Politics

Johnson ally dismisses partygate bash as just ‘soggy sandwiches and a slice of birthday cake’

Controversy over Boris Johnson’s involvement in partygate and COVID-19 rule-breaking has been dismissed as “soggy sandwiches and a slice of birthday cake” by an ally of the former prime minister.

Tory MP Paul Bristow told Sky News the fine handed to Mr Johnson by Scotland Yard over a lockdown-busting gathering in Downing Street was “ridiculous”.

He also rounded on a report by MPs which said evidence strongly suggested breaches of coronavirus guidance would have been “obvious” to the then-Tory leader.

The cross-party Privileges Committee, which is set to cross-examine Mr Johnson later this month, said the Commons may have been misled at least four times.

However, Mr Bristow has sought to discredit the inquiry, arguing it is “relying on evidence” from a separate report into events in No 10 by civil service investigator Sue Gray, who is to join the office of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as his chief of staff.

Mr Johnson has also said it was “surreal” the committee proposes to rely on evidence “culled and orchestrated” by Ms Gray.

The committee has defended its probe insisting it is “not based on the Sue Gray report”, which last year detailed lockdown-breaking, booze-fuelled parties in Downing Street during Mr Johnson’s leadership and played a role in his downfall.

However, pressing his attack Mr Bristow said: “This is just ludicrous. If it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable.

“Relying on evidence from a report compiled by the leader of the opposition’s chief of staff. It makes the whole process utterly ludicrous.”

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2:07

‘I believed events were within the rules’

Highlighting Mr Johnson’s victory at the 2019 election where he secured an 80-seat majority, Mr Bristow said: “We ended up getting rid of him on the basis of a few photos of a birthday party, which looks to be honest not a very exciting birthday party.

“It goes against natural justice that it’s based on a report produced by the leader of the opposition’s chief of staff.

“The idea that we got rid of him because of a few soggy sandwiches from Sainsbury’s is a complete joke.”

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3:13

Partygate: What did Boris know?

Read more:
Everything you need to know about the investigation

New photos of Johnson at lockdown gatherings

On Mr Johnson receiving one of the 126 penalty notices issued by the Metropolitan Police for lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall, Mr Bristow said: “The fine Boris Johnson got was for the soggy sandwiches and a slice of birthday cake. If anyone looked at that objectively would think it was ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, Labour has defended the “integrity” of Ms Gray after her recruitment by the opposition sparked an outcry from Conservative MPs.

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0:34

Starmer defends Sue Gray appointment

Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds told Sky News: “Sue Gray is a person of enormous integrity. Someone who served in the civil service under ministers of a number of parties actually, someone who’s always served with that integrity.”

“I’m really delighted she’s joining the Labour team at that point where we’re readying ourselves for government if the British public backs us at the next general election.”

Ms Gray also received backing from former Conservative Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude who said he had never the “slightest reason to question either her integrity or her political impartiality”.

But former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told Times Radio: “There needs to be a much clearer sense for civil servants that once you go into politics it’s a different game altogether.”

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