Politics latest news: Boris Johnson refuses to say he will make any ‘partygate’ fine public

American Age Official
Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has refused to say whether he will make public any fine he receives after the police investigation into gatherings at Downing Street at lockdown.

Abena Oppong-Asare, the Labour MP, asked Mr Johnson if he will inform the House of Commons if he is fined by the police – and if he would commit to his resignation if this happens.

“Of course I will comply with the law but I’ve got to wait for the process to be concluded,” was Mr Johnson’s noncommittal answer.

Scotland Yard confirmed on Tuesday it would not identify people who receive fixed penalty notices as a result of the “partygate” investigation.

Meanwhile, Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the select committee, described a vote of no confidence as “inevitable” and confirmed he would submit a letter to the 1922 Committee today.

Mr Ellwood, the chairman of the defence committee, told Sky News the ongoing row over alleged parties at Downing Street was “horrible” for Conservative MPs to continue to have to publicly defend. He urged Mr Johnson to call a confidence vote himself rather than wait for 54 letters.

​​Follow the latest below.

02:19 PM

Charing Cross police messsages have ‘corrosive impact on public trust’

Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, expressed his “horror” at revelations that a group of 14 officers based at Charing Cross police station shared dozens of vile exchanges on social media, which he said have had a “corrosive impact on public trust in policing”.

They were uncovered when investigators from the police watchdog carried out a trawl of their mobile phones.

As Martin Evans, our Crime Correspondent, reported on Monday, there were also messages that were deeply racist and homophobic in nature.

“The report makes for extremely disturbing reading,” Mr Malthouse said. “On a personal note, as somebody who knows the Met well, I cannot begin to describe my horror at the revelations in the report. It is that individuals who have been found to have committed gross misconduct have been dismissed and cannot rejoin policing.

“However, this is obviously about more than individuals. It is about how a toxic culture than fester in parts of a police force, a culture that is allowed to go unchallenged until a brave officer blows the whistle or a message is discovered on an officer’s phone.”

02:13 PM

‘Jack’s support was a superpower’

Harriet Harman, the Mother of the House and wife of the late Labour MP Jack Dromey, has thanked all MPs who have spoken to pay tribute this afternoon.

“To everyone from all around the country who’ve sent us cards, emails, texts, tweets, who’ve posted on Facebook, to say to them the memories they’ve shared with us, and the respect they’ve shown for Jack, have given so much comfort to me and his beloved family as we face the total shock of his sudden death from heart failure just three weeks ago,” she tells MPs.

“Jack hated inequality and oppression, and his life’s work was a steadfast focus on supporting those who were fighting against it. His roots in the Irish working class immigrant community, his solidarity with black and Asian people fighting against inequality, his respect for middle-class people who though not suffering hardship themselves wanted to work to end it for others.

Jack Dromey - Justin Tallis/AFPJack Dromey - Justin Tallis/AFP

Jack Dromey – Justin Tallis/AFP

“That made him the polar opposite of the culture wars, and the living embodiment of the coalition that is the Labour Party. He spoke up for him, and they heard him, and that made them stronger – whether that was those he worked with, or who he never met.”

She praised his “phenomenal” and “unswerving” support for her own career: “Jack believed men should support and respect women, and he detested men who he saw holding their wives back in their own self-interest. For all of us who received it, Jack’s support was a superpower. It made us all walk taller, it made us all feel stronger. We will so miss him.”

02:06 PM

Steve Baker not sold on Levelling Up plans

Prominent Tory backbencher Steve Baker had a scathing reaction to the Levelling Up White Paper press release published by the Government.

Mr Baker said information about the plans “implies the proposals are as socialist as I feared” and called on Boris Johnson to start “using our 80-seat majority to implement conservative policies, not policies that wouldn’t look out of place in Labour’s manifesto”.

“The missions are admirable, as well as some of the policies, but our answer to everything cannot be more Government, more Government, more Government,” he said.

“Areas like Bucks [and] London as a whole may be wealthy, but there are many deprived areas within them. We need a granular approach to find all communities who need support.”

Mr Baker pledged to reserve his judgement until he had read the full White Paper, but described himself as “concerned”.

01:57 PM

RAF fighter jets scramble to intercept ‘unidentified aircraft’

RAF fighter jets have been scrambled to respond to “unidentified aircraft” approaching the United Kingdom.

The jets, launched from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, are joined by a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

A Royal Air Force (RAF) spokesman said: “Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon fighters from RAF Lossiemouth, supported by a Voyager Tanker from RAF Brize Norton, have been launched against unidentified aircraft approaching the UK area of interest.

“We will not be offering any additional detail on this ongoing operation until complete.”

​Gareth Davies has all the latest

01:42 PM

Ian Blackford: If police question Boris Johnson, he must go

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01:40 PM

Jack Dromey tributes: ‘The greatest loss is felt by one of our own’

Sir Keir Starmer paid tribute to Jack Dromey, the former Labour Party treasurer and MP for Erdington who died suddenly aged 73 on January 7.

“The loss felt on these benches is great, the loss to public life greater still,” Sir Keir told MPs. “But the greatest loss is felt by one of our own, the Member for Camberwell and Peckham [Harriet Harman].

Jack Dromey and his wife Harriet Harman (right), pictured at the Labour Party conference in 2015 - Ben Prunchie/Getty ImagesJack Dromey and his wife Harriet Harman (right), pictured at the Labour Party conference in 2015 - Ben Prunchie/Getty Images

Jack Dromey and his wife Harriet Harman (right), pictured at the Labour Party conference in 2015 – Ben Prunchie/Getty Images

“She and Jack were married the best part of 40 years ago. The AGM of the Fulham Legal Advice Centre may not sound like the place to find romance, but that’s where Jack and Harriet met, Jack addressing the meeting and Harriet inspired to blaze a new trail, one that eventually led her to the place she is today – an icon of the Labour Party and Parliament.

