No 10 under fire over partygate claims as more Tories call on PM to go

Former attorney general Jeremy Wright said events in Downing Street have done ‘real and lasting damage’ to the Government’s authority.

30 May 2022

No 10 is under renewed pressure to reveal if Boris Johnson’s wife hosted a second lockdown party in the Downing Street flat as two more Tory MPs called on the Prime Minister to step down.

Former attorney general Jeremy Wright said events in Downing Street have caused “real and lasting damage” to the Government’s authority and that he has concluded “with regret” that Mr Johnson should go.

A spokesman for Carshalton and Wallington MP Elliot Colburn, who was only elected in 2019, confirmed he has submitted a letter calling for a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership.

It came as No 10 failed to deny a report that Carrie Johnson hosted a second party in the Downing Street flat, where she and her husband live, on the day of the Prime Minister’s 56th birthday.

Earlier in the day on June 19 2020, Mr Johnson was present at an impromptu gathering in the Cabinet Room, which led to him being fined by the Metropolitan Police along with his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Jeremy Wright
Jeremy Wright said events in Downing Street have caused ‘real and lasting damage to the Government’s authority (House of Commons/PA)

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that an unnamed aide claimed to have told Sue Gray’s investigation that they had messages showing Mrs Johnson met “several” male friends that evening, with the Prime Minister later heading up to the flat where they were gathered.

Asked about the report, a No 10 spokesman said senior civil servant Ms Gray had made clear in her terms of reference that she would look at other allegations where there were “credible” claims that rules had been breached.

“I have seen the same reporting that you have, but I think this is covered in the terms of reference in Sue Gray’s report, where she clearly said that any other gatherings that were credible, where she received credible allegations, would be looked into.

“Downing Street (staff) were given clear guidance to retain any relevant information and co-operate fully with the investigation.”

The Sunday Times said the aide, who has since reportedly written to the Cabinet Secretary about the messages, told Ms Gray’s team they did not want to forward the messages to them but were prepared to show investigators in person.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner
Angela Rayner said Boris Johnson must ‘come clean’ about what happened in the Downing St flat (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

But the Cabinet Office said the informant had not been willing to provide the messages or to meet in person, so their email exchange was forwarded to the police once the Operation Hillman inquiry started.

The police did not investigate the alleged evening gathering in the flat and, by the time the aide offered to share the messages with Ms Gray, the Cabinet Office said the probe had been wrapped up.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “Less than a week after the release of the Gray report, this raises serious questions about whether Downing Street has been caught lying yet again and why the event has not been investigated.

“The Prime Minister must come clean with the British people.”

The Government had already been facing questions over another event in flat later in the year, on November 13, when Mrs Johnson reportedly held the so-called “Abba party” to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings in the fallout from a bitter No 10 power struggle.

In her report, Ms Gray said she had only gathered “limited” evidence on the event when she had to stop due to the police investigation and that she did not consider it “appropriate or proportionate” to resume after the police concluded their inquiry.

Boris Johnson with his wife, Carriebaby
Boris Johnson with his wife, Carrie (Jacob King/PA)

Over the weekend, the Cabinet Office denied a report by The Sunday Times that the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Steve Barclay edited out details of what happened from Ms Gray’s final report.

A No 10 spokesman said: “This was an independent investigation.

“The Cabinet Office has been clear the report was impartially conducted and the contents represent the findings of Sue Gray and her investigation team alone.”

Meanwhile Mr Wright’s call for the Prime Minister to step down is likely to be seen as particularly significant as he is an ex-law officer as well as a former cabinet minister.

In a lengthy statement, Mr Wright said while he could not be certain Mr Johnson lied to Parliament, he believed the had been “negligent” in failing to ensure the repeated assurances he gave that no rules had been broken were correct.

“I fear too that these events have done real and lasting damage to the reputation not just of this Government but to the institutions and authority of government more generally,” Mr Wright said.

“I have therefore, with regret, concluded that, for the good of this and future governments, the Prime Minister should resign.”

More Tories in recent days have publicly announced that they want a confidence vote in Mr Johnson’s leadership in response to his handling of the revelations about No 10 lockdown parties.

Under party rules Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, will be obliged to order a confidence vote if 54 Tory MPs submit a letter calling for one.

More than 20 MPs have publicly said they want a vote, although it is not clear whether all of them have written to Sir Graham while others may have putting in a letter without declaring it, making the exact numbers hard to know.

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