Published:

Partygate 1) Prime Minister refuses to quit as polls slip further

“The prime minister apologised to the public for the “rage they feel” over the allegations as he admitted attending an event in the No 10 garden in May 2020. He said he believed it was a work event and that he had not seen an invitation from his principal private secretary for 100 staff to bring their own alcohol to “socially distanced drinks”. Tory MPs said he later told them in the Commons tea room that he did not believe he had personally done anything wrong and said that “we’re taking hits for something we don’t deserve”… Several other Tory MPs also called on him to quit, including William Wragg, a senior member of the 1922 Committee, who described his position as “indefensible”.” – The Times

  • Johnson doesn’t believe he did anything wrong, say Tories – The Times
  • They ‘joked about being caught by drones’ – The Sun
  • Johnson ‘a dead man walking’, says senior Tory – Daily Telegraph
  • Bereaved families let rip – The Sun

Partygate 2) He offers partial apology, saying he believed lockdown gathering to be work related

“Boris Johnson suffered the toughest day of his premiership on Wednesday when leaders of the Scottish Conservative party and some English Tories called for him to quit after he admitted attending a Number 10 “bring your own booze” party during lockdown. The prime minister tried to buy some time with a partial apology, saying that he thought the evening gathering in May 2020 was a “work event”. But it failed to stem the tide of anger among some Tory MPs. Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, said the public thought he had been “lying through his teeth”, while many Conservative MPs said it was only a matter of timing before the prime minister faced a leadership challenge.”- FT

  • Starmer brands him ‘pathetic liar’ and demands he resign… – The Sun
  • …as Labour hold ten-point lead – Daily Express

>Yesterday:

Partygate 3) Sunak ‘leaves Johnson in limbo’ as he fails to offer full support

“Rishi Sunak declined on Wednesday night to fully endorse Boris Johnson until he had seen the results of the probe into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street. After eight hours of public silence following the Prime Minister’s apology to the House of Commons, the Chancellor issued a carefully worded message on Twitter. Mr Sunak, widely tipped by colleagues as a potential successor as Tory leader, said that Mr Johnson “was right to apologise” for attending a gathering on May 20 2020. The Chancellor added: “I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her inquiry.” Ms Gray is the civil servant carrying out the investigation into rule-breaking parties. Mr Sunak’s lukewarm message came after he failed to attend the Commons to hear the Prime Minister’s apology…” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tepid support stands out – Daily Mail
  • Sunak, Raab and Gove deny attending Downing Street party – Daily Telegraph
  • Report claims it was not a work event as two of Gove’s advisers attended – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Why Sunak will never be prime minister – Anthony Seldon, The Times
  • Chancellor shows the political ‘nous’ many feared he was missing – Camilla Tominey, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson is doomed, but Sunak might not be the saviour the Tories crave – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • Where’s Rishi, asked MPs, as they once did of John Major – Jason Groves, Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Grey suits wait for Gray, Sue

Partygate 4) Scottish Tories in open revolt

“Scottish Tories were in open revolt last night as they heaped pressure on Boris Johnson to quit. Their leader north of the border, Douglas Ross, said the PM’s position was ‘untenable’ after he admitted attending a Downing Street party during lockdown. ‘I said yesterday if the Prime Minister attended this event in Downing Street on May 20, 2020, he could not continue as Prime Minister so, regretfully, I have to say his position is no longer tenable,’ he told STV News… His predecessor, Ruth Davidson, a prominent critic of Mr Johnson, backed Mr Ross. She said of his comments: ‘A tough call to make. But the right one.’ Jackson Carlaw, another former Scottish Tory leader, also demanded Mr Johnson go, along with other Conservatives MSPs.” – Daily Mail

  • Gove and Rees-Mogg accused of belittling Ross – The Scotsman

Comment:

  • Threat of Scottish Tories going their own way could grow – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
  •  Sturgeon is wrong; learning to live with Covid must not mean masks forever – Henry Hill, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Partygate 5) MPs go over the top with calls for Johnson’s resignation

“Conservative MPs have called on Boris Johnson to resign over the Downing Street parties scandal – but Cabinet ministers hastily rallied to rustle up support tonight. The prime minister is under intense pressure after admitting he attended a ‘bring your own booze’ gathering at Number 10 while the country was in lockdown – but insisting he ‘thought it was a work event’. Tory MPs including William Wragg, Caroline Nokes and Roger Gale all turned their backs on the British leader tonight. Senior Tory Mr Wragg, chairman of the Public Affairs and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said Mr Johnson’s position is ‘untenable’ following revelations about the May 2020 event. The Hazel Grove MP told Radio 4’s PM programme: ‘A series of unforced errors are deeply damaging to the perception of the party.’” – The Metro