“The sense that Jack was always on your side is felt across this party and across the trade union movement. His humility, his sense of humour, were legendary.”

01:26 PM

Tory MPs are regicidal – and it’s not just about parties

It is very true that Tory MPs are in a regicidal mood, says Olivia Utley, our Assistant Comment Editor – and that’s not just because of the parties,

I think David Davis, who made that very dramatic speech last week telling the Prime Minister to go, he’s not fussed about the parties.

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He’s annoyed about net zero, about the the high taxes, about the Conservatives not really being conservatives anymore.

So even if the party story does go away, the Prime Minister is still in trouble really. And that’s the biggest takeaway.

01:22 PM

Starmer and Savile comments ‘demean Boris Johnson’s office’

There’s a credible argument to be made that Boris Johnson’s comments on Sir Keir Starmer and Jimmy Savile just demean his office, says Mutaz Ahmed.

It undermines the integrity of his office. The Prime Minister is supposed to be serious and you wouldn’t expect Prime Minister to band around Twitter memes in the House of Commons.

It’s not true that Keir Starmer decided not to investigate or prosecute Jimmy Savile. It’s a lie.

It was beneath him and two MPs who already didn’t like him and who are already criticising it – it proved their point, didn’t it, that he’s not a serious man.

01:15 PM

‘Tide of history dragging Boris Johnson out to sea’

Tony Diver, Political Correspondent: The tide of history is slowly dragging Boris Johnson out to sea. But there is an attempt by his team to try and reverse that.

There is an attempt to try and claw back some of that support, which I think at the back end of last week it did feel like they’d managed to do quite successfully. He’s not gonna give this up without a fight – he has got this Praetorian Guard who are trying to garner some of that support back on his behalf.

Mutaz Ahmed, Comment Journalist: He always comes home from places like Ukraine and there’s one thing he can’t escape. Which is there’s there’s a pretty fundamental rot in this government, which is that it has no vision.

I speak for myself but if Boris was coming out with lots of proposals, substantial proposals about how to benefit from Brexit, if he’d gone full speed ahead, with freeports and deregulation and cutting taxes and getting corporations up north… If those things were actually happening, these Tory MPs would would overlook the the personal stuff.

The deal with Boris was that he’s got these character flaws, but he’s able to deliver a vision and he’s able to assemble a group of people who can bring about good radical changes. That’s not happening. He can’t get away from that.

01:00 PM

Is it best to let Boris Johnson ‘bleed out’?

Mutaz Ahmed, our Comment Journalist, said he has spoken to a Labour source who says the party’s strategy is to “just let him bleed out” when it comes to Boris Johnson.

“He’s shown over last sort of two or three weeks that he doesn’t know how to recover from these personal crises about his personal attributes,” he said.

“This person noted that it’s happened before when we had the episode with him and Carrie in their private flat in South London.

“That took a long time, that played out for a length of time that it didn’t have to because he wouldn’t respond to questions. So he’s not very good at digging out of these holes.”

12:58 PM

Ian Blackford’s strategy may be the most sensible one

Ian Blackford’s strategy of continuing to focus on “partygate” might be the most sensible thing to do, says Olivia Utley, our Assistant Comment Editor.

If you’re if you’re obsessively watching Westminster everyday, then yes, you’ve heard enough about it. But if you just turn on the news once a day, then you need a sense of this gradual erosion of Boris Johnson’s power – and through “partygate” is the best way to do it.

It’s also this message which I think is quite powerful that while Boris is talking about “partygate”, he’s he can’t really run the country.

I would keep pushing that message through that – not only is the scandal bad in itself, but also the scandal has now taken on a life of its own to the point where the Prime Minister isn’t really capable of running the country.

So I think it’s possible that Starmer’s strategy is a bit sort of too clever by half, and that Blackford’s “banging on” strategy might be the sensible one.

12:54 PM

Starmer’s strategy: To make Boris Johnson look un-serious

Sir Keir Starmer made the case that Boris Johnson should “not be taken very seriously”, says Tony Diver, our Political Correspondent.

It is a very different sort of strategy to saying he’s a big dangerous scary man who’s going to who’s gonna destroy Downing Street.

He had three economic questions in a row – there was one on high taxes. there was one on PPE fraud and government wastage, .

12:51 PM

Listen live: Is time running out for Boris Johnson?

Join our experts right now on Twitter to unpack Prime Minister’s Questions:

12:48 PM

Tributes to Jack Dromey’s ‘great warmth, energy and compassion’

Sir Lindsay Hoyle pays tribute to the late Jack Dromey, the Labour MP whose funeral was this week, as “determined”, “innovative” and “down-to-earth”.

“Since this election to this House in 2010 he proved to be an exceptional member of Parliament.

“While he was a robust frontbencher, he always demonstrated respect for his opponents and was well-liked and admired across the House.

“While we mourn a colleague, it is Jack’s family who will of course feel the loss more deeply. I know the whole House will join me in expressing our condolences to the Mother of the House, the Rt Hon member for Camberwell.”

Boris Johnson says it is “right that we should come together now in tribute to his memory” as he offers his Government’s condolences to Harriet Harman.

“Although Jack and I may have come from different political traditions, I knew him as a man of great warmth and energy and compassion.”

12:41 PM

‘Why did Allegra Stratton have to resign?’

