Downing Street scrambled to defend Boris Johnson last night after pictures emerged of him raising a glass at a lockdown leaving do.
Leaked images show the Prime Minister apparently toasting his outgoing communications chief Lee Cain at a time when social gatherings were banned.
One Tory source pointed the finger at Dominic Cummings, who has repeatedly called for ‘regime change’ in No 10. They said: ‘This has got Dom’s fingerprints all over it.’
The pictures were leaked to ITV News hours after the PM’s former aide said more photos of events in No 10 would emerge to coincide with the publication – possibly as soon as today – of Miss Gray’s Partygate report. A Government source last night said the ‘brief’ gathering did not amount to a party.
They added: ‘He’s in a suit, he’s got his [ministerial] red box with him – he’s at work – he’s just dropped in to say goodbye to a long-serving staff member as any boss would. It’s not a party.’
Mr Johnson is said to have made a speech thanking Mr Cain and stayed at the event for ten to 15 minutes before going to his flat.
Mr Johnson can be seen raising a glass in a toast in the pictures that have surfaced tonight
Images published by ITV News showed the PM with a glass in hand making a toast with around eight other people in shot
Mr Johnson is apparently giving a speech to a room full of staff in the photographs from November 2020
Sources said Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray and the Metropolitan Police had examined ‘similar’ pictures of the event. The PM was not fined over it, but others were understood to have been given fixed penalty notices for attending, sparking calls last night for police to reconsider the case.
Although allies insist no party took place, Mr Johnson is pictured next to a table containing several open bottles of wine.
The PM previously told Parliament that no rules were broken at the event on November 13, 2020, the day Mr Cummings was forced out of No 10 after losing a power struggle with Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie. Mr Cain quit the same day. Police also investigated a second gathering that evening, but again Mr Johnson was not fined.
Asked in January whether a party had taken place that day, Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘No – but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.’
The Commons privileges committee is set to probe whether Mr Johnson knowingly misled Parliament – for which he could be suspended from the chamber.
A No 10 spokesman said: ‘The Cabinet Office and the Met Police have had access to all information relevant to their investigations, including photographs. The Met has concluded their investigation and Sue Gray will publish her report in the coming days, at which point the Prime Minister will address Parliament in full.’
But Labour said the images left ‘no doubt now’ that Mr Johnson ‘lied’ to Parliament. Deputy leader Angela Rayner – who is under police investigation for her role in Sir Keir Starmer’s notorious Beergate incident in Durham – said: ‘While the British public were making huge sacrifices, Boris Johnson was breaking the law.’
No 10 yesterday tried to smooth tensions with Miss Gray (L) ahead of the publication of her report by insisting Mr Johnson (R) did not believe she was ‘playing politics’ with the issue, as his allies claimed over the weekend
The Liberal Democrats urged the Independent Office for Police Conduct to investigate why the Met had cleared the PM while fining others at the same event.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who previously retracted his call for the PM to resign, said: ‘To most, these pictures seem unjustifiable and wrong.’
Tory MP Sir Roger Gale said the PM’s position was ‘not tenable’, adding: ‘It’s absolutely clear that there was a party. He misled us from the despatch box. And, honourably, there is one answer.’
But fellow Tory MP Peter Bone said of the image: ‘I don’t think it looks like that [a party] at all.’
No 10 yesterday tried to smooth tensions with Miss Gray ahead of the publication of her report by insisting Mr Johnson did not believe she was ‘playing politics’ with the issue, as his allies claimed over the weekend. The PM’s spokesman also said the idea for a so-called secret meeting between Mr Johnson and Miss Gray this month had originated in No 10.