Grant Shapps mentions 'red box' in defence of Boris Johnson
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Last night pictures were published by ITV News that showed Mr Johnson drinking in Downing Street with colleagues at a leaving do in November 2020. The images showed at least eight people gathered together next to a table littered with bottles of alcohol.
But ministers and backbench Tory MPs have sought to hit back at accusations the pictures are evidence of the Prime Minister breaking lockdown rules, highlighting the fact the police had evidence of the gathering but chose not to fine the Conservative leader.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said this morning: “I see his red box is there, which is his work box, it looks to me like he goes down on his way out of the office and thanks the staff and raises a glass, and doesn’t in his mind recognise it as a party.
“And indeed the police have looked into this and spent a lot of time and resources.”
Wellingborough MP Peter Bone told Times Radio last night: “The Met police has said there was no such party and the police have seen these photographs as well.”
Meanwhile, New Forest West’s Sir Desmond Swayne said: “It was a work do – it’s what people do at work, you have leaving-dos.”
He added: “I don’t know, but I presume the police have reached the same judgements, so they have not imposed fines for that.”
Supporters of the Prime Minister have been growing in confidence that he can survive calls for his resignation after receiving just one fine over a gathering the Cabinet Office for his 56th birthday.
But while Tory MPs seek to dismiss claims Mr Johnson broke the rules at the November 2020 gathering, Mr Cummings has warned their reasoning is illogical.
He said No10 was pushing the line “PM wasn’t fined because ‘it was a work event'”, despite the police ruling the gathering illegal.
“The Met has not said it was a ‘work event’, they’ve fined officials cos they’ve defined the event as unlawful,” he wrote on social media.
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Mr Johnson’s former aid described those MPs seeking to defend the Prime Minister as “thick”.
He added the words “cover up” alongside his message.
The police have confirmed at least one individual has received a fixed penalty notice in relation to an event on that date.
The fine makes it harder for Tory MPs to argue the police deemed the gathering a work event.
Questions are being asked of the Met police as to why Mr Johnson was not fined in relation to the event when photographs showed him, drink in hand.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper has written to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) calling for it to examine the Met’s probe into events in No10 and Whitehall.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: “The Cabinet Office and the Met Police have had access to all information relevant to their investigations, including photographs.
“The Met have concluded their investigation and Sue Gray will publish her report in the coming days, at which point the Prime Minister will address Parliament in full.”
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