Gavin Newlands, the SNP MP, recalls the “there was no party” and “all rules were followed” lines used by Boris Johnson over “partygate”.

“No one, Prime Minister, believes you and if any of the above were true, why did Allegra Stratton have to resign?” he asks.

Mr Johnson says: “I explained that sad matter on the House. No one wanted Allegra to resign and I was very sad that she did.”

12:38 PM

Boris Johnson briefs House of Commons on Ukraine

Sir Desmond Swayne asks for a briefing on Boris Johnson’s visit to Ukraine.

“Very briefly, I can tell the House that the mission was to – as I hope everyone will support – stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine, and for our country to show we stand with the people of Ukraine and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

“The job of the UK is lead to West in bringing together the most important countries in creating a package of economic sanctions that will deter President Putin from what I believe will be a disastrous miscalculation and strengthen our support for the Ukrainian people and indeed the Ukrainian army.”

He says the situation “remains risky” and it is “vital” diplomacy finds a way.

12:34 PM

Boris Johnson refuses to say he will make any fine public

Abena Oppong-Asare asks Boris Johnson if he will inform the House of Commons if he is fined by the police – and if this would force him to resign.

“Of course I will comply with the law but I’ve got to wait for the process to be concluded,” is Mr Johnson’s noncommittal answer.

12:29 PM

Boris Johnson: I want to serve the entire United Kingdom

While the Prime Minister has been “partying”, working families in Northern Ireland have lost £1,000 from their Universal Credit, says Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

Asked if he only in it for himself, Boris Johnson emphasises that he is “in it to serve the country and the entire United Kingdom”, pointing to the tax cut on Universal Credit.

Alex Sobel, the Labour MP, accuses the Government of having “no plan” in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, as he recalls a constituent who voted for Mr Johnson calling him “despicable”.

“He talks about cutting VAT, I wonder if he voted for Brexit and our ability to cut VAT,” says Mr Johnson. “The most important thing is to have a jobs-based economic recovery.”

12:27 PM

A dangerous distraction?

Ian Blackford accuses Boris Johnson of living “in a world where he thinks everything is owed to him”, describing him as “a dangerous distraction at home and a running joke on the international stage”.

“What does it tell the Prime Minister and the public that on the morning he returned from Ukraine, the chairman of the defence committee has submitted a later of no confidence in him?” he asks, referring to Tobias Ellwood.

“It tells me it’s more vital than ever for the Government to get on with the job and deliver on our Covid Recovery Plan,” Mr Johnson replies.

12:26 PM

I cannot reconcile Boris Johnson’s account and the evidence, says SNP MP

Ian Blackford, the leader of the SNP at Westminster, says he cannot reconcile the Prime Minister’s version of events with all the evidence.

“I respect the absolute impartiality that you take in your role, but I want to state on record that I respect you and the authority of the chair,” Mr Blackford says after he was ejected from the chamber last week for calling Mr Johnson a liar.

He raises today Telegraph revelation that the PM was in his flat on the night of a party on November 13 after Boris Johnson “previously told the House there was no party”.

“If he is questioned, he must go, if he’s fined, he must resign,” he says. “Mr Speaker, you’ll agree that the House should not be treated with contempt. So can the Prime Minister update the House on his whereabouts on the evening of November 13? Surely he doesn’t need to wait for an investigation to tell us exactly where he was?”

Mr Johnson’s response? “He asked exactly the same questions as I recall in the chamber a few days ago. He knows that the process must go on. In November and throughout we’ve been delivering the fastest vaccine and booster rollout anywhere in Europe.”

So, no answer on November 13.

12:23 PM

Dame Caroline Dinenage makes childhood cancer plea

Dame Caroline Dinenage, the Tory MP for Gosport, says cancer is the biggest killer of children under 14 and only when they went to A&E did they discover a tumour in a 10-year-old girl in her constituency who died of cancer.

She asks Boris Johnson to ask for “more and better training” among GPs to detect cancer in children.

“Research is crucial in tackling childhood cancers, that’s why we’re investing in more research, but it’s also vital we do more tests and screens early enough,” he said, pointing to updated NICE guidance February last year.

12:22 PM

The Tory Thelma and Louise?

Sir Keir Starmer labels the Conservatives the party of “low growth and high tax”.

“We know this Prime Minister has no respect for decency or honesty,” he says. “I can take it when it’s aimed at me, but I won’t accept when he gaslights the British public writing absurd articles about cutting taxes at a time when he’s squeezing

He labels Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak the “Tory Thelma and Louise, hand-in-hand as the drive the country off the cliff and into the abyss of low growth and high tax”.

Boris JohnsonBoris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Mr Johnson calls Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner “Dick Dastardly and Muttley” as they are “pulling in different directions” and clearly “disagree” on big issues. There are big cheers on the Tory benches as he trails Michael Gove’s Levelling Up White Paper.

“A fantastic vision for this country – they have nothing to offer the people of this country. While we are getting on with coming out of Covid with the second fastest – the fastest economic recovery in the G7, he would have kept us in lockdown, we’re fixing the NHS and social care, and they have no plan.”

12:18 PM

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer trade barbs

Sir Keir Starmer says the Prime Minister “might want to sharpen how he answers questions under interview”.

“They don’t explain why it’s always working people that are asked to pay more,” he says of the Tories. “Today he’s ordering his troops to cut taxes for banks.

“Why are the Chancellor and the Prime Minister protecting oil companies and bank profits while putting taxes up on working people?”

Boris Johnson replies there is an “unprecedented economic crisis in which the state had to come forward and look after the people of this country to the tune of £408bn”.

