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Boris Johnson news – live: PM approved No 10 party knowing it broke rules, says Cummings as Labour lead grows

Keir Starmer’s party leads government by 13 points, poll suggests

Joe Middleton
Monday 17 January 2022 23:17
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Everything you need to know about the Downing Street party inquiry

Boris Johnson approved a “bring your own booze” event in May 2020 despite knowing it “broke the rules”, Dominic Cummings has said.

The prime minister’s former adviser apparently urged Mr Johnson at the time to cancel the event. “The PM waved it aside,” Mr Cummings alleged.

Mr Cummings’ comments come as the partygate scandal continues to lower the government’s standing in the eyes of the public, with one recent poll suggesting that Labour has now extended its lead over the Tories to 13 points.

Opposition MP have accused the government of trying to distract the public from the issue by attacking the BBC and by saying the military could be put in charge of preventing small boats from crossing the Channel.

The latter plan was today lambasted by Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the Commons defence committee, who said the military taking on the “migrant challenge” was a “massive distraction”.

Meanwhile, culture secretary Nadine Dorries told the Commons on Monday afternoon that the BBC licence fee would be frozen for two years, a policy which critics say amounts to “brazen vandalism”.

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Boris Johnson accused of attending leaving do and giving speech in December 2020

Boris Johnson has been accused of giving a speech at a leaving do for his defence adviser in December 2020 when Covid restrictions were in force.

The prime minister has been embroiled in an ongoing scandal over a number of parties that were held at Downing Street while the public was being told to obey social distancing rules.

According to The Mirror, Mr Johnson attended Captain Steve Higham’s leaving party “for a few minutes” in which he gave a speech “to thank him for his service”. The newspaper said a “small number of No 10 staff briefly said goodbye”.

Lamiat Sabin has the details.

Boris Johnson accused of attending leaving do and giving speech in December 2020

Partygate scandal deepens with yet another claim of Downing Street gathering

Joe Middleton17 January 2022 08:07
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Boris Johnson ‘questioned by Sue Gray’ for partygate investigation

Boris Johnson has reportedly been interviewed as part of the investigation into allegations of parties at Downing Street.

The prime minister is said to have “shared what he knows” with senior civil servant Sue Gray about alleged parties in Downing Street as she prepares to publish her report into claims of coronavirus rule flouting as soon as this week, the Daily Telegraph reported.

According to the Institute for Government (IoG), Ms Gray‘s final document is “set to be a largely factual account about parties that were held in Downing Street”.

Previous reports have suggested the inquiry was expected to find no evidence of criminality but that the investigation could censure Mr Johnson for a lack of judgment and criticise the culture in Downing Street.

Joe Middleton17 January 2022 08:16
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Nadhim Zahawi: PM is focused on the big issues

Nadhim Zahawi said today that Boris Johnson “is focused on dealing with the big issues”.

The Education Secretary told Times Radio: “If you think again about the big calls, whether it’s Brexit, the vaccine programme which the Prime Minister very much focused on and I led the deployment, and of course the call on Omicron pre-Christmas... on the big decisions, he’s made the right call.

“Of course, we’re all human, we make mistakes. And when he made a mistake, he came to Parliament and apologised for it.”

Mr Zahawi said he would have acted differently and told staff to “get back to your desk” if he had discovered a party.

Joe Middleton17 January 2022 08:26
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Boris Johnson faces ‘burning deadline’ to keep energy bills down as prices set to soar

Boris Johnson’s government faces a “burning deadline” in the next three weeks to decide how to offset a massive rise in household energy bills, the head of an energy company has said.

Bills could go up by more than 50 per cent for millions of customers, a rise that could cost average households around £700 per year, writes Laurie Churchman.

“To some extent their burning deadline is the day that the new level of the price cap gets announced… because that’s when you would think that it becomes obvious they are going up,” said Good Energy boss Nigel Pocklington. Ofgem will announce the new price cap level in February.

