Boris Johnson news – live: No 10 apologises to Queen but Liz Truss tells nation to ‘move on’ from partygate

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No 10 apologises to Queen for parties on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral

Downing Street has been forced to apologise to Buckingham Palace following reports of two No 10 parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s socially-distanced funeral – but officials will not say if Boris Johnson knew about them.

The PM’s spokesman is also refusing to clarify whether it was acknowledged to the Palace that the gatherings were “social events”, which would have been in breach of Covid rules at the time. It is understood the apology was made by a government official, in a telephone call – rather than in a conversation involving Mr Johnson.

It came less than two hours after Liz Truss suggested Britons should “move on” from so-called partygate.

Asked about the latest allegations, Ms Truss, the foreign secretary, said Mr Johnson had apologised for his actions and insisted the public should “look at the overall position we’re in as a country”, citing Brexit and Covid recovery as the PM’s real legacy. “I think we now need to move on … and, of course, wait for the results of the Sue Gray inquiry,” she told ITV News.

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Campaigners say Covid fines must be rescinded amid No 10 ‘impunity’

Coronavirus prosecutions must be stopped in light of allegations government figures broke the law “with impunity” while ordinary members of the public were punished, campaigners have said.

The Fair Trials group called for the almost 120,000 fines issued so far in England and Wales to be rescinded and for all charges under Covid laws to be withdrawn, reports our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden.

“We cannot have a justice system where people in power can break lockdown with impunity while others are prosecuted and fined,” CEO Normal L Reimer said.

Meanwhile, figures obtained by The Independent show that 30 per cent of the Covid prosecutions so far reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service – 803 out of 2,716 – were wrongful.

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 16:08

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Watch: No 10 apologises to Queen for parties on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral

No 10 apologises to Queen for parties on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 16:05

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Ex-Covid taskforce boss apologises for hosting leaving drinks

Kate Josephs, formerly the head of Boris Johnson’s Covid taskforce, has issued a public apology after admitting to hosting a leaving drinks in the Cabinet Office in December 2020.

She said the event on 17 December was to mark her departure from the Civil Service, and included staff “gathering … with drinks, in our office”.

“I am truly sorry that I did this and for the anger that people will feel as a result,” Ms Josephs, who is now the CEO of Sheffield City Council, said. “Sheffield has suffered greatly during this pandemic, and I apologise unreservedly.”

She added she was “cooperating” with the Sue Gray inquiry, but felt the need to speak out.

At the time of the event, London and the southeast of England were in strict Tier 3 measures. And just two days later, on 19 December, the PM imposed an effective lockdown in the capital and vast swathes of the country. Some days later, Christmas celebrations would go on to be cancelled for hundreds of families owing to the situation.

Ms Josephs finished her statement by saying she “will not be able to respond to any further questions until [Ms Gray’s] investigation is complete”.

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 16:04

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‘Most corrupt government ever’: Public reacts to party allegations

Hours after explosive reports emerged of two lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street last April, the general feeling at a branch of Co-op where a government staffer allegedly filled a suitcase with bottles of wine was one of disappointment.

The government was accused of being “the most corrupt we’ve ever had” as customers and passers-by reacted to the allegations outside the supermarket on The Strand, near Whitehall, reports Chiara Giordano, who spoke to members of the public in central London today.

A pair of former civil servants said they were “disgusted” by the latest allegations of leaving parties being held at No 10 last April. One man, asked whether he thought the PM should resign over the string of government rule-breaking allegations in recent weeks, said: “Yes, he probably should – but as a Labour supporter, I’m quite happy for him to be here and to mess things up.”

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 15:50

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Government needs overhaul after Gray’s partygate report – Gove

Michael Gove says changes will need to be made in government once Sue Gray’s partygate report is published – but denied there is a need for Boris Johnson to resign as part of that “shake up”.

The levelling up secretary, speaking to ITV news during a visit to Manchester, said he could “completely understand the sense of exasperation and anger that people feel” after more reports of unlawful parties inside No 1 during the pandemic.

