Fresh Downing Street party allegations ‘not a resigning issue’ for Boris Johnson says Bexhill and Battle MP
If Boris Johnson did attend a party at Downing Street in May 2020 it is ‘not a resigning issue’ as far as Bexhill and Battle’s MP is concerned.
On Monday, ITV published an email showing staff were invited for drinks in the Number 10 garden as the rest of the country was in lockdown observing strict rules on social gatherings.
It is alleged the Prime Minister, along with his wife Carrie Johnson, was in attendance.
The revelations are the latest in a string of alleged gatherings in Downing Street and other government departments back in 2020.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray is currently investigating whether any of the alleged parties were in breach of the rules.
Appearing on the BBC Today programme this morning, Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman was asked what he needed to hear from Mr Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions later today.
He said: “What did he attend, because more clarity is needed. We are back to where we were a month ago before the inquiry was set up where people are demanding answers and we are all in the dark and that includes me.”
He was then asked if Mr Johnson should resign if he did attend.
Mr Merriman responded: “No, I do not believe so, and again we don’t know what’s happened so I feel rotten speculating before I even know the facts, but as far as I’m concerned we judge people in the round and that includes the actions that were taken during the pandemic, the support, the vaccination programme and holding the nerve on Plan B and then you judge people where they have done wrong.
“I do think it needs clearing up, it’s gone on too far, we are talking about this rather than smart motorways and good policy changes, but as I say if you’re saying: ‘Is this a resigning moment?’ then I do not believe it is as I judge people in the round and you have to take the positives that the Prime Minister has delivered and then maybe add some of the negatives and then ask people to give their view.”
Writing in his weekly Observer column, he added: I was due to deliver the media round on Wednesday to talk about the changes to Smart Motorways. The Secretary of State for Transport was not able to show due to the Prime Minister’s statement before PMQs. I therefore ended up fielding questions about parties at No10 when I really wanted to talk about these positive changes to road policy.
“I did make it clear that I expected the Prime Minister to explain exactly what he had attended in order for more clarity to be known (which he then did a few hours later). I also made it clear that those who implemented the lockdown restrictions had to lead by example and abide by them in order for others to do likewise.
“I know that many of you will feel let down, and will feel this further if the independent inquiry finds that wrong has occurred. As I stated to the media, I judge the Prime Minister on all that he does. On the pandemic, I recognise the remarkable and swift financial help for businesses, wages and the community. The vaccine rollout, and the booster follow-up this Christmas, have been world-leading.
“The Prime Minister held his nerve on Plan B measures, which I voted for, and brought in measures which did not lead to closures or family restrictions. This appears to have been a call which the public in Scotland or Wales would have preferred. On the minus side of the score card, I regret the impact on care homes and PPE shortage, the illogical rules on international travel and other restrictions, which I did not support due to a lack of evidence or proportionality with other public health measures, and, now, omissions over lockdown rules. Residents will have their own score-card, and will mark it differently.
“Overall, I feel that it is now right to await the official inquiry. When a leader makes an error, I tend to not only judge them in the round but also by their success in making up for it with hard work. The Prime Minister now has to do this; for me and for you as residents.”
Meanwhile Sally-Ann Hart, Hastings and Rye MP, said: “I am extremely concerned about the allegations made against the Prime Minister. Whilst they have not yet been fully verified, I met with the Chief Whip yesterday morning [12th January 2022] to highlight my concerns with him and seek clarity. I feel very strongly that, like the vast majority of my constituents, those who make the rules must adhere to them. The Prime Minister was right to offer an apology for the event that took place in Downing Street on May 20th 2020, and I am awaiting the conclusion of the independent inquiry led by the senior Civil Servant Susan Gray.
“I am frustrated, like many, because this Government, led by the Prime Minister, has achieved some really impressive things over the past several months. These include the excellent vaccine roll-out, the Prime Minister lifting the restrictions in the summer – against the backdrop of considerable targeted criticism – holding his nerve, our economy bouncing back with renewed vigour, rescuing thousands of people from Afghanistan, our New Plan for Immigration, the fantastic Holiday Activity and Food Programme which has benefited children and their families across Hastings and Rye, the Environment Act, the recruitment of more police officers, a National Skills Fund, and the Lifetime Skills Guarantee to name just some of them.”