Boris Johnson Tells MPs He Didn't Realise His Birthday Party Broke Covid Rules

The prime minister says he did not knowingly mislead parliament and apologises "unreservedly".
House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images

Boris Johnson has insisted he did not knowingly mislead parliament when he said no Covid rules were broken in Downing Street.

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, the prime minister said it “did not occur” to him that he had been guilty of breaking the law.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, accused Johnson of being “dishonest” with parliament and the public.

It was the first time Johnson faced MPs since police issued him with a fixed-penalty notice (FPN) for attending his own birthday party in the Cabinet Room of No.10 on June 2020.

MPs have been granted a vote on Thursday as to whether an investigation should be launched into whether the prime minister had misled the Commons with his previous statements.

On December 1, 2021, Johnson told the Commons: “All guidance was followed completely in No.10.”

Later that month he also told MPs he was “sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times”.

Ministers are supposed to resign if they knowingly mislead parliament. While any “inadvertent” error is expected to be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

Johnson told MPs today: “It did not occur to me then or subsequently that a gathering in the Cabinet Room just before a vital meeting on Covid strategy could amount to a breach of the rules.

“I repeat that was my mistake and I apologise for it unreservedly.

“I respect the outcome of the police investigation, which is still under way, and I can only say that I will respect their decision-making and always take the appropriate steps.”

Johnson could also be handed more fines by the police if they find he attended other illegal gatherings during lockdown.

Starmer has said Johnson should resign, as has Lib Dem leader Ed Davey and Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The Labour leader told the Commons Johnson was being “dishonest” with his response.

“He drags everyone else down with him,” Starmer said. “The more people debase themselves, parroting their absurd defences, the more the public will believe all politicians are the same, all as bad as each other. And that suits this prime minister just fine.”

“It’s what he does, it’s who he is. He’s dishonest and incapable of changing”.

When the partygate revelations were first reported last year, many Tory MPs went public with demands that Johnson quit.

The ongoing war in Ukraine led some previous critics to question wether now was the right time to hold a Conservative Party leadership election.

But Mark Harper, a former Tory chief Whip, told Johnson he should resign. “I no longer think he is worthy of the great office he holds,” he said.


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