Boris Johnson has run the gauntlet of PMQs as he waits tensely for the results of the Partygate investigation
Premier fighting on another front as cracked email suggests he did approve airlift of animal charity from Kabul
Mr Johnson absolutely denied involvement in the resolution for stranded campaigner with links to his wife Carrie
Downing Street has not received the report still, yet it could be handed over by Cabinet Office forthcoming
Sue Gray is understood to have told No 10 she expects discoveries to be released in full within ‘hours’ of receipt
Reports suggest Ms Gray has been handed photographs of Boris next to wine bottles at an reported party
Scotland Yard has declared that it is probing lock-down breaches in Downing Street and in Whitehall
Boris Johnson was accused of another lie today as incriminating emails surfaced indicating he did assist an animal charity with an airlift out of Kabul – as he waits for the results of the Party-gate report.
The PM has formerly denied involving to allow Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing – who has friends in common with Carrie Johnson – and members of his Nawzad charity to flee Kabul at the expense of locals as the extremists closed in last summer.
Notwithstanding Foreign Office emails published today – as well as from the private office of Mr Johnson’s close ally Lord Goldsmith – reveal officials discussing ‘the PM’s decision’ to assist Mr Farthing get onto some of the last planes out of the besieged city’s airport.
The massively censored correspondence from suggests Mr Farthing and his team be confidential as animal vets in order to defend their rescue.
‘Having regard to the Prime Minister’s Nowzad decision, the Foreign Secretary might consider the [details redacted] vets and their dependents should be included. They might be able to get to the airport with their dependents in time.’
Downing Street insisted:
‘It remains the case that the PM didn’t instruct officials to take any particular course of action.’
But Labour branded him a ‘pathological liar’.
And the whistle-blower revelation will inflict more damage on Mr Johnson, who this lunchtime insisted he will not quit over Partygate and desperately suggested he is the victim of a Remainer conspiracy at a bruising PMQs.
Mr Johnson batted away calls from the Labour Leader to resign for misleading the House – as he indicated he still has not taken delivery of Sue Gray’s findings on the swathe of allegedly lock-down-busting gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall.
The premier confirmed that he is subject to ministerial convention that he would need to resign for ‘knowingly misleading’ Parliament.
But asked by Sir Keir if he will fall on his sword, Mr Johnson said bluntly ‘no’.
He also jibed that there are ‘more important’ issues going on in the world, including the standoff with Russia over Ukraine.
In a swipe at Tory critics, he said that ‘for all sorts of reasons many people may want me out of the way’ – but appealed to his supporters by pointing out he ‘delivered on Brexit’.
Tension is building at Westminster with so much on the line, as helicopters circle overhead.
The level of criticism in the Partygate report – and whether it is directed at Mr Johnson personally – will be critical to his chances of survival, after Tories held off mounting a coup to see the results.
Allies have been desperately mobilizing to shore up the premier, with Jacob Rees-Mogg warning that ousting him would almost certainly trigger a snap general election. Another loyalist, Andrew Rosindell, attempted to play down the seriousness of the alleged offences. ‘He has not robbed a bank,’ the backbenchers griped.
But even if Mr Johnson can stave off the immediate threat the police have already announced they have been supplied with enough material to launch a criminal probe, which could see him become the first sitting PM ever interviewed under caution.
No premier has been convicted of a crime, and the stakes have been raised dramatically now Mr Johnson and staff are facing questioning from police rather than civil servants.
In a stormy PMQs session, Sir Keir said: ‘On December 1, the Prime Minister told this House in relation to parties during lock-down: ‘All guidance was followed completely in Number 10’, from that dispatch box.
‘On December 8 the Prime Minister told this House: ‘I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged there was no party’. So since he acknowledges the ministerial code applies to him, will he now resign
Mr Johnson replied: ‘No, Mr Speaker. Since he asked about Covid restrictions, let me just remind the House, and indeed remind the country, that he has been relentlessly opportunistic throughout.
‘He has flip-flopped from one side to the other, he would have kept us in lock-down in the summer, he would have taken us back into lock-down at Christmas.
‘It is precisely because we didn’t listen to Captain Hindsight that we have the fastest-growing economy in the G7 and we have got all the big calls right.’
There had been hopes Mr Johnson could publish Ms Gray’s conclusions in time for PMQs, but that schedule has slipped – although he could yet return to the Commons again this afternoon for what will inevitably be a marathon grilling from MPs.
