Politics

Dominic Raab denies BYOB party was ‘thank you’ for covering Boris during Covid fight

Dominic Raab and other Cabinet ministers have stuck by Boris Johnson while other Tory MPs turn their backs on him (Picture: Getty Images)

A Tory backbencher claims a party held at Number 10 during lockdown was to ‘welcome back’ Boris Johnson after his recovery from Covid-19.

Simon Hoare said he understood the boozy bash was also a ‘way of saying thank you’ to Dominic Raab for stepping in and ‘holding the fort’ while the PM was in hospital.

But a spokesperson for Raab said it was ‘categorically untrue’ and that the cabinet minister did not attend the party and ‘wasn’t invited’.

It comes as the Prime Minister fights for his job, with a number of Conservative MPs calling for his resignation.

For days Johnson avoided difficult questions over a leaked email inviting 100 people to a party in No 10’s garden on May 20, 2020, telling staff to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’.

This was at a time when people were limited to meeting just one other person outside, while funerals were socially distanced with a limited number of attendees.

Johnson finally apologised for the party, attended by around 40 people, during yesterday’s PMQs but insisted he thought it was a ‘work event’ and was within the rules.

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Many said his excuse simply didn’t cut it and that it was time for him to go, but still the Prime Minister hangs on.

Despite his apology, Johnson still kept on urging MPs to wait for the conclusion of an investigation led by civil servant Sue Gray into a number of alleged Downing Street lockdown parties.

Speaking on Sky News, Hoare said ‘I don’t know’ when asked if Johnson can survive the latest scandal and make it to the next general election.

The North Dorset MP added: ‘As I understand it, and this is a third-hand understanding, this was a party organised to say, in the first instance, welcome back prime minister.

‘He had been in hospital, I think I’ve got the timeline right, and recuperating at Chequers. It was also a way of saying thank you to Dominic Raab for holding the fort.

A leaked email shows Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds inviting 100 people to the party (Picture: ITV)

‘So whether the prime minister knew it was taking place or whether everybody just jumped out of the shrubbery and said “Surprise”, I don’t know.’

When asked about these comments, the Prime Minister’s secretary sidestepped questions over whether the gathering was a ‘welcome back’ party.

The PM was admitted to hospital on April 6, 2020 after contracting Covid-19 and spent three days in an intensive care unit.

He didn’t return to Downing Street until April 27 after spending some time at his Chequers residence to recover.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said Raab ‘needs to come clean’ if he did attend the party.

Raab says it is ‘categorically untrue’ that the party was to say thank you for him stepping in while the PM was in hospital (Picture: PA)

She added: ‘The public has a right to know if any other senior Tories were at this party while the rest of the country was locked down.

‘Rather than running away hundreds of miles, the Chancellor, who lives next door, should finally answer questions of how he could have been unaware of boozy parties immediately outside his own office. Time for them all to come clean.’

But a spokesperson for Raab said: ‘It’s categorically untrue — he wasn’t invited and didn’t attend.’

The Justice Secretary and Deputy PM says he expects Johnson to continue in office ‘for many years to come’.

He told BBC news that the Tory leader had given a ‘very clear accounts’ of the events of May 20, 2020.

Johnson faced a serious grilling in the Commons yesterday as several MPs said his position was untenable (Picture: Getty Images/AFP)

Raab said: ‘He has been clear that he believed he was acting in accordance with the rules at the time but, of course, understands the perception of those that those in power are not following the rules that many others are required to, particularly those who have been through serious hardship or lost loved ones during this pandemic, and that’s why he’s apologised.’

Asked in what other job would people be invited to ‘bring their own booze’ to a work meeting, Raab said: ‘That’s precisely why Sue Gray, who is a very senior civil servant, has been tasked to conduct an independent investigation to make sure that all of those questions can be answered in a way that is clear, transparent and open.

Asked if he would run again for the Tory leadership, Raab said that was a ‘daft question’.

He added: ‘I’m fully supportive of this prime minister and I’m sure he will continue for many years to come.’

A long list of Boris Johnson’s private and public scandals

Giving an old Etonian friend journalist’s address to carry out revenge attack

In the summer of 1990, Johnson’s old friend Darius Guppy rang him up and asked for help tracking down a journalist.

His pal from Eton and Oxford had arranged to have himself and his business partner in a gemstones company tied up in a New York hotel room.

