Boris defended as ex-Prime Minister faces new probe into rule-breaking
Boris Johnson erupts at ‘complete nonsense’ in Partygate grilling
Furious allies of Boris Johnson hit out at a “complete stitch up” and a “witch-hunt” after the civil service sent a report to police making new lockdown rule-breaking claims.
The former prime minister was referred to two police forces by the Cabinet Office after his diary entries allegedly revealed visits by friends and family to the premier’s country retreat Chequers.
Information was uncovered during preparations for a public inquiry into the pandemic.
A source close to Mr Johnson said: “This is a complete stitch up and a crazed plot against Boris which will fail.
“We’re not having it. His lawyers are all over it. These were work meetings, not family or friends or so-called parties of any kind. They have all been lawfully checked and legal advice taken on each event. It is very clear-cut, and there is no reason why the police should investigate this matter.
“It’s not as if you can pop into Chequers without giving your details to the police.
“This is an attempt to elongate the investigation into Boris over something so spurious it defies belief.
“The Cabinet Office could easily have checked all this information out but chose not to.
“How much police time is going to be wasted on what can only be described as a vexatious claim? It’s ludicrous, totally ludicrous.
“We cannot believe this crap is still being talked about three years on. It is a witch-hunt, pure and simple and we’ve had enough of it.”
The former Prime Minister’s team called the referral a “clearly politically motivated attempt to manufacture something out of nothing”.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “Some abbreviated entries in Mr Johnson’s official diary were queried by the Cabinet Office during preparation for the Covid inquiry.
“Following an examination of the entries, Mr Johnson’s lawyers wrote to the Cabinet Office and privileges committee explaining that the events were lawful and were not breaches of any Covid regulations.”
A close friend of Boris said: “This is mad, obsessive and lacking in due process. We must end this vendetta against the man 14 million voted for at the last general election.”
Details of the visits to the Grace and Favour residence were passed to the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police.
Mr Johnson is said to have been made aware of the referral last week and has written to the Cabinet Office denying rule-breaking.
Mr Johnson is believed to have been advised by lawyers that all of the events in question were lawful and in no way broke any restrictions.
The legal team has made that clear to the Cabinet Office and the Privileges Committee, which is currently investigating whether Mr Johnson misled MPs over lockdown rule-breaking during the pandemic.
Mr Johnson has had no contact from the police and it is understood that he was given no notice of the referral to allow him to put forward the facts before the report was made.
Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson said civil service meddling was behind the report.
He said: “This week we’ve seen a dramatic rise in reporting of civil service political meddling.
“Unfortunately we have fed the mogwai after midnight with the scalps they’ve taken previously, and they won’t rest.
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“Thanks to Sue Gray we’ve seen that sunlight will see off gremlins, and highlighting this continued politically-motivated civil service meddling as they have will hopefully be the turning point that sees senior civil servants once again serving the government of the day impartially.”
One senior MP said: “It looks like more smear. As the Government tanks, they continue to smear our only election winner.”
Craig Mackinlay, Conservative MP for South Thanet, said: “The timing seems strange as the Privileges Committee continues their deliberations.
“Coming on the heels of various other Civil Service disclosures this week, the timing seems unusually coincidental.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “Information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the Covid inquiry. It was identified as part of the normal disclosure review of potentially relevant documents being undertaken by the legal team for inquiry witnesses.
“In line with obligations in the civil service code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them.”
The Cabinet Office is funding the legal advice for Mr Johnson and other senior figures as part of the public inquiry into the pandemic.
Mr Johnson reportedly gave lawyers access to his diary, which includes details of all his meetings, to help assist his defence.
While conducting the “disclosure review”, the team decided it was duty-bound to raise any potential breaches of the rules after finding details of visitors to Chequers. The findings were raised with senior figures in the Cabinet Office.
Mr Johnson faced a four-hour televised Partygate “show trial” in March when the Privileges Committee grilled the former prime minister about whether he misled parliament.
He handed over a 52-page dossier to the committee that laid bare in black and white the advice key aides gave him when allegations of lockdown parties emerged.
The ex-PM told the seven MPs leading the probe that they have found “no evidence at all that supports an allegation that I intentionally or recklessly misled the House”.
He said it was relying on “the assertions of the discredited Dominic Cummings” who has repeatedly criticised his former boss since being ousted.
A total of 126 fines were issued to 83 individuals for events in Downing Street that broke covid rules.
Mr Johnson received a fixed-penalty notice for attending a ten-minute birthday party in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020.
Rishi Sunak, who was then Chancellor, and Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie, were also fined for attending the same gathering.
Mr Johnson tested positive for covid in the early days of the pandemic, initially self-isolating in Downing Street before being admitted to intensive care.
The former prime minister later revealed that doctors had put preparations in place in the event of his death.
He spent a fortnight convalescing at Chequers after being discharged.
Mr and Mrs Johnson are understood to have stayed at the Grace and Favour home on occasion during the first lockdown but not the second one.
A Thames Valley police spokesman said: “On Thursday we received a report of potential breaches of the Health Protection Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Chequers, Buckinghamshire. We are currently assessing this information.”
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The Metropolitan Police said: “We are in receipt of information from the Cabinet Office passed to us on 19 May 2023, which we are currently assessing. It relates to potential breaches of the Health Protection Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Downing Street.”
One Cabinet minister said that Mr Johnson’s hopes of a comeback were over. “The information that is coming to light in the pandemic inquiry means he has no chance of making a return,” they said.
Lord Cruddas, a long-time Boris ally and President of the Conservative Democratic Organisation, warned: “This whole personal witch hunt against Boris Johnson is getting out of hand and it could lead to a major split in the Conservative Party between Remainers and Brexiteers”.
Conservative MP Ben Bradley: “The former Prime Minister has been through that, we’ve investigated that, the country has dealt with that.
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