But, he quickly added, decisions could not be made until the report by senior civil servant Sue Gray had been finalised. “Rather than a sort of drip, drip, drip of revelations, we need to have a complete, full, candid account of everything that went on … let’s do that, let’s do it quickly, but let’s also do it with all the facts in front of us,” he said.

Asked if he felt embarrassed about the most recent parties being reported on, which took place last April, Mr Gove said firmly “it’s not about embarrassment” and that he thinks “everybody is just understandable exasperated”.

Loyal to his boss, though, he said giving the British public “the truth” was more important than sacking Mr Johnson leaving his job.

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 15:43

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Timeline of alleged government ‘lockdown parties’

You would be forgiven for losing track of the number of No 10 parties alleged to have taken place over last two years, and when, where and how each is said to have broken various Covid restrictions.

After a leaked email showed over 100 No 10 staff were invited to “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020, including the PM and his wife, Carrie, MPs within his own party have also called on Boris Johnson to resign.

Those calls intensified last night when the latest reported-on events were found to have taken place hours before Prince Philip’s socially-distanced funeral.

Here, our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn looks at all the allegations of gatherings across No 10, government and at the Conservative Party headquarters.

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 15:33

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Watch: Bizarre Boris Johnson lookalike ‘protest’ outside Downing St

Bizarre Boris ‘protest’ outside Parliament

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 15:11

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PM likely very worried about ‘volatile’ position, says Cameron’s ex-spin chief

Back to partygate now. Ex-PM David Cameron’s former spin doctor says he imagines Boris Johnson is feeling “deeply worried” about his position following the latest backlash.

Sir Craig Oliver told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme the situation was both “incredibly volatile” and “incredibly difficult” but that the cabinet and MPs were likely wondering if it was worth booting the current leader out amid the party’s current issues.

They are “are probably weighing up ‘are we better with him or better without him’?” he told the radio show. “At the moment there are a few unknowns and I think most of them are prepared to see what happens with Sue Gray.”

“I think that there’s quite a sophisticated calculation that’s going on at the moment,” he added.

Pushed on what that calculation could look like, Sir Craig said officials would be considering whether a new PM would be able to handle the country’s biggest crises right now, including “the cost of living crisis or any number of other big problems that are on the horizon”.

What they have to ask, he said, is if “replacing somebody at this time and putting them in that difficult circumstance [is] actually going to be the best thing for them long term?”

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 15:10

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Football pundit Gary Neville joins Labour Party

England football star Gary Neville joined the Labour Party “in the last few days”, and is reportedly not ruling out a venture into politics.

The former Manchester United captain was publicly welcomed to the party by shadow cabinet ministers Lucy Powell and Anneliese Dodds.

Explaining the move on BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, Mr Neville said: “I want to support Labour. I do believe that we need a progressive Labour Party, but one that actually not just looks after the left side; it has to come towards the centre.”

Sharing the news on social media, Ms Powell, who is shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said she is “very pleased” that Mr Neville has “finally” joined Labour. She also hinted that the player-turned-pundit may have a political career in store.

It comes amid reports Mr Neville is not “ruling out” a run for Manchester mayor when the current incumbent, Andy Burnham, finishes up. However, asked about the rumours by the BBC’s Nick Robinson, Mr Neville said he thinks he would get “eaten alive” in Westminster.

Commenting on the latest No 10 party allegations today, the football pundit said:

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 15:00

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UK and EU to ‘intensify’ talks over Northern Ireland Protocol

Stepping away from No 10 parties for a moment, foreign secretary Liz Truss insisted today there is a “deal to be done” with the EU over the post-Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland, as both London and Brussels agreed to intensify talks.

The apparent thaw in relations comes after Ms Truss’ first official face-to-face talks with Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice president, over the Northern Ireland Protocol at her official residence at Chevening, in Kent.

The pair have agreed to hold further talks on 24 January, with officials also due to meet again next week for “intensified talks”. But Ms Truss again refused to rule out the prospect of invoking Article 16, which would suspend part of the agreements in the protocol, if they could not agree a way forward.

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more:

Sam Hancock14 January 2022 14:33

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