It comes after the prime minister’s former chief adviser stressed he “would swear under oath” what happened on 20 May, 2020, when over 100 Downing Street staff were invited to “bring your own booze” to the rose garden.
Asked about the former chief adviser’s comments, the deputy prime minister Mr Raab told Times Radio: “The suggestion that he [Mr Johnson] lied is nonsense”.
Quizzed on Sky News whether the prime minister should resign if he misled Parliament, he said: “I’m not going to speculate on hypotheticals. I’m confident he’s been straightforward with the House of Commons.”
“The PM has been very clear that that’s not true or accurate,” he added when pressed on Mr Cummings’ claims in an explosive blogpost last night.
The former chief adviser said that, after Mr Johnson’s private secretary Martin Reynolds sent the party invitation to Downing Street staff, “a very senior official replied by email saying the invite broke the rules”.
“This email will be seen by Sue Gray (unless there is a foolish coverup which would also probably be a criminal offence),” he has written – of the senior civil servant leading the investigation.
Mr Cummings claimed Mr Reynolds told him he would “check with the PM if he’s happy for it to go ahead”, on 20 May 2020. “I am sure he did check with the PM. (I think it very likely another senior official spoke to the PM about it but I am not sure),” the post stated.
Mr Raab’s comments on Tuesday also came as Conservative backbenchers — incensed at the multiple reports of rule-breaking events inside Downing Street — said they had received “enormous” amounts of angry correspondence from voters.
While the deputy prime minister admitted “there is some frustration” and there were “mixed views” on the doorstep in his own constituency, he also claimed on Sky News didn’t “get raised a lot with me”.
In a sign of how perilous the prime minister’s position has become, however, serving ministers have been openly critical of the events in No 10 in correspondence to constituents, including the science minister George Freeman.
According to The Times, Mr Freeman insisted the “prime minister and his office should set the highest standards”, adding: “Whatever the outcome of the investigation I fear the whole saga has caused serious damage to public trust in democracy generally, the government specifically and a real danger that public consent to the Covid rules and the wider rule law may be damaged”.
Maria Caulfield, a health minister who worked on Covid wards during the pandemic, also published a statement on her website on Monday, saying: “There were no after-work drinks for us.
“I saw my constituents; the bus drivers, the shop workers, the delivery drivers, and the rail workers having to carry on and put themselves at risk serving the public so that others could work safely from home. There were no work drinks in the supermarket car parks or in the bus or rail depots after a hard shift.
She added: “I spoke out publicly when Dominic Cummings broke the rules during lockdown and called for his resignation and so I will be calling for action against anyone who has been found to have broken the rules.
“It is clear that there was a culture inside No 10 where even if rules were not technically broken, the spirit of the rules were, and this is completely unacceptable.”
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