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Good morning. Like many politicians, Boris Johnson usually lives by the dictum, “By no means apologise, by no means clarify”. (It’s a saying attributed to numerous folks, however one of the best supply for it I can discover is Jacky Fisher, first sea lord within the first world battle, who wrote in a letter to the Occasions “By no means contradict, by no means clarify, by no means apologise”.) However at present, in relation to the stories that he attended a employees celebration within the Downing Road backyard on 20 Might 2020, when the nation was in lockdown and out of doors gatherings have been banned, Johnson is nearly actually going to need to provide you with some type of apology and a few type of clarification. Yesterday No 10 was making an attempt to stay to the road that it might wait till Sue Grey, the senior civil servant investigating all of the partygate allegations, produces her report. However anybody following the Westminster news from yesterday for greater than about 30 seconds could have twigged that that line can now not maintain.

Right here is the Guardian story summing up the scenario in a single day.

Johnson shall be within the Commons for PMQs at 12pm. Final night time there was speculation about some type of assertion beforehand, however that in all probability referred to a plan to start PMQs with a remark addressing the partygate affair, to realize some credit score forward of Keir Starmer’s first query. That is precisely what Johnson did on 8 December, when he was beneath intense stress due to the discharge of the video displaying Allegra Stratton, his then spokesperson, successfully confirming a separate lockdown-busting No 10 celebration (on 18 December 2020), and laughing about it, at a briefing rehearsal. (The most recent allegation is far worse, for causes defined here yesterday.)

The character of Johnson’s clarification/apology might properly decide how lengthy he stays as prime minister. Clearly some individuals are prone to be extra forgiving than others, however what is going to matter most for Johnson would be the response of Tory MPs, who’ve the facility to set off a confidence vote in the event that they conclude this afternoon that he stays an excessive amount of of a legal responsibility. In the end the general public’s response shall be extra necessary (as a result of that can form whether or not Tory MPs conclude he stays viable as a frontrunner), nevertheless it would possibly take longer to evaluate what the general public’s thought-about view is.

Provided that some Tory MPs have stated Johnson must resign if he knowingly attended a social celebration, Johnson is prone to argue that the 20 Might occasion final 12 months was primarily a piece perform, however in a backyard, with alcohol. Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy chief, has been doing interviews and she or he informed the At this time programme that this clarification could be implausible. She stated:


I don’t settle for that sending out invites to carry your personal booze – the climate’s beautiful, come out into the backyard – to 100 employees as work, to be trustworthy. I believe it’s very clear that that breaks the Covid guidelines.

Requested if she accepted that the No 10 backyard may very well be seen as a office, Rayner replied:


Many key staff are NHS employees who have been working very heavy shifts, 12-hour shifts with full PPE on – they didn’t get away into the backyard with cheese and wine and produce your personal booze eventualities.

They have been working extremely laborious watching folks’s family members die, holding good telephones and iPads in entrance of them so they might say goodbye to their family members – it’s not acceptable to say: ‘It is a office backyard, so all of us cracked open the bubbly as a result of it was a very nice day.’

Many individuals on the time understood the foundations, and the foundations have been very clear.

Largely Johnson’s future shall be decided by what he says at PMQs, however there may very well be different partygate-related developments at present too. A number of hours after PMQs on 8 December Stratton resigned. Martin Reynolds, who as Johnson’s principal non-public secretary despatched out the invitation to the 20 Might celebration, is extensively anticipated to go sooner or later and it’s fairly doable that that may very well be at present.

Other than PMQs, there’s not a lot on the agenda. At this time the weblog shall be largely centered on Johnson and partygate.

I attempt to monitor the feedback beneath the road (BTL) however it’s inconceivable to learn all of them. When you have a direct query, do embrace “Andrew” in it someplace and I’m extra prone to discover it. I do attempt to reply questions, and if they’re of common curiosity, I’ll put up the query and reply above the road (ATL), though I can’t promise to do that for everybody.

If you wish to entice my consideration shortly, it’s in all probability higher to make use of Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you’ll be able to e-mail me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com



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