He points to 45,000 more NHS workers this year than there were last year, 10,000 more nurses and around 5,000 more doctors.

Mr Johnson says “the party of Nye Bevan voted against” Covid recovery funds.

12:16 PM

It’s all an act under Labour, says Boris Johnson as he brandishes letter

Sir Keir Starmer says the Prime Minister “has more chance of persuading the public that he didn’t hold any parties than he has of persuading them that the economy is booming”.

Sir Keir accuses the Government of a “pandemic of waste and fraud” from PPE to Government contracts.

“They’ve treated taxpayers as an ATM machine for their mates and their lifestyles. Now we find they’ve written off £8.7bn on PPE, and the Chancellor is writing off £4.3bn in fraud. That’s enough to cover the tax hike he’s inflicting in working people.

“So did why this Government block the National Crime Agency from investigating all the billions they lost to fraud?”

Boris Johnson says he “despise all of those who steal from the taxpayer” and reveals £2.2bn has been recovered of money that was stolen in bounce back loan fraud.

He defends the Government for securing “record amounts of PPE in record time”, adding: “Once again, Captain Hindsight comes to this House and attacked the Government for doing exactly what he urged us to do 18 months ago.”

He brandishes a letter from Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor, to Michael Gove dating from April 22 suggesting that PPE supplies could be secured “from a theatrical costumier and we can get ventilators from a professional football agent”.

12:13 PM

‘That’s not going to work with the police’

“Lots of words, lots of bluster, no answer,” retorts Sir Keir Starmer. “That’s not going to work with the police!”

Sir Keir accuses the Conservative Party of putting taxes up to hide “low growth… much, much weaker than under the last Labour government”.

“If the Tories matched our record on growth we would have £30 billion more to spend on public services without having to raise tax. Surely even this Prime Minister doesn’t need someone else to tell him that they are having to raise taxes because they failed to grow the economy over a decade?”

Boris Johnson responds “everyone in the country can see we’ve been through the biggest pandemic for 100 years” and highlights the achievements of the furlough scheme.

“Everyone knows the costs of that. It is despite the difficulties we now have the fastest growth in the G7, we’ve got youth unemployment at a record low, we’ve got three times as much tech investment as there is in France, twice as much as there is in Germany.

“If you want to know about Labour economies, never forget… when they were finally booted out, they left a note saying ‘there is no money left’. That’s the way Labour run the country.”

12:11 PM

We’re helping people into work, insists PM

Sir Keir Starmer accuses the Government of “stealth tax on working people”, with local authorities forced to increase council tax to meet social precepts.

“You can be as stealthy as you like but you can’t hide reality,” Sir Keir says. “We have the highest tax burden in 70 years during record levels of inflation.

“Why do he and the Chancellor keep raising taxes on working people?”

Boris JohnsonBoris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Mr Johnson notes taxes are being cut for those on Universal Credit, “doing all the things this country would expect” and says the National Living Wage is being raised.

“Above all, the most important thing that we are doing is helping people into work. There’s never been a Labour government that left office with unemployment lower.”

12:09 PM

‘Why do these alleged tax-cutters keep raising taxes on working people?’

Sir Keir Starmer says one of the most absurd claims made on behalf of ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ is Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s claims they are “tax-cutting Conservatives”.

“Why do these alleged tax-cutters keep raising taxes on working people?” he asks.

Boris Johnson says he does not want to “make any weather on this” but says he is informed that Sir Keir “apologised and took full responsibility for what had happened on his watch” over the Jimmy Savile case, in which he had not been directly involved.

“On what we’re doing to tackle cost of living and taxation, our Covid recovery plan is absolutely vital in helping people with the cost of living, lifting up Universal Credit payments by cutting the tax that people effectively pay, lifting the living wage, helping councils with another half billion pounds for those facing particular hardship.”

He says it is “absolutely vital” to increase the number of “high-wage” jobs in the country and reminds MPs of the “fastest exit from Covid of any European economy”.

12:08 PM

‘It’s time to restore some dignity’

Sir Keir Starmer says to Tory MPs: “Theirs is the party of Winston Churchill. Our parties stood together as we defeated fascism in Europe. Now their leader stands in the House of Commons parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to score cheap political points.

“He knows exactly what he is doing. It’s time to restore some dignity.”

12:07 PM

Esther McVey presses PM on mandatory vaccination

Esther McVey, the Tory MP for Tatton, asks mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff and care workers to be abandoned “no ifs, no buts”.

She asks whether those who have already lost their jobs will get compensation.

Mr Johnson thanks Ms McVey for her “thoughtful work on this” and stresses vaccines “remain our best line of defence – I do think the NHS staff and all those who work in the care sector have a professional responsibility to get vaccinated.

“But as my Rt Hon friend the Health Secretary told the House on Monday… it is right, she is right that we revisit the balance of risks and opportunities.”

12:06 PM

Boris Johnson pays tribute to Queen at start of PMQs

Boris Johnson, who is met with jeering, notes that the Queen will on Sunday become the first monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee.

“While it will be a day of national celebration it will be a day of mixed emotions for Her Majesty as the day also marks 70 years since her beloved father George VI.

“I know the whole House will want to join me in thanking Her Majesty for her tireless national service.”

12:03 PM

Do not call each other liars, Sir Lindsay reminds MPs

Before PMQs, Sir Lindsay Hoyle makes a statement about House practices on accusing members of lying.

“I recognise there are frustrations around the House’s practices,” he says.

“Firstly let me say that there are means by which accusations of lying may be brought before the House, including by means of a substantive motion.

“However, members may not accuse each other of lying or misleading the House unless a substantive motion is under consideration.