The aim was to make it look as if they had been robbed of £1.8million worth of jewels so they could claim the money back under their insurance.

When News of the World reporter Stuart Collier started looking into it, Guppy wanted to scare him away and asked Johnson for help.

Then a Brussels corespondent for the Daily Telegraph – Johnson was asked if he could provide Collier’s address.

The pair had a 21-minute conversation which was secretly taped by accomplice Peter Risdon – who had turned against Guppy.

When asked if Johnson had Collier’s number, he replies: ‘There is a guy at the moment going through his files.’

As Guppy says ‘there is nothing I won’t do to get my revenge’ Johnson asks: ‘Uh, how badly are you going to hurt this guy?’

Guppy says he won’t have his arms broken but adds: ‘He will probably get a couple of black eyes and a cracked rib…but he will get scared.’

Johnson then says he has approached four people to trace Collier, only two of whom he trusts. At the end of their chat, he says: ‘OK, Darry, I said I’ll do it and I’ll do it. Don’t worry.’

The attack never took place, and in 2013 Johnson said he was only ‘humouring’ his old buddy.

Writing in the Daily Mail in 2012, his old boss at the Telegraph, Max Hastings, said: ‘If the day ever comes that Boris Johnson becomes tenant of Downing Street, I shall be among those packing my bags for a new life in Buenos Aires or suchlike, because it means that Britain has abandoned its last pretensions to be a serious country.’

Misrepresenting the people of liverpool

During his time as editor of the Spectator, Johnson edited an article blaming drunken Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough disaster.

The editorial also suggested people from the city were reliant on the welfare state.

It added: ‘They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it.’

If you think that’s distasteful, the article was written as reaction to the death of Ken Bigley, a Liverpool engineer kidnapped and executed by Islamic extremists in Iraq in 2004.

While the article wasn’t written by Johnson himself, he edited it, and ultimately the decision to publish came down to him.

Johnson apologised for the ‘outdated stereotype’ that year as he prepared to visit the city to say sorry.

In an open letter in the Liverpool Daily Post, he wrote: ‘I am sorry, too, for the hurt and dismay we have so evidently caused in our description of Liverpool.

‘There may well be Liverpudlians who still answer to the characteristics in question, just as there are all over the country. We should not have generalised.

‘And we should clearly not have blamed drunken fans at the back, when this cause was specifically ruled out by the inquiry report.

‘Anyone, journalist or politician, should say sorry to the people of Liverpool – as I do – for misrepresenting what happened at Hillsborough.

‘I repeat that the leader made a serious point about risk and sentimentality, and the culture of blame, and I stick by it. In so far as it imposed an outdated stereotype on the whole of Liverpool, and thereby caused offence, I sincerely apologise.’

Wallpapergate

The PM faced intense scrutiny over claims an expensive revamp of his Downing Street flat was covered by a Tory donor.

Unearthed messages show Johnson seeking funds for his refurbishment while promising Lord Brownlow he’d consider his idea for a new Great Exhibition.

Soon afterwards, the businessman had a meeting with the Culture Secretary to discuss the project.

Johnson had mentioned the idea in a previously hidden-WhatsApp conversation in which he asked the Tory peer for more money for the redecoration of the No 10 flat he lives with his wife Carrie.

It was reported that the flat had been decked out with ‘handcrafted’ gold wallpaper costing ‘£840-a-roll’.

The makeover was funded through a loan from Huntswood Associates Limited – a firm controlled by the Tory donor Lord Brownlow.

In December the Electoral Commission said the company transferred £67,801.72 to the Conservative Party in October 2020 – £52,801.72 of which was to cover the cost of three Cabinet Office invoices relating to the Downing Street makeover.

But the Tories only reported receiving £15,000, which was for an event, and left the other £53,000 out of public records, the watchdog said.

Tory chiefs tried to claim the £53,000 sum was ‘not a donation to the party’, and could be classed as ‘a donation to the Prime Minister via the party’, or ‘a ‘gift to the nation’, the Commission said.

But the watchdog dismissed these claims, saying the full amount ‘was a donation and should have been reported to the Commission’.

Its investigation found a total of £112,549 had been paid by Huntswood Associates.

Despite this, Johnson is expected to be cleared of breaking ministerial code, following an inquiry by Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministerial interests.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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