Boris Johnson should resign over partygate, says veteran Tory


oris Johnson should resign over the “embarrassment” of Partygate, a veteran London Tory has said.

Bromley councillor Nicholas Bennett, who served as a junior minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, told the Standard that allegations over parties held in Downing Street during lockdown had “snowballed” and could only be resolved by the prime minister’s resignation.

Barnet councillor John Marshall who served for 10 years as MP for Hendon South, said: “I’m ashamed of what has happened.

“I served in Parliament under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. They would not have allowed the culture to develop – that had Friday nights as drinks nights.”

However, Ealing Councillor Julian Gallant said he was “keen for Boris to stay”, citing the vaccine rollout and response to Covid as Mr Johnson’s successes in government.

Earlier on Monday, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi denied that Mr Johnson was in danger of losing his position over partygate.

The cabinet minister said Mr Johnson would remain in place but acknowledged “mistakes” had been made by Downing Street staff after they breached lockdown rules on multiple occasions.

Mr Zahawi said he “did not recognise” reports that the prime minister would unveil a flurry of policy announcements – dubbed “Operation Red Meat” – in a bid to save his premiership and appease furious Tory MPs. These include the freezing of the licence fee payment for the next two years and sending asylum seekers to offshore locations for processing.

Live updates


UK ‘can expect more alerts’ over foreign interference in parliament, says Patel

The UK should expect to see more alerts about foreign interference with politics in the future, Priti Patel has said.

It comes after a security alert was issued to MPs and peers last week after the announcement that solicitor Christine Lee was a spy allegedly working for the Chinese government.

The Home Secretary told the Commons: “We can expect to see these kinds of alerts become more commonplace as a result of the work of our world class intelligence agencies who have adapted to counter these new and emerging threats.

“We are developing new national security legislation to make it even harder for a malign state to conduct such activities.

“We are also taking further steps to protect the integrity of our democracy, tackling electoral fraud and preventing foreign interreference in elections, with the Elections Bill.”

She said that ministers would introduce new legislation to “provide the security services and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to disrupt the full range of state threats”.


Jess Phillips urges Tories to back Labour calls for ‘Rasso’ in every police force

Shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding Jess Phillips urged the Government to back Labour’s calls to “ensure that every police force area has a Rasso” (rape and serious sexual offence unit).

She said: “Operation Soteria has already pointed out and made it very clear to ministers that there is a real need for more specialism and priority within the police forces, so saying she’s going to pilot it in 14 more areas and find out the exact same thing isn’t going to be enough.

“There is a need for specialism, there is a need for it now, so why is the Government not backing Labour’s calls to ensure that every police force area has a Rasso?”

Home office minister Rachel Maclean replied: “Funding into these important specialisms has been increased and we are increasing funding to the police to the tune of £15.9 billion.”


Drinking is ‘normalised’ in No10, claims former official

A long-standing drinking culture in Downing Street saw staff start boozing at lunch and waking up there in the same clothes the next day, a former No 10 official has said.

Sonia Khan, who worked in No 10 and the Treasury during the leaderships of former prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May, said drinking had been “normalised” in Downing Street.

“Usually these drinking sessions are sandwiched between pieces of work, so it feels like a very, very routine thing,” Ms Khan told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.

“Drinks could start at lunch time, they could start a little bit later in the day – different teams do things very differently – but the idea of mini fridges or having drinks underneath your table wasn’t uncommon.”


Government ‘considering all options’ over processing asylum seekers offshore

The Government is considering “all options” in moving asylum processing centres offshore, Home Secretary Priti Patel said, after reports that Gambia has been approached to outsource asylum seekers in Britain.

At Home Office Questions, Labour MP Diane Abbott (Hackney North) asked: “Is there any truth in the reports that the Government wants to have a asylum seekers processed offshore in countries like the Gambia? Has any such country actually agreed to this?

“And doesn’t she accept that having people processed hundreds and thousands of miles away might meet the letter of our obligation to asylum seekers but it certainly doesn’t meet the spirit?”

Home Secretary Ms Patel replied: “Of course, had she read the new plan for immigration, the actual policy statement published for the benefit of members, she will absolutely know that this Government considers all options in terms of outsourcing, processing and how we actually remove as well people with no legal basis to be in our country.