“Erskine May is clear that it is to preserve the character of Parliamentary debate.”

He says whoever in the Speaker’s chair will “in general not tolerate accusations of lying” in line with a longstanding convention.

“If the House decided it wanted a different approach… it’s not for me to change the practice unilaterally. Therefore, I ask members to respect this approach. I know feelings run high on the current issues we discuss but there are plenty of ways to make strong feelings felt, without placing the Chair in an invidious position.”

12:02 PM

Boris cheered on by backbenchers

Boris Johnson’s arrival in the Chamber for PMQs is greeted with raucous cheers by his own MPs.

This doesn’t best please Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the Commons, who calls for “good order” and people to listen to the last question put to Allister Jack, the Scotland Secretary, at his weekly oral questions slot.

11:56 AM

On his way

Boris Johnson waved to photographers as he was snapped leaving Downing Street on his way to Prime Minister’s Questions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister's Questions - Kirsty O'Connor/PA WirePrime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister's Questions - Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions – Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire

11:52 AM

Coming up in the Commons

Boris Johnson will take on Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions in just under 10 minutes.

It comes after another blow for Mr Johnson’s authority in his party after Tobias Ellwood used a breakfast television interview to publicly demand that he calls a vote of no confidence.

Sir Keir Starmer - Leon Neal/Getty ImagesSir Keir Starmer - Leon Neal/Getty Images

Sir Keir Starmer – Leon Neal/Getty Images

11:49 AM

Michael Gove: I was wrong on Christmas Covid rules

Michael Gove has said “I was wrong” to argue for additional coronavirus restrictions over the Christmas period.

“I was wrong, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor were right,” he told TalkRadio.

“At Cabinet a couple of weeks ago I was wrong and they were right, and you have it here, a scoop, a revelation of what actually went on in Cabinet – I said I’m sorry, on this occasion, I made a mistake.

“Lots of people make mistakes when they’re dealing with complex and fast-moving situations like a pandemic.”

11:44 AM

Could another MP call for Boris Johnson to go?

Speculation is mounting that another Conservative MP could demand the resignation of Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions.

It comes after Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the select committee, said a vote of no confidence was “inevitable” as he confirmed he would submit a letter to the 1922 Committee today.

Mr Ellwood, the chairman of the defence committee, told Sky News the ongoing row over alleged parties at Downing Street was “horrible” for Conservative MPs to continue to have to defend.

11:36 AM

Majority of public think Boris Johnson should resign over alleged Downing Street parties

The majority of the public think the investigation into Downing Street parties should continue and only a quarter feel Boris Johnson should remain as Prime Minister, new polling shows.

Four in five Britons also believe Boris Johnson “broke the coronavirus regulations with parties in Downing Street” amid a criminal investigation into the “partygate” scandal, according to surveys carried out by JL Partners.

Out of 2,000 respondents, 55 per cent said the investigation into the Downing Street parties should continue, while 36 per cent believed the country must now move on from the allegations, which have presented the greatest threat to Mr Johnson’s leadership to date.

Seventy-one per cent of 2019 Conservative voters who were surveyed believed Mr Johnson had not followed the rules and 63 per cent of those who supported his party at the last general election felt investigations by Sue Gray and the Metropolitan Police should continue.

Full story: Two-thirds of Tory voters believe Johnson did not follow rules

11:31 AM

Ben Wallace overtakes Liz Truss as most popular Cabinet minister among grassroots

Ben Wallace has overtaken Liz Truss for the top spot as the most popular Cabinet minister among Tory members, writes Danielle Sheridan.

In a monthly poll by the ConservativeHome site, Tory party members have rated the Defence Secretary as their favourite, as a result of his recent conduct during the Afghanistan withdrawal and his robust response to the unfolding crisis in Ukraine.

Slovenian Defence Minister Matej Tonin and British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace attend a news conference, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, - Borut Zivulovic/ReutersSlovenian Defence Minister Matej Tonin and British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace attend a news conference, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, - Borut Zivulovic/Reuters

Slovenian Defence Minister Matej Tonin and British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace attend a news conference, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, – Borut Zivulovic/Reuters

His work ethic has pushed him up from 62 points to 80 points, putting him ahead of the Foreign Secretary after her year at the top of the table. Ms Truss has dropped from 74 points to 67 points.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson remains in negative ratings, while Rishi Sunak’s score at 39 points is his lowest as Chancellor.

Read more: Defence Secretary’s efforts land him the top spot

11:19 AM

Government ‘cannot delay’ on Levelling Up

David Davis has warned ministers they “cannot delay” on levelling up ahead of the launch of Michael Gove’s Levelling Up White Paper this afternoon.

“Access to good work is vital,” wrote Mr Davis, who has publicly called on Boris Johnson to resign – telling him “in the name of God, go” at Prime Minister’s Questions a couple of weeks back.

“This new report offers a framework and clear measurements to make levelling up a success – but the Government cannot delay.”

Mr Gove said this morning that the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) was “laying out the plan for 2030”.

11:05 AM

Jonathan Van-Tam goes 5-8 up

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, wished the inimitable Jonathan Van-Tam a happy birthday this morning as England’s deputy chief medical officer turns 58.

Prof Van-Tam resigned from his post last month and will leave his post at the end of March to take up a new role as the pro-vice chancellor for the faculty of medicine and health sciences at the University of Nottingham.

A familiar face as he sought to explain the pandemic via the medium of metaphor, he provided us with many memorable moments during all of those Covid press conferences.

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10:57 AM

Boris Johnson’s ‘partygate’ shake-up is already unravelling

Antonia Romeo, one of the UK’s most senior female civil servants, has decided not to seek the newly created permanent secretary role in Number 10, The Telegraph understands.