The stage is set for an explosive row about how much of the report is released, after an extraordinary day of chaos yesterday with frantic behind-the-scenes maneuvering.
The Cabinet Office initially suggested yesterday that Ms Gray would hold off publishing until the Met had completed their probe.
But that stance was abandoned after Scotland Yard made clear they had no objection to the findings being issued in full.
In a round of interviews this morning, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss indicated that some of the report might be held back for ‘security’ reasons.
Asked if the report will be published in full, Ms Truss told Sky News: ‘We have been absolutely clear that we will publish the findings of the report.
‘We don’t know the content of the report, so there could be, for example, security issues that mean parts of it are problematic to publish. But we will absolutely publish the findings of the report.’
Confronted with his previous promises on full publication, Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘Of course when I receive it of course I will do exactly what I said.’
Ms Truss said the government had to acknowledge ‘public anger’. But she said: ‘I think the PM should continue in office. I think he is doing a great job… I support him 100 per cent.’
One Tory plotter last night claimed five more MPs are poised to call for the PM’s resignation as soon as the report is published.
A no-confidence vote is automatically triggered when 54 MPs send letters to the chair of the powerful 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady – although he never discloses how many he has received before the threshold is reached.
The PM faces the most dangerous spell of his premiership as:
Mr Johnson faced claims that he kept news of the police probe from senior ministers when Cabinet met on Tuesday morning, leaving them to find out from the media when they turned on their phones as they left No10;
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors has been named as the senior officer leading the investigation into parties at Downing Street. She was previously embroiled in a row over the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil;
Tory MPs have ridiculed Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns after he defended Mr Johnson’s presence at a birthday bash in the Cabinet room on June 19, 2020 by insisting he had been ‘ambushed with a cake’;
Senior Labour figures celebrated the PM’s discomfort, with an ally of leader Keir Starmer saying:
‘This is very good for us’;
The PM’s official spokesman signaled that Mr Johnson is willing to speak to police investigating the alleged breaches of corona virus rules over the past two years.
But Foreign Office emails published today show officials discussing ‘the PM’s decision’ to help Mr Farthing get onto some of the last planes out of the besieged city’s airport.
Asked by Sir Keir Starmer (pictured) if he will fall on his sword, Mr Johnson said bluntly ‘no’
Boris Johnson and his fellow rule breakers risk being jailed if they lie to officers investigating Party-gate, police sources warned today, as Met insiders said they stand ready to use the full force of their powers – including issuing search warrants and seizing phone records.
Detectives will try to obtain material that has been withheld from Sue Gray’s inquiry into the lock-down-breaking parties as part of the Met’s criminal investigation, amid claims No10 staffers have deliberately withheld information from the Cabinet Office inquiry.
Anyone admitting to attending an illegal gathering is unlikely to receive anything more than a £100 fixed penalty notice, a serving Inspector told MailOnline, but providing false evidence to officers or interfering with their investigation could result in a charge of perverting the course of justice – which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The last MP to be prosecuted under this offence was Labour’s Fiona Onasanya, after she lied to police to avoid a speeding ticket. She was sentenced to three months in jail.
Today, former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal suggested the Met could also seek to charge senior figures with the similarly serious offence of misconduct in public office, adding: ‘I’d be very worried it I was the PM’.
The Met’s involvement brings far more firepower to the Party-gate probe that Ms Gray could draw on as a civil servant, including the ability to seize phone records and compel guests to submit to interviews.
Sources at the force told The Times they would have ‘no hesitation’ in using these powers if there was any evidence of a cover-up, although only as a last resort.
‘The detectives will be looking to prove the people who were claimed to have been in the garden were actually there by using evidence from interviews and checking any entry and exit information,’ he told MailOnline.
‘If the suspects admit to being there, the result will be a fixed penalty notice. But if they deny it then a police supervisor will have to review the evidence and decide whether the person should be charged to appear in court.’
The Inspector said officers could ask a magistrate for a Section 8 PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) search warrant, but this would usually only happen for serious crimes and Covid breaches ‘would be unlikely to meet the threshold’.
He said anyone caught providing false information to officers could find themselves in far more trouble than if they just admitted to the offence.
‘If you say you didn’t do it and claim you were somewhere else and show evidence that turns out to be false then you could be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
‘That would be far more serious than taking an a fixed penalty notice. You could get a criminal record and go to prison. People need to be aware that their lies could be more costly than telling the truth.’