Boris Johnson faces ‘burning deadline’ to keep energy bills down as prices to soar

Average household could have to fork out extra £700 per year

Joe Middleton17 January 2022 08:40
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Boris Johnson’s job is safe, says Zahawi

Nadhim Zahawi said today that Boris Johnson is safe in his job and that the prime minister is “human” and we “all make mistakes”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Education Secretary said - after being asked three times - that the Prime Minister will stay in his position.

He said: “Yes, he is, because he’s human and we make mistakes.

“And, actually, he came to the despatch box and apologised and said he will absolutely submit himself to Parliament, because that’s our parliamentary democracy.”

Joe Middleton17 January 2022 08:57
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Keir Starmer should apologise after a photo emerged of him drinking a beer with Labour Party staff, says Zahawi

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that Keir Starmer should apologise after a photograph emerged of him drinking with a number of party staff in a constituency office last year.

Joe Middleton17 January 2022 09:15
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Minister insists Boris Johnson safe in job as Tory MP deluged by angry emails

Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi has claimed Boris Johnson is safe in his job — after being asked three times about the prime minister’s perilous position.

Despite growing anger from Tory MPs and calls for the prime minister’s resignation after multiple allegations of rule-busting parties in No 10 during Covid restrictions, the education secretary said “he’s human and we make mistakes”.

On Sunday evening, one Conservative MP said they had received an “enormous” number of emails from constituents over the gatherings and suggested the affair raised questions about the “moral authority” at the top of government.

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has the details.

Minister insists Boris Johnson safe in job as Tory MP deluged by angry emails

One MP suggests affair raises questions about ‘moral authority’ at top of government

Joe Middleton17 January 2022 09:26
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Nadine Dorries plan ‘the end of the BBC as we know it’, say Labour

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said the government is signalling “the end of the BBC as we know it” in a “pathetic” attempt to distract from the partygate scandal engulfing Downing Street.

She said the £159 licence fee is “incredibly cheap” and criticised Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries for making an announcement on Twitter as part of a Tory Government plan to offer “red meat for their backbenchers”.

Ms Powell’s comments come after Ms Dorries said at the weekend that the next announcement about the BBC licence fee “will be the last”, and indicated she wanted to find a new funding model for the BBC after the current licence fee funding deal expires in 2027.

Ms Powell told Times Radio: “We’ve just got to recognise what it is that we are getting for that payment - which is actually incredibly cheap, even when you compare it to many of the commercial competitors out there - what you get as value, because we all pay in a small amount, what the BBC is able to do.”

“Let’s not get away from the fact that this so-called announcement, which was on Twitter yesterday, which is effectively the end of the BBC as we know it, a huge policy announcement, is nothing more than a really obvious, pathetic distraction from a Prime Minister and a Government who has run out of road and whose leadership is hanging by a thread.”

She acknowledged that the licence fee is not a perfect solution - “you would not necessarily start with it if we didn’t have it now” - but said countries around the world are looking at the “mix of models that we have in this country” for funding broadcasting.

Joe Middleton17 January 2022 09:45
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Labour leader refuses to apologise over ‘lockdown beer drinking picture’

Keir Starmer has refused to apologise over images of him drinking beer in an office in April 2021 in the run-up to the May 2021 elections.

At the time coronavirus rules meant indoor socialising was banned in England.

The Labour leader told LBC Radio: “The restrictions allowed people to work when they needed to, we were running an election campaign, we were in a constituency office.”

He said no restaurants or pubs were open and the hotel he and colleagues were staying in did not serve food so “if you didn’t get a takeaway then our team wasn’t eating that evening”.

Asked if he was prepared to apologise, Sir Keir said: “We didn’t break any rules, we were working in the office and we stopped for a takeaway.”

He added: “We did nothing wrong.”

Sir Keir said he usually travelled with a team of around six people and the incident took place in City of Durham MP Mary Foy’s office.

Joe Middleton17 January 2022 10:05
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Nadhim Zahawi denies PM is plotting 'partgate' survival in 'Operation: Save Big Dog'
Joe Middleton17 January 2022 10:30

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