The comments from the deputy prime minister came as he attempted to dismiss the explosive claims from Dominic Cummings, the former chief Downing Street adviser, that Boris Johnson had lied to Parliament.
Just last week the prime minister was forced to admit he attended the “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street on 20 May 20 — but insisted to MPs he “believed implicitly that this was a work event”.
In an awkward exchange, Mr Raab, who also serves as the justice secretary, told Sky News: “There was speculation that the 20 May party was held in my honour to thank me — it’s just ridiculous. Of course not, ridiculous”.
When challenged by presenter Kay Burley, who said “so it was a party on 20 May then”, the deputy prime minister backtracked, saying: “No, no, no — this is the claim that was made.
“It was nonsense, I wasn’t invited and I didn’t attend,” he stressed, referring to claims last week the event had been arranged partly to say thanks to Mr Raab for “holding the fort” when the prime minister was in hospital after contracting Covid.
Mr Raab added: “What I can tell you from what I saw… is No 10, particularly during that period when the PM was unwell and in hospital, but also throughout the pandemic, has been working phenomenally hard under gruelling conditions.
“I do not personally from my own experience recognise the caricature that they were all partying.”
Speaking after Mr Cummings claimed Mr Johnson had been warned by at least two people in No 10 to cancel the invite sent to 100 staff members to the “drinks party”, Mr Raab insisted: “The PM has been very clear that that’s not true or accurate”.
He also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that for a prime minister to deliberately lie to Parliament would “normally” be a resigning matter.
“If it’s lying, deliberate in the way you describe, if it’s not corrected immediately, it would normally, under the ministerial mode and the governance around Parliament, be a resigning matter.”
However, he declined to be drawn on Mr Johnson’s position, saying: “I’m not going to pre-judge the facts in this or any other aspect of the claims that have been made.”
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