Downing Street is already facing challenges to fill the position, announced by Boris Johnson as he attempted to draw a line under the “partygate” report findings published on Monday.

Antonia Romeo, who became the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice last year - Neville ElderAntonia Romeo, who became the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice last year - Neville Elder

Antonia Romeo, who became the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice last year – Neville Elder

There are concerns that permanent secretaries of government departments with tens of thousands of staff will be reluctant to take up the job, which oversees just a few hundred people.

Ben Riley-Smith has this exclusive report

10:40 AM

Senior diplomat and military commander at heart of new parties

Three of the dozen events which Ms Gray said were being looked at by the Metropolitan Police had not been fully reported on in public when she revealed her findings on Tuesday, write Hary Yorke and Ben Riley-Smith.

But The Telegraph can reveal that a senior British diplomat in America, a military commander and a senior culture department official are at the heart of the gatherings.

The first of the three newly-documented events happened on June 18 2020 in the Cabinet Office and involved “the departure of a No 10 private secretary”, according to Ms Gray’s report.

The Telegraph understands the official in question is Hannah Young, who left Downing Street to take up the role of deputy consul general in New York.

Partygate: Catch up with all the latest in this report

10:23 AM

Is time running out for Boris Johnson?

Join Tony Diver, Mutaz Ahmed, Olivia Utley and David Knowles as they discuss what the future has in store for the Prime Minister.

In our now-regular “post-match analysis” of Prime Minister’s Questions, they will be live on Twitter at 12.45pm.

We’ll have the best of their commentary on this live blog – and if you have any questions for our experts, respond to the tweet below and they will be picked up.

10:16 AM

Allison Pearson: Partygate has left me sickened

If only – if only – history had been inverted. Boris Johnson could have been Prime Minister for Brexit and Theresa May Prime Minister for Covid and this whole excruciating fiasco might have been averted.

Instead, we got a thin-lipped Mother Superior taking us out of the EU with all the enthusiasm of a school matron coaxing a sanitary towel out of a blocked lavatory while the irrepressible Mr Toad (“Parp! Parp!”) was required to preside over one of the saddest, most solemn periods of self-abnegation in living memory. Apart from anything else, it’s such lousy casting.

I don’t know whether you watched the Prime Minister on Monday afternoon responding to Sue Gray’s meagre “update” on Partygate. Five hundred further pages about 12 Downing Street “gatherings”, including two in the PM’s own flat, and 300 photos are still under consideration by the Metropolitan Police.

Congratulations to those who decided to stick with A Place in the Sun over on Channel 4. Halfway through this shameful spectacle, many viewers, among them loyal Brexiteers, will have felt like leaving the country for a place in the sun or, indeed, a place that was grey and overcast so long as it was miles away from the asylum formerly known as the Commons.

Allison Pearson: I was a long-time champion of Boris – but I’m conflicted

09:55 AM

Jeremy Hunt: We must hold firm against Russia’s threats

Bill Clinton once told me the key thing was to look not at the headlines but the trendlines, writes Jeremy Hunt. It’s a useful exercise when it comes to working out what is happening in Ukraine. It can help us understand, in particular, how much of what Putin is doing is bluff and how much is genuinely a prelude to an invasion.

The headlines tell us that 100,000 Russian troops are poised to invade its democratic neighbour. The trendline tells us this is part of a well-worn pattern of expansionism: do something outrageous, expect a bit of huffing and puffing from the West, wait for it all to calm down and then bank your gains.

That is what happened after the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, the invasion of two provinces of Georgia in 2008, the invasion of Crimea in 2014 and arguably the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in 2018 – at least if you look at the entire European response rather than Britain’s, which was admirably robust.

With a GDP the size of Spain, Russia is not economically strong. But it knows how to punch above its weight, exploiting hesitation and weakness in its opponents. When you look at the pattern – the trendline – surely the answer is that the Russians will do whatever they think they can get away with without having to put up with any long-term consequences.

Jeremy Hunt: The worst thing to do is reward Putin’s aggression

09:48 AM

Full list of Tories calling for Boris Johnson to resign

Boris Johnson is facing the largest threat to his premiership as calls mount for his resignation and reports are growing of letters of no confidence being handed in.

The Prime Minister rejected accusations that he lied to Parliament over allegations of attending a Covid-rule breaking party in No 10 on May 20, 2020, insisting that “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules”.

Tobias Ellwood has become the tenth MP to demand the resignation of the Prime MinisterTobias Ellwood has become the tenth MP to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister

Tobias Ellwood has become the tenth MP to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister

He repeated his apology after the publication of an update by Sue Gray, the top civil servant, which found “failings of leadership and judgment” in No 10 and across Government during the pandemic.

Only yesterday did Peter Aldous confirm he was submitting a letter of no confidence and called for Mr Johnson to go, saying he had been put in an “invidious position” amid the ongoing uproar over alleged Downing Street parties.

Have a look at the full list here

09:34 AM

What would a vote of no confidence mean for Boris Johnson?

Tobias Ellwood suggested a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership is now “inevitable” and urged him to call one himself as he confirmed he had lost confidence in his party leader.

Fifty-four is the so-called “magic number” of letters that need to be submitted by disillusioned Tory MPs to trigger a no-confidence vote and determine whether the Prime Minister remains in office.

 With Tory MPs threatening to sink Boris Johnson, there is now only one question in Westminster - Jessica Taylor/AFP With Tory MPs threatening to sink Boris Johnson, there is now only one question in Westminster - Jessica Taylor/AFP

With Tory MPs threatening to sink Boris Johnson, there is now only one question in Westminster – Jessica Taylor/AFP

Should the threshold be reached, recent history suggests Boris Johnson’s fate could be decided within hours rather than days.

