Boris Johnson thought Downing Street lockdown party ‘was a work event’, says Nadhim Zahawi | Political news
The Education Secretary has defended the Prime Minister as he said Boris Johnson was unaware a Downing Street lockdown event was a party.
Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “It’s not true the Prime Minister knew about it. He implicitly thought it was a business event.”
He said senior civil servant Sue Gray should be allowed to perform his investigation in the May 2020 garden party at number 10, and several others in Westminster.
Follow live updates on ‘partygate’ as investigation nears completion
“PM feels the pain”
The Education Secretary confirmed Mr Johnson had been interviewed by Ms Gray, saying he had ‘submitted himself to this enquiry’, which is due to end next week.
He added that the Prime Minister wished he could “turn back time” and, having lost an uncle to COVID, Mr Zahawi said he shared the public’s anger.
“I can absolutely tell you that the prime minister is feeling the pain,” he said.
“All I would say is we have to allow the investigation to take place. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do – you don’t convict a man without a thorough investigation.”
Mr Zahawi also said he hoped Sir Keir Starmer would apologize after a photo reappeared over the weekend of the Labor leader drinking a beer with colleagues in a constituency office in the spring of 2021, when the mix in inside was not allowed outside of work.
The Prime Minister is facing new allegations that he attended a leaving event for his defense adviser, Captain Steve Higham, just before Christmas in 2020, when London was under strict COVID restrictions. Mr Johnson is said to have given a speech.
It is unclear whether this event will be included in Ms Gray’s investigation.
There have also been reports suggesting Mr Johnson could overhaul his top team following the allegations, including the sacking of Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds, who emailed staff inviting them to the garden party of May 2020.
What parties would have taken place in Westminster during the lockdown?
Analysis: PM skating on thin ice
The parties have caused deep and probably irreversible damage to the Prime Minister.
But are those who would succeed him willing to budge, and are Tory MPs willing to ditch a proven election winner for a punt on someone untested, such as the Chancellor or Minister Foreign Affairs ?
The answer to both questions is no at this time.
Things can move quickly, particularly if the local elections in May are disastrous or if other revelations come to light.
Boris Johnson is skating on very thin ice, and wavering MPs say very grand gestures that he has changed the culture in Downing Street and has an agenda the party can follow, will be essential if not not too late.
The anger and discontent of Tory MPs seem to be growing, with Tim Loughton becomes sixth backbench MP to publicly demand that the Prime Minister resign over the “terminal damage” the revelations have caused to his reputation.
Party insiders estimate around 20 Tory MPs submitted letters of censure to Boris Johnson at the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs, The Daily Telegraph reported.
A formal vote of no confidence would take place if 54 letters were submitted.