Tory MPs condemn ‘damning’ Partygate photos of Boris Johnson

‘It’s hard to claim this was necessary for work purposes when there are seven bottles of booze open’

Andrew Woodcock,Anna Isaac
Tuesday 24 May 2022 13:40
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Partygate: Boris Johnson's repeated denials and excuses

Tory MPs have condemned Boris Johnson over photos showing him drinking with colleagues during England’s second coronavirus lockdown.

The pictures, obtained by ITV News as Westminster awaits the imminent publication of Sue Gray’s report into the Partygate scandal, throw doubt on the prime minister’s claim to the House of Commons that no party took place and no rules were broken in No 10.

They appear to show Mr Johnson raising a glass at a gathering said to have taken place on 13 November 2020 as a leaving do for his then-communications chief Lee Cain.

One Tory MP told The Independent the images made clear Mr Johnson lied to parliament, making it likely more letters of no confidence in his leadership would be written in the coming days.

Another senior Conservative said their appearance as the Partygate scandal was coming to a head had “shifted it into a different gear”.

Sir Roger Gale, the first Tory MP to declare no confidence in the prime minister in December last year, described the pictures - which show the PM apparently toasting Mr Cain with a plastic cup of sparkling wine in a room littered with alcohol bottles - as “damning”.

One Tory MP said the images made clear the PM had lied to parliament

And Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “These images will rightly make people across the country very angry. The prime minister must outline why he believes this behaviour was acceptable. To most, these pictures seem unjustifiable and wrong.”

Another Conservative MP, who has already submitted a no-confidence letter, told The Independent: “These photos show that Boris misled parliament. It’s hard to claim this was necessary for work purposes when there are seven bottles of booze open.

“It definitely increases the likelihood that MPs who told their constituents that they were waiting for the Sue Gray report will now send off their letters.”

The MP said a number of Tories had taken back the letters they had sent to 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady, after last week’s conclusion of the police inquiry into Partygate appeared to “let the PM off the hook”.

But they added: “There is still a lot of unhappiness out there, and these photos will bring it back to the surface. People are really starting to worry about the electoral impact, especially with two by-elections coming up.”

Senior Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat said the photos showed a lack of “seriousness” at the top of government.

He told Sky News: “It’s very difficult to look at those photographs because they don’t give the impression of seriousness that I think we really need in our country.”

Prominent backbencher Steve Baker, who has previously said “the gig is up” for Mr Johnson, declined to comment on the photos, but tweeted a lockdown poster depicting a seriously ill Covid patient with the words: “Look her in the eyes and tell her you never bend the rules.”

Mr Johnson’s premiership has been thrust deeper into peril with the publication of the photographs – and they raise the question of why the Metropolitan Police did not fine the prime minister for taking part in the leaving party, when others were penalised for attending.

The images emerged amid growing chaos and tension at the heart of government over the Partygate scandal, with insiders describing the atmosphere in No 10 and the Cabinet Office as “daggers drawn”.

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