However, even if the Prime Minister were to survive a challenge, it is by no-means certain that he could continue to cling onto power having lost the support of so many of his backbenchers.

Harry Yorke, our Whitehall Editor, has this explainer

09:26 AM

‘Medieval court’ of No 10 leaves Boris facing regicide

As he settled into his seat for the flight to Ukraine yesterday, Boris Johnson might have allowed himself a chuckle of quiet satisfaction, writes Philip Johnston.

He had survived the moment of greatest peril to his premiership; and even if the road ahead is not exactly clear of obstacles, well, they can be negotiated when reached.

Those who want to see Mr Johnson toppled still hope that the Met police or photographs of him cavorting in a party hat while swigging from a bottle of champagne will deliver the coup de grace. But that ship has sailed.

The focus now will be on the burgeoning crisis in eastern Europe and a domestic cost-of-living crunch in the spring. Inevitably, the passage of time will see tempers cool over the lockdown breaches and distaste with the shenanigans in No 10 diminish. What it will not do, however, is dissipate the great harm that has been done to trust between the Government and the governed.

Philip Johnston: In the court of King Boris, little is likely to change

09:18 AM

The big question: Is Boris Johnson’s record enough?

Are Boris Johnson’s achievements in office to date enough for him to stay on as Prime Minister in the face of the current “partygate” row?

That is the question Conservative MPs will now have to answer as Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the defence select committee, said that getting Brexit done and 138 million vaccine doses rolled out can no longer justify Mr Johnson’s position (see 9.03am).

Allies of Mr Johnson – including Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister and Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary – have urged the Prime Minister to “get on with the job”, while Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, stressed the “mood was positive” in Tory ranks.

A key line of defence used by Boris Johnson's allies has been the PM's role in the vaccine rollout - Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo via APA key line of defence used by Boris Johnson's allies has been the PM's role in the vaccine rollout - Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo via AP

A key line of defence used by Boris Johnson’s allies has been the PM’s role in the vaccine rollout – Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo via AP

“Of course he’s sorry, you can feel the remorse and upset and empathy with how people feel,” Ms Dorries told Radio 4 yesterday. “But we do have to get on with the job, the country just can’t stop running.”

What some on the backbenches will be wondering is if the current scandal is preventing this. After all, the PM had to cancel a call with Vladimir Putin on Monday as he fielded almost two hours of bruising questions about alleged partying at the centre of power while millions of Britons were told to stay at home for the greater good.

The mood of Mr Johnson’s MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions will be telling. On Monday, they sat and listened to Sir Keir Starmer in subdued silence as he criticised Mr Johnson over “partygate”. Whether there will be a stronger show of support this lunchtime is yet to be seen.

09:07 AM

Watch: The moment Tobias Ellwood urged Johnson to call no-confidence vote

09:03 AM

Tobias Ellwood: Brexit and vaccines can’t save Boris Johnson

Getting Brexit done and the success of the vaccine rollout cannot save Boris Johnson’s premiership, the Tory chairman of the defence committee has said.

Tobias Ellwood, who confirmed to Sky News he will submit a letter of no confidence, said in a candid interview with Kay Burley: “We’ve had lots of reminders, of course, of why we’ve got Boris to thank. Brexit impasse, he solved that, resolute election winner, yes, phenomenal vaccine rollout, absolutely right.

“But it’s not the previous battles that matter, it’s the domestic and international ones ahead of us that count.

“And the question is now for all of us: Is the Prime Minister to lead the party moving forward?”

08:48 AM

Breaking: Tobias Ellwood to submit letter of no confidence

Tobias Ellwood, the former defence minister, confirmed he will submit a letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson to the 1922 Committee later today.

Asked whether Boris Johnson being found to have attended parties during lockdown would move the goalposts, he told Sky News: “For me it already has. For me, the situation is the Sue Gray report wasn’t published in full so once again we’re having to wait for a police report which could then be months away.

“[There’s] the prospect of a steady drip of stories as we’ve seen in the press today which all dominate the news cycle, and this is just horrible for all MPs to continue to have to defend this to the British public.

“Now the Government’s acknowledged the need for fundamental change, culture, makeup, change, discipline, the tone of No 10 but the strategy it seems has been one of survival, of rushed policy announcements, the Navy taking over the migrant Channel crisis, and attacking Keir Starmer with Jimmy Savile. Who advised the Prime Minister to say this?

“I believe it’s time for the Prime Minister to take a grip of this, he himself should call a vote of confidence rather than waiting for the inevitable 54 letters to be eventually submitted. It’s time to resolve this completely so the party can get on with governing. And yes, I know the next question you’ll ask, I will be submitting my letter today to the 1922 Committee.”

08:42 AM

Dominic Cummings: Furlough success could make a Prime Minister of Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak is “obviously the frontrunner” in any leadership contest to replace Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings has said.

“He’s way ahead in the polls and unlike Liz Truss/Jeremy Hunt/Tom Tugendhat was pro-Brexit,” Mr Cummings wrote in an ‘ask me anything’ session on his blog.

“His team conceived and executed furlough in very tough circumstances, and which was one of most popular things a politician has done in a very long time,” he added. “That will be a big strength when the contest comes.”

On Mr Tugendhat, who last weekend told the Times it would be a “huge privilege” to serve as Prime Minister, Mr Cummings noted he has never held a ministerial position.