“I completely recognise that she will disagree with the policies of this Government..

“It matters not which countries, we will continue to discuss this with a range of countries because I, as Home Secretary, and this Government are absolutely determined to fix what is a decades-long problem of a very broken asylum system.”


Johnson urged to end WFH advice to help London recovery

Boris Johnson has been urged to end working from home guidance to aid London’s economic recovery.

Business leaders and MPs told the Standard that the measures had “hollowed out” central London economy, writes Jonathan Prynn, Nicholas Cecil and Rachael Burford.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, said: “I would get rid of it (WFH) now. People have got to be encouraged back into the office.

“The infrastructure in London is desperately in need of people going back to the office — shops, small food outlets, restaurants, entertainment — all these things that make London vibrant are all flat at the moment.”

Sir Bob Neill, Tory MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, said WFH guidance should go by January 26 “at the latest and earlier if hospitalisations continue to decline”.

He told the Standard: “The hospitality and retail sectors in central London are being crippled and, thanks to the success of the vaccine campaign, albeit that we have more to do there, we must be planning to move steadily back to normality as soon as possible.”

Read our full exclusive report here.


Cooper: Labour will support measures to ‘save lives’ in the Channel

Elsewhere during the interview, Ms Cooper said Labour would support any “sensible” measures to save lives in the Channel.

She told BBC Radio 4: “More action is needed to deal with the dangerous boat crossings that are putting lives at risk. In particular, I mean serious hard work with France on stopping the criminal gangs and preventing the crossings in the first place.

“So look, we would support any sensible measures that could save lives in the Channel.

“But there’s two problems with this. First is the timing of it, where it is a briefing to The Times which Government sources are themselves admitting is part of what they describe as Operation Save Big Dog and being about saving the Prime Minister’s skin rather than a serious approach to the problem.

“The second is we don’t really know very much about this, but we do know they have used the Navy before, three years ago. At that point, they had two Navy vessels that didn’t intercept any boats, and that was stopped.”


Shadow home sec accuses Government of trying to ‘pick fights’ with British institutions

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Government of trying to “pick fights” with “important” British institutions.

Asked if she welcomed reports that the BBC licence fee will be frozen, Ms Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “I think the thing is the BBC is such an important part of our national life.

“And what’s going on is the Government is now just trying to pick fights with our big, really important institutions, our British institutions.”

Pressed on whether she would allow the licence fee to rise, she said: “I think everybody understands in terms of right now, there are all sorts of issues about making sure that we can support people through a cost of living crisis.

“But that’s not what really is going on with the Government at the moment.

“What instead that they’re doing is trying to actually talk about undermining or stopping the BBC altogether, seems to be their approach. And that’s what we think is the damaging approach, at a time when the BBC, you know, does so much important things.”


Sturgeon accuses Johnson of resorting to ‘cheap, populist policies’

Nicola Sturgeon has accused Boris Johnson of resorting to “cheap, populist policies” to distract from the partygate scandal.

Scotland’s first minister claimed proposals such as ending the BBC licence fee and ordering the military to prevent small boats from crossing the Channel was “unedifying” for the prime minister.

Speaking to the media at a visit to Irvine after the announcement of offshore energy contracts, the SNP leader said: “Instead of Boris Johnson taking responsibility, he appears to be preparing to pass the blame to those who work for him and around him, which I don’t think is the kind of thing you would expect from somebody who is leader of his party and Prime Minister.

“But also, looking for cheap, populist policies to try to distract attention, to use refugees and those seeking asylum to save his own skin.

“While everybody will have different degrees of criticism of the BBC, to try to jettison the BBC to save his own skin, it’s unedifying, it’s beneath the office of Prime Minister and all it does really is underline this feeling that Boris Johnson is not just himself damaged irreparably, in my view, but he is bit by bit undermining and damaging the institutions of the country and the institutions that support our democracy and that’s why it’s got to stop.”


No 10: ‘Vital’ BBC keeps costs down

Downing Street said it was “vital” that the BBC sought to keep down costs ahead of an expected freeze in the licence fee.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s obviously vital the BBC is doing…

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