Ministers Dodge Probing Press Questions Over Partygate In Toe-Curling Exchange

"Are you embarrassed?"
Ministers faced awkward questions about partygate when they arrived for a meeting with the prime minister in Stoke-on-Trent
Ministers faced awkward questions about partygate when they arrived for a meeting with the prime minister in Stoke-on-Trent
Sky News

Cabinet ministers ignored difficult questions from a journalist on Thursday just after the police confirmed it has now issued more than 100 partygate fines.

Boris Johnson, his wife and chancellor Rishi Sunak were all fined for attending a birthday party in June 2020 only last month. This was during the first wave of 50 fixed penalty notices issued in the Met’s ongoing investigation into Downing Street’s Covid breaches.

As that number has now more than doubled, the government is coming under further scrutiny.

As Johnson decided to hold a cabinet meeting on Thursday Stoke-on-Trent, Sky News’ Sam Coates caught the ministers on their way to the gathering – and he didn’t hold back.

Addressing home secretary Priti Patel, he said: “Are you embarrassed or are you just going to play deaf to the scale of the law-breaking in No.10. Do you still back the prime minister?”

She avoided looking at the camera, briefing saying, “good morning Sam” and asking the journalist how he is – all the while keeping her gaze steadily on the ground.

Michael Gove was up next. He looked directly at the journalist as Coates asked: ”Is it just best to ignore law-breaking in Downing Street Mr Gove, or do you have the full confidence [in] the prime minister?”

With a large smile, the levelling up secretary looked at the camera and said: “Hi Sam!”

As Sunak approached, Coates said: “Chancellor, are you prepared to dig deep to help with the cost of living or is the prime minister going to bounce you into spending more?”

The chancellor simply smiled and said, “morning”, before walking on.

It wasn’t just the cabinet minister who faced a grilling either.

When Guto Harri, Downing Street’s director of communications, arrived with a crowd of colleagues, Coates asked: “Guto Harri, is it hard to spin your way out of this one after a hundred fines this morning confirmed by the Met?”

Smiling, the spin doctor replied: “Good morning! How are you?”

Nigel Adams – cabinet minister without portfolio – was also filmed arriving for the meeting, prompting the Sky News journalist to ask: “Have you fixed it for Boris Johnson to get through this despite the scale of law-breaking in No.10?”

“It’s great to see you too, Sam,” Adams replied without breaking his stride. “Wonderful to be here in Stoke.”

Adams actually tweeted about Labour leader Keir Starmer only last week when he was accused of avoiding scrutiny about “beergate”, which is now also under police investigation for breaching Covid rules.

He wrote: “It’s not a good look to be dodging questions about #beergate.

“Most voters can spot BS and a #hypocrite from a mile away.”

Coates also tweeted clarifying that not all attendees chose to enter the building, where the government will be trying to follow up on its promises from the Queen’s Speech, via the TV cameras.


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