RISHI Sunak has been urged to give evidence under oath to Westminster’s Partygate inquiry following more revelations about rule-breaking in No 10 at the height of the Covid lockdown.
According to a new report, officials in Downing Street shredded key documents ahead of the Sue Gray investigation and corroborated their stories prior to filling out Metropolitan Police questionnaires.
The ITV news Partygate: The Inside Story Podcast, also reveals that during a boozy leaving do for Lee Cain, his outgoing spokesman, Boris Johnson reportedly joked with officials that they were at “the most unsocially distanced party in the UK right now.”
READ MORE: Boris Johnson tells MPs there was no party on exact date bombshell images taken
At the time of the event, on November 13, 2020 England was covered by a second national lockdown with indoor gatherings banned except for in certain circumstances such as for “work purposes”, and social distancing remained the rule in workplaces.
The party was one of those for which attendees received fines, although the Prime Minister did not.
Recalling the event on the podcast, the source says: “I was working late – some music came on, the mumbling sort of rose, and there were loads of people stood around, but this time I came out because I heard the prime minister speaking and that’s when I heard the quote: ‘This is the most unsocially distanced party in the UK right now’ and everyone was laughing about it.”
“The PM making that comment really sticks out in my mind, that was pretty bad, because the picture showed one side of this going on. But what it didn’t capture is the 20 odd people sat on top of each other on the opposite side – they’re literally shoulder to shoulder, clamped in like a tube carriage,” the source said.
“And he was there seeing people sat on other people’s laps (in) close proximity, crowded, scrunched up in front of him. He saw that, he saw people with drinks. You saw the picture. It had booze all over that desk. He’s not blind, he’s not stupid. He saw that and didn’t shut it down.
“That was really bad, but that was a normal sight, a regular occurrence, so it wasn’t unusual to see that sort of thing.”
During a PMQs in December 2021, Mr Johnson was asked directly by Labour MP Catherine West if there was a party in No.10 on November 13.
He replied: “No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”
Labour MP Catherine West asked the PM in the House in December if there was a party in No10 on 13 November 2020.
Boris Johnson: ‘No, but I’m sure that whatever happened the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.’ pic.twitter.com/rXOublplvp
— LBC (@LBC) May 23, 2022
He earlier told MPs that he had “been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken. That is what I have been repeatedly assured.”
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One source said they were surprised by the denial: “We were all just shocked that he would even deny it. He was there. We were there. We were all there together. And suddenly he’s denying it.”
Mr Johnson is still due to appear before a Commons standards committee, which is investigating whether he knowingly misled MPs.
When ITV News put the direct quote to Mr Johnson he did not deny saying it.
In her report, Ms Gray said she was told the event on November 13 2020 was not pre-planned but occurred at around the time that “wine time Friday” events in No 10 routinely took place.
The new investigation also claims the party on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April 2021 was even more debaucherous than previously documented, with at least two couples “getting it on with each other” and “touching each other up” and two other members of staff “all over each other” in a kitchen area.
READ MORE: Boris Johnson row: Downing Street staff ‘partied’ while Queen mourned
The Partygate scandal saw 83 people receive 126 fines. Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak both received fines for attending a birthday party for the then prime minister.
When the probe started, the source claims there was “a sense, and an implication, that we should start deleting evidence before there is an investigation. And a lot of people started shredding things. Any proof of the events started disappearing.
“[Awards from a Christmas party were] basically taken down, kept away, shredded, evidence destroyed. So there was an aspect of getting rid of evidence – just keeping yourself in the clear before an investigation would happen.“
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic Boris Johnson led our country through its most dangerous peacetime crisis in living memory.
“As prime minister during a 24/7 national emergency he worked constantly to ensure the government did everything possible in its power to save lives and protect livelihoods.
“Mr Johnson pays heartfelt tribute to the heroic frontline workers who battled the pandemic, many of whom lost their lives.
“Their service to our country will always be remembered.
“He is also incredibly grateful for the efforts of hardworking staff who were working in central government – the vast majority of them civil servants – who helped co-ordinate the UK’s national response from 10 Downing Street, across Whitehall and throughout the wider UK government.
“Their work was crucial as they helped marshal the UK Government’s response during a national emergency.”
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Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “These shocking revelations confirm Boris Johnson’s total disregard for the rules he asked us all to follow. He laughed and partied while the rest of the country suffered.
“Conservative MPs should be ashamed that they backed Johnson for so long and that some are even considering putting him back in No 10.
“Rishi Sunak must agree to give evidence under oath to the partygate inquiry about everything he knows about rule-breaking in No 10, including reports that files were shredded. After all their sacrifices, the British people deserve the truth, not more lies and cover-ups.”
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