Met rejects call for inquiry despite mea culpa

“The Metropolitan Police was refusing last night to open an investigation into the Downing Street party as experts said that possible legal breaches could be complicated by the fact it took place at Boris Johnson’s home residence. The Met said its stance had not changed despite the prime minister’s admission in parliament yesterday that he had attended the garden drinks on May 20, 2020. The force appears to be determined to wait for the conclusion of a Cabinet Office inquiry before deciding whether a criminal investigation would be in the public interest. Legal experts said that Johnson could swerve criminal culpability, however, because the party was held at his home address. Adam Wagner, a barrister… who specialises in pandemic legislation, said that at the time the only relevant law on gatherings was a ban on leaving home without a reasonable excuse.” – The Times

  • Davey calls for criminal probe into Downing Street ‘partygate’ allegations – Daily Telegraph
  • Scotland Yard under growing pressure to investigate – Daily Mail

>Today: James Frayne in Comment: No one in control. No one taking responsibility. No one apparently in charge. Why these events are toxic for the Government.

Robert Shrimsley: For Johnson, the party really may be over this time

“He is not ready to give up the fight. Major personnel changes in Downing Street are likely. He used prime minister’s questions to deliver another of those humbling apologies he is normally loath to offer. The sullen silence of his own MPs suggested little true belief that his partial admissions of fault were adequate, especially after the days of obfuscation, but also a grudging acceptance that he has bought himself some time. But even if he can get past the immediate crisis, which has shocked both voters and colleagues, it is hard to see how he can recover his authority and popularity. One seasoned operator notes: “It is not sustainable. I can’t say exactly how this plays out, but I don’t see it ending well.”” – FT

  • Admitting he’s an idiot was his last line of defence – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister has put the Tories in toxic territory – Iain Martin, The Times

Sue Gray:

  • The ex-pub landlady who holds Boris’s fate in her hands – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • It is rare that civil servants dare to pull trigger – Gordon Rayner, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: If Johnson has to quit, is it best he does so now?

Devon MP loses Tory whip after backing Labour on energy bills

“The Conservative party has removed the whip from Anne Marie Morris, a Devon MP, after she rebelled to back a Labour move in parliament to cut VAT on energy bills. Morris said she was disappointed by the decision, but insisted she would not apologise for supporting efforts to address the rising cost of living. She voted on Tuesday in a favour of a Labour motion aimed at piling extra pressure on the government over the rising cost of living by challenging MPs to back up past promises on cutting VAT. The motion would have led to the government losing control of the Commons timetable to allow legislation to cut VAT to go through but was defeated by 319 votes to 229. The government had a majority of 90, with Morris being the only Tory MP to rebel.” – Daily Mail

  • A new Corbyn party is just what Starmer needs – David Aaronovitch, The Times

>Yesterday: Ryan Bourne’s column: Sunak’s instincts are right. The Government should avoid slashing VAT on domestic fuel.

Truss to ‘tell EU to back off’ over their Northern Ireland threats

“Liz Truss today takes the reins on Brexit talks for the first time – by telling the EU to back off over their Northern Ireland threats. The Foreign Secretary takes on the thorny issue for the first time after Brexit chief Lord Frost dramatically quit at the end of last year. She will flash her credentials in crunch talks with Vice President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič at Chevening House today for the latest discussions over the protocol. Officials will lay on a welcome dinner of Scottish smoked salmon, Welsh lamb and Kent apple pie to woo negotiators ahead of two days of intense talks. She warned last weekend she would tear up the hated Northern Ireland protocol by triggering Article 16 if she had to – in order to stop the checks at ports which cut firms off from the rest of the UK.” – The Sun

  • Foreign Secretary to table ‘pragmatic’ new proposals to end fresh border row – Daily Mail
  • …or ‘sets out fresh demands for EU’ – Daily Express

More:

  • Brown calls on Truss to help raise funds for Afghanistan – The Guardian

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: The EU also has an obligation to settle the Northern Ireland Protocol – to help keep the peace there

>Yesterday: Chris Wilford in Comment: Tax has grabbed the headlines. But post-EU, it’s regulation that the UK urgently needs to reform.

Trade minister insists ‘everything on table’ in India talks

“The UK’s international trade secretary said “everything is on the table to discuss”, including immigration, as she launched trade negotiations with India, the biggest country with which the UK has sought to sign a post-Brexit free trade deal. Anne-Marie Trevelyan said her team had “a broad mandate to crack on from cabinet”, including to address India’s demands of easier visa access for students and skilled workers. She said the UK wanted to finalise a deal by early 2023, ahead of both Indian and British general elections the following year. Trevelyan will meet Piyush Goyal, India’s commerce minister, to launch formal trade negotiations with India on Thursday. Their teams will hold the first round of talks this month.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • For the Woke warriors, culture and economics are two sides of the same coin – Kristian Niemietz, CapX
  • Johnson is in the worst trouble of his premiership – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Will nudge theory survive the pandemic? – Simon Ruda, UnHerd
  • Stonewall rules in unlikely places – Caroline Ffiske, The Critic