Johnson does not believe he was partying at drink-filled leaving do, Shapps says

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was ‘angry’ to see the images but the Prime Minister was probably not fined because he left ‘pretty quick’.

24 May 2022

Boris Johnson does not believe he was at a lockdown-breaking party in the images showing him raising a glass and surrounded by colleagues and wine bottles, a Cabinet ally has said.

Grant Shapps said he was “angry” to see the photographs but suggested the Prime Minister may not have been fined over the event because he left the leaving do “pretty quick”.

The Transport Secretary argued that Mr Johnson had “popped down” to toast departing communications chief Lee Cain on November 13 2020.

Downing Street has declined to defend the scenes ahead of the publication of Sue Gray’s inquiry, which a No 10 source expects to be published on Wednesday.

The leaving do took place just days after the Prime Minister had ordered England’s second national lockdown.

Mr Johnson, who the Transport Secretary claimed was “mortified” by the latest revelations, was facing fresh allegations he lied to Parliament after ITV News published the images.

Scotland Yard was also facing calls to explain why Mr Johnson was not fined over that event when photos showed him, drink in hand, by a table strewn with food and wine bottles.

There were at least eight other people in the room at a time when people were banned from social mixing, other than to meet one person outside, and at least one individual has received a fine over an event on that date.

Mr Shapps pointed to Mr Johnson’s red ministerial box being present in the images as he claimed to Sky News the Prime Minister was “clearly not” partying.

“It looks to me like he goes down on his way out of the office and thanks the staff and raises a glass, and doesn’t in his mind recognise it as a party,” Mr Shapps said.

Sue Gray
Sue Gray is preparing to publish her final report (GOV.UK/PA)

The Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was “angry” to see the images, as he sought to explain why Mr Johnson was not fined over that event.

“It looks to me he was asked to go and thank a member of staff who was leaving, raises a glass to them and I imagine comes in and out pretty quick, which is presumably why the police have not issued a fixed-penalty notice to the Prime Minister for that event,” he said.

But Mr Shapps said the Met does not need to explain its rationale despite calls coming from those including London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

“I don’t think the police should provide running commentaries, no,” the Cabinet minister said.

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