Home » Johnson Denies He Was Warned No 10 Event In May 2020 Was Against Rules And Says He Did Not Lie To Parliament – Live

Johnson Denies He Was Warned No 10 Event In May 2020 Was Against Rules And Says He Did Not Lie To Parliament – Live

13:15

Johnson says no one told him No 10 party was against the rules – but ducks invitation to call Cummings liar

Beth Rigby, the Sky News political editor, is interviewing Boris Johnson.

Q: Have you lied about the No 10 party?

Johnson says he wants to start by repeating his apology.

No one told him this was against the rules, or not a work event, he says.

He says we should wait to see what Sue Gray says. He will return to the Commons as soon as that report is out to say more.

Q: So you are saying Dominic Cummings is lying?

Johnson says he is sorry mistakes were made.

Q: He is saying you are lying?

Johnson says he can say categorically nobody told him this was against the rules, or not a work event.

His memory of this was going out into the garden for about 25 minutes, for what he thought was a work event. He says he humbly apologises for the misjudgments made.

Boris Johnson Photograph: Sky News

Updated

15:13

Six takeaways from what Labour call the PM’s ‘end of the road’ interview

Boris Johnson has never sounded as contrite, humbled and close to beaten during his premiership than he did in the pooled TV interview with Sky’s Beth Rigby broadcast at lunchtime. His script has not changed much since last Wednesday, when he told MPs at PMQs that he thought the lockdown-busting party he attended at No 10 on 20 May 2020 was a work event. But he was pressed relentlessly, and a lot has changed in his situation over the last six days. Here are six takeaways from the inteview.

  • Johnson is now resting his claim not to have lied about the party on the narrow assertion that no one told him in advance it was “against the rules”. There is compelling evidence now that he was told in advance the event should not go ahead, but it is perhaps conceivable that these objections were framed in general terms, and without detailed reference to the Covid restrictions in force at the time. (Even people who lie easily and casually, like Johnson, tend to prefer being truthful if that is an option.) In response to Rigby’s opening question about whether he had lied, Johnson said:

Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that was not a work event, and as I said in the House of Commons, when I went out into that garden I thought that I was attending a work event.

And later he said:

I am absolutely categorical [about this]; nobody said to me this is an event that is against the rules.

He made the same point, about being categorical on this, a second time. This is not a convincing excuse, because it is clear that the people who warned him not to go ahead with the party did so precisely because it would be against the rules. But they may not have phrased it like that. When asked by Rigby about claims that he told these people they were “overreacting”, Johnson did not deny that aspect of the case against him.

  • Johnson is also claiming that he was entitled to assume the event was legitimate – because otherwise it would not have been organised in the first place. He told Rigby:

I can tell you categorically that nobody told me, nobody said that this was something that was against the rules … or that we were doing something that wasn’t a work event because, frankly, I can’t imagine why on earth it would have gone ahead, or why it would have been allowed to go ahead.

And at another point, when asked if he was calling Dominic Cummings a liar, he said:

I can’t believe that we would have gone ahead with an event that people were saying was against the rules.

This is a circular argument (‘it must have been allowed because it was allowed’) that implies Johnson is still not taking responsibility for what happened. He implies others are to blame.

  • Johnson declined several invitations to say that he thinks Cummings has been lying about him. That might be because he wants to avoid provoking Cummings even further. But more probably it is because he realises Cummings has witnesses and email evidence to back up his account of what happened.
  • Johnson does not sound confident that the Sue Gray inquiry will clear him. He confirmed he has given evidence to Gray. Asked if he had been lying, he said at one point:

My memory of this event, as I said, is going out into the garden for about 25 minutes for what I implicitly thought was a work event and talking to staff, thanking staff.

I can’t remember exactly how many but for about 25 minutes I was there. I then went back to my my office and continued my work ….

That is the very, very best of my recollection about this event. That’s what I’ve said to the inquiry. We’ll have to see what they what they say.

The political historian Steven Fielding thinks this is reminscent of Ronald Reagan – another boosterish politician with a factual reliability problem.

