London, 17 January 2022 (PA Media/dpa/MIA) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly been interviewed as part of the investigation into “Partygate” allegations as claims of another lockdown breach at Number 10 Downing Street surfaced.
The prime minister is said to have shared “what he knows” with senior civil servant Sue Gray about alleged parties in Downing Street as she prepares to publish her report into claims of coronavirus rule flouting as soon as this week, the Daily Telegraph reported.
It comes as The Mirror tabloid said Johnson attended a leaving do before Christmas 2020 during which he gave a speech to mark the departure of his defense adviser Captain Steve Higham.
The prime minister’s office did not respond to request for comment and the Ministry of Defense declined.
The leaving do claim is the latest in a long line of allegations about rule-breaking in Downing Street, with Gray looking into a litany of possible events, including a “bring your own booze” garden party during the first coronavirus lockdown that Johnson has admitted he attended – although he insists he understood it to be a “work event.”
Johnson’s sister, journalist and LBC presenter Rachel Johnson, told her listeners on Sunday that the Prime Minister was “completely compliant” with Covid rules whenever they met under restrictions.
Referring to the May 20, 2020, BYOB event, she said: “To my mind, if he did go out into the garden, and he has told us he did, for him that would have been work.”
In a bid to survive the Partygate storm, reports have suggested Johnson could overhaul his top team, with the likes of his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, who sent an email inviting staff to enjoy the good weather in the No 10 garden in May 2020, being shown the door as part of a move said to have been dubbed “Operation: Save Big Dog.”
The Times said a bid to save Johnson’s premiership would include an announcement putting the military in charge of preventing small boats from crossing the Channel, as the Prime Minister looks to push “populist” policies.
A change being considered could, according to the newspaper, include processing asylum seekers in Ghana and Rwanda, although the Home Office would not be drawn on such suggestions.
Other touted policy announcements include attempts to reduce the National Health Service (NHS) backlog and freeze the BBC licence fee for two years, with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries hinting that the current model for funding the public broadcaster could be scrapped altogether.
Social media pictures surfaced on Sunday, apparently showing the office of Robert Largan, the Tory MP for High Peak, graffitied repeatedly with the words “Lies.”
It comes as Tory MPs wrestled publicly with their conscience over the weekend as a sixth backbencher, Tim Loughton, demanded that the Prime Minister resign, citing the “terminal damage” the revelations have done to his reputation.
Others, such as former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, said it was for Gray to determine what Johnson knew about possible lockdown breaches in Number 10, while newer MPs suggested the affair raised questions about the “moral authority” at the top of Government.
Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland — who was sacked from the Cabinet by the Prime Minister in September — told Times Radio that it would be “a bridge too far” for the Number 10 incumbent if it emerged in Ms Gray’s report that “people at the top of Government” were involved in “organizing and planning and absolutely openly disregarding the rules.”
For a Tory leadership contest to be triggered, 54 letters of no confidence in Johnson have to be submitted by MPs to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, asking for a vote on his future.
Sir Graham does not publicly state how many letters he has received, but reports suggest about 20 might have been handed in.