour retreat in contravention of coronavirus rules when he was chancellor during the pandemic.

The Prime Minister has not discussed the controversy with his predecessor, the spokeswoman said.

Mr Johnson, in a letter to the chair of the Covid inquiry, indicated he was severing ties with taxpayer-funded lawyers representing him.

It is understood he lost confidence in the Cabinet Office.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said earlier on Friday the public was ‘fed up to the back teeth’ with stories about the former prime minister.

‘These are deeply personal things and increasing revelations about Boris Johnson, I think, just add to that sense of hurt and people are fed up with it,’ he said.

‘I do think there are questions now about why have these allegations not come out before, all these allegations.’

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