Steven Fielding (@PolProfSteve)

I wonder if Johnson is consciously evoking this ridiculous defence for wrongdoing. After all it worked for Reagan. pic.twitter.com/Wpz6t3gtLA

January 18, 2022

  • Johnson does not seem to be discounting the possibility that the Gray report will force him to resign. He did not confirm that he definitely would resign in those circumstances. And it would have been odd for him to rule it out, because that would prejudge the inquiry. But when pressed by Rigby on this, he sounded genuinely unsure of his future.
  • Johnson is now accepting more readily that he was personally at fault. In the Commons last week he said “there were things we simply did not get right”, implying others were at fault, and in private he told Tory MPs later he did not think he had done anything wrong. That is not his position today. He started by admitting he had personally got things wrong. He said:

I want to begin by repeating my apologies to everybody for the misjudgments that I’ve made, that we may have made in No 10 and beyond, whether in Downing Street or throughout the pandemic.

He also repeatedly said he was “deeply” or “heartily, heartily” sorry for the party. His apology sounded more genuine than last week’s (although that is not particularly hard).

14:49

Sturgeon says Scotland’s Omicron restrictions to be lifted from next Monday

Restrictions brought in to combat the Omicron variant before Christmas will be lifted across Scotland from next Monday, with nightclubs re-opening, social distancing rules in bars and restaurants shelved and large indoor events resuming.

But the public are being urged to remain “cautious” about socialising in larger groups, to continue to work from home and use face coverings, while vaccine passports remain in use for largescale events.

In a statement to the Scottish parliament, Nicola Sturgeon said that the latest data “gives us confidence that we have turned the corner on the Omicron wave”.

Confirming a significant fall in the number of new positive cases, Sturgeon said that on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of last week, 36,526 new positive cases were recorded through PCR and lateral flow tests, compared with 20,268 cases reported this Sunday, Monday and today.

With hospital admissions and admissions to intensive care falling, Sturgeon said that the data suggests Omicron peaked in the first week of January and that “we are now on the downward slope of this wave of cases”.

Yesterday the limit on numbers at outdoor public events was lifted.

The remaining statutory measures introduced in response to Omicron – limits on indoor public events; the requirement for one metre physical distancing between different groups in indoor public places; the requirement for table service in hospitality premises serving alcohol on the premises; and the closure of nightclubs – will be lifted from next Monday, 24 January.

From Monday, the guidance asking people to stick to a three-household limit on indoor gatherings will also be lifted.

Before the statement, opposition parties and business groups called on sturgeon to ease restrictions more quickly. The Scottish Hospitality Group pointed to Scottish government research which suggested that the number of people visiting bars and restaurants has fallen while the number mixing in each other’s homes has risen.

14:03

Here is some comment from journalists and commentators on the Boris Johnson interview.

From Sky’s Kate McCann

Kate McCann (@KateEMcCann)

Have to say this pool clip has the feel of a PM beaten by the allegations against him. Attempting to muster up a message on Covid and boosters Boris Johnson looks and sounds like a man who knows this could well be the end of the road.

January 18, 2022

From my colleague Peter Walker

Peter Walker (@peterwalker99)

Worth watching in full the excellent grilling of Boris Johnson by @BethRigby – striking how downbeat, almost defeated PM appears. “Nobody told me…. I don’t remember.” Sort of interview you more normally see on 24 Hours in Police Custody. At some points his voice almost breaks.

January 18, 2022

From the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman (@IsabelHardman)

Boris Johnson saying no one told him the Downing Street gathering was against the rules is a new level of dissociation, almost like he’s spent two years watching someone else be prime minister and is now scratching his head about the decisions they’ve taken.

January 18, 2022

From TalkTV’s Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan)

Superbly forensic & probing interview by @BethRigby on @SkyNews with @BorisJohnson – nailed him to the cross of his own bullsh*t over these illicit parties. The Prime Minister’s teary-eyed downbeat demeanour suggests to me he knows the game’s up.

January 18, 2022

From the Sun’s Harry Cole

Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole)

PM looked battered in that clip.. https://t.co/ucrj1gz0a1

January 18, 2022

13:53

Labour says it’s ‘end of the road’ for PM and that he didn’t need anyone to tell him party was against rules

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has responded to the Sky interview by saying it is “the end of the road” for Boris Johnson.