“It is hard to imagine Tory MPs promoting someone straight to the top job who has not been in Cabinet. I’m not aware of what TT has done… is he just another speech-giver?!”

08:35 AM

12 commandments for levelling up Britain to be set in stone

A dozen pledges to “level up” Britain are to be enshrined in law in an attempt to set the Government’s agenda for the rest of the decade, Michael Gove will announce later today.

The flagship Levelling Up White Paper promises improved infrastructure, research and development funding, educational outcomes and quality of life across Britain, to be delivered in a range of targets ministers hope to reach by 2030.

It also offers greater devolution to towns and cities over the next eight years, in what officials describe as a “devolution revolution” and a “huge shift of power from Whitehall to local leaders”.

Wednesday’s long-awaited paper provides the most comprehensive definition yet of levelling up, which some MPs have complained is a vague policy agenda.

Tony Diver and Camilla Turner have more on Gove’s 12 pledges

08:32 AM

Boris Johnson in Downing Street flat on night of party being investigated by police

Boris Johnson was in the Downing Street flat the night of a gathering being investigated by police for potential Covid law breaches, The Telegraph can reveal.

The Prime Minister was seen heading up to his flat on November 13 2020 – the day Dominic Cummings, his former senior adviser, was forced out of Downing Street.

Abba songs including The Winner Takes It All were heard blaring from the flat, the Mail on Sunday has reported. Mr Johnson has denied there was a party.

The Prime Minister yesterday declined to say whether he was in the flat that night. Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, was reportedly there that evening.

In a question and answer session online, Mr Cummings claimed there were photographs of the Downing Street flat gathering. He called it a “party” and said music could be heard by others in the building.

Ben Riley-Smith and Harry Yorke have the story

08:30 AM

Ministers have ‘a lot to do’ on levelling up, Michael Gove admits

Michael Gove said ministers have “a lot to do” to counter scepticism towards politicians and deliver on levelling up after 12 years in office.

Mr Gove recalled Liam Byrne, the former Labour chief secretary to the Treasury, leaving a note for his successor which said: “I’m afraid there is no money”.

The Levelling Up Secretary stressed the need for “difficult economic decisions” under the David Cameron administration, and the Brexit vote marked a turning point.

“Boris Johnson was elected in 2019 as the leader of a new government determined to change that economic model,” he said.

“We had two years of Covid when we were preparing our proposals for levelling, and indeed laying the groundwork with our Levelling Up Fund and other transfusions of cash to the frontline. And now we’re laying out the plan for 2030.”

08:23 AM

You can’t always get what you want

Michael Gove appeared to confirm he did not get everything he wanted from Rishi Sunak when asked about news he asked the Chancellor for more funding.

Mr Gove said the Spending Review saw money “put in departmental bank accounts” by Mr Sunak which was now being allocated to mayors and other local leaders.

Asked about reports he asked Mr Sunak for more money to put financial heft behind his ideas, the Levelling Up Secretary said: “I did ask the Chancellor for a lot. And he gave it to me, that was what was happening in the Spending Review.”

 Secretary of State Michael Gove - Steve Parsons/PA Wire Secretary of State Michael Gove - Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Secretary of State Michael Gove – Steve Parsons/PA Wire

But pressed on if he got “everything you wanted”, Mr Gove replied: “In this life we never get everything we want, but in the words of Mick Jagger ‘you might not always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need’.”

That doesn’t quite sound like complete Satisfaction.

08:15 AM

Michael Gove: Vladimir Putin must ‘back off’

Asked about Russian media having a field day portraying the “partygate” scandal as an example of British incompetence, Michael Gove said it was a “badge of pride [that] Russian television is attacking our Prime Minister”.

Russia’s state-owned news channel Rossiya 24 ridiculed the Prime Minister’s demeanour in the Commons on Monday and said he “does not look that cheerful any longer”.

“One of the reasons that Russian television is attacking the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister is leading the West’s efforts in order to ensure that we defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity against Putin,” Mr Gove said.

Boris Johnson - Ukrainian Presidency/Anadolu AgencyBoris Johnson - Ukrainian Presidency/Anadolu Agency

Boris Johnson – Ukrainian Presidency/Anadolu Agency

“In the Ukraine there is a recognition that Britain and Poland are its two strongest allies. We were told Britain after Brexit would be on the margins, on the sidelines of the big international issues… Far from being criticised by democrats internationally, we are leading the fight for democracy.”

On Boris Johnson cancelling a call with Vladimir Putin on Monday because he took almost two hours of questions on the Downing Street party row, Mr Gove insisted: “I don’t think you necessarily need to dial Vladimir Putin on his mobile phone for him to get the message that he should back off.”

08:10 AM

Some party allegations ‘speculation and not true’, claims Michael Gove

Some of the allegations around Downing Street parties are “speculation and not true”, Michael Gove has claimed.

Mr Gove said it was a “hypothetical question” as to whether Boris Johnson should resign if found to have misled Parliament.

“All of these allegations are being investigated by the Metropolitan Police… I think it’s only right that we allow the Met to get on with their work and appropriate conclusions can be drawn at the end,” he told Sky News.

“As I know, there [are] all sorts of allegations and speculation in the media. Fair enough. But the Met are doing their job and until they’ve concluded I don’t think it would be right for me to comment.

“All I would say is that there are sorts of allegations that have been made. I know that some of the allegations that have been made in some parts of the media are speculation that is not true… The Met are looking at those facts.”

08:07 AM

Wake up to Levelling Up

Good morning from Westminster where a dozen different pledges to “level up” Britain will be enshrined in law today to set the Government’s agenda for the rest of the decade.

Here’s the front page of your Daily Telegraph:

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