She points out that, although Johnson may be saying no one told him specifically the party was against the rules (see 1.15pm), they should not have had to – because it should have been obvious. She says:

Boris Johnson clearly knows it’s the end of the road.

He’s the prime minister, he set the rules, he didn’t need anyone to tell him that the party he attended broke them.

If he had any respect for the British public, he would do the decent thing and resign.

Rayner has identified a crucial feature of Johnson’s denial; that it was tightly defined, which implies he is not contesting broader aspects of the case against him.

For example, Johnson may have been told that holding the party was unwise, without someone saying explicitly it was against Covid regulations. Dominic Cummings and the other official or officials who raised concerns may not have felt the need to spell this out – because they thought it was so obvious.

Angela Rayner. Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated

13:39

Johnson denies lying to parliament about No 10 party

Here is the PA Media story on the Boris Johnson interview.

Boris Johnson has denied lying to parliament about a gathering in No 10’s garden during the first lockdown despite Dominic Cummings saying he would swear on oath that he warned the prime minister it would be a rule-breaking drinks party.

In a major interview, Johnson said he had told the Whitehall inquiry into the allegations that to the “best of my recollection” ahead of the 20 May 2020 event “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules”.

The prime minister said that he does “humbly apologise to people for misjudgments that were made” after facing calls to resign over the partygate affair, including from six Tory MPs.

He made his first public appearance after reducing his contacts from when No 10 said a family member tested positive for Covid-19 last week, as chancellor Rishi Sunak refused to give the prime minister his unequivocal backing. (See 12.53pm.)

Asked if he had lied to parliament over the parties during a visit to a north London hospital, Johnson said: “No. I want to begin by repeating my apologies to everybody for the misjudgments that I’ve made, that we may have made in No 10 and beyond, whether in Downing Street or throughout the pandemic.

“Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that … was not a work event, and as I said in the House of Commons when I went out into that garden I thought that I was attending a work event.”

Johnson said he “could not imagine why on earth it would have gone ahead, or why it would’ve been allowed to go ahead” if he had been told it was not a “work event”.

“I do humbly apologise to people for misjudgments that were made but that is the very, very best of my recollection about this event, that’s what I’ve said to the inquiry,” he said.

Updated

13:35

Here is a clip from Beth Rigby’s pooled interview with Boris Johnson.

Sky News (@SkyNews)

‘Have you lied to the public and parliament?’

Boris Johnson: “No.”

The prime minister repeats his apologies for “misjudgements” made in Downing Street, and says he believed he was attending a “work event”.

Latest: https://t.co/lE3sSg2vbt

📺 Sky 501, Freeview 233 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/WyGh3QH5ZP

January 18, 2022

13:27

Q: Will you still be PM at the end of the year?

Johnson says he understands why Rigby is asking the question, but he is focusing on delivering for the public.

And that’s it. Sky News has finished broadcasting the clip.

I will post a proper summary and analysis soon.

Updated

13:25

Q: Has cabinet agreed not to renew the plan B restrictions?

Johnson ducks the question, but stresses the importance of booster vaccines.

13:24

Q: Can you survive this? Your ratings are terrible.

Johnson says he understands people’s feelings. He repeats his apologies.

But he says there is “another story” that he wants to come on to. That is about how Britain has been able to recover more quickly from Covid than any other comparable country.

Q: But you must be worried about your future?

Johnson says his job is to remain focused on delivering for the British people.

13:22

Q: Was having to apologise to the Queen for No 10 staff holding parties the night before Prince Philip’s funeral a moment of shame for you?

Johnson says he deeply and bitterly regrets what happened.

Updated

13:20

Q: It is ludicrous to say you went out there, and saw the drinks, and did not realise it was a party.

Johnson repeats his apologies for the misjudgments that were made.

13:20

Q: Do you accept on principle a PM who has misled parliament should have to resign?

Johnson says it would be wrong to prejudge what the report will say.

13:19

Rigby asks again if Johnson will resign if the Gray report finds against him.

Johnson again says people should wait to see what is in the report.

13:18

Johnson won’t rule out having to resign following publication of Sue Gray’s report

Q: Will you resign if it is shown that you have misled parliament?

Johnson says they should wait to see what the Sue Gray report says.