Boris Johnson in row with Cabinet office after police referral
Boris Johnson is accusing the Cabinet Office of making “bizarre and unacceptable” claims about him after the department referred the former prime minster to police over further potential lockdown rule breaches.
Mr Johnson said the Government was “entirely wrong” after it emerged he had been reported to two forces over events at both Chequers and Downing Street.
Both the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police are assessing the information, which is understood to have come from official diary entries that were being reviewed ahead of the Covid public inquiry.
Mr Johnson strenuously denied the allegations and insisted all events in questions were lawful, with allies suggesting the move was politically motivated.
According to The Times, which first reported the story, his ministerial diary revealed visits by friends to Chequers – the prime minister’s grace and favour residence in Buckinghamshire – during the pandemic.
Other potential breaches within Downing Street were also reported to the Met.
Senior Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Johnson loyalist, told GB News he had visited Chequers with his family during the pandemic, but that the meeting was “entirely within the rules”.
He said: “I can tell you that during that period I went to Chequers, I was invited there with my children, entirely in accordance with the rules. Another senior government ministers was going to come but the prime minister cancelled him because you were only allowed to have one family present at the time.”
The Daily Mail quoted a friend of the former prime minister as saying he was “seriously considering” legal action against the Government over the referrals, of which a spokesman said he had received no notice.
The fallout has piled further pressure on Rishi Sunak, who was fined over a gathering in Downing Street during the pandemic along with his former boss in June 2020.
Mr Sunak faces Prime Minister’s Questions later on Wednesday in which the subject of Mr Johnson’s past conduct is likely to be raised, along with the outstanding issue of whether he will launch an investigation into Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s handling of a speeding ticket.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the revelations showed the Tories were too “haunted by their own failure” to govern.
The Liberal Democrats demanded Mr Sunak’s Government bring an end to the taxpayer-funded legal defence provided to Boris Johnson over the partygate probe.
The Government expects to pay an estimated £222,000 in legal fees to help Mr Johnson defend himself in the privileges committee inquiry into whether he lied to MPs over lockdown rule-breaking in Downing Street.
Lindsay Jackson, spokeswoman for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, branded Mr Johnson “totally unfit for any form of public service” following the revelations and suggested he “quietly step back from public life”.
A statement from Boris Johnson’s office said his lawyers have written to police to “explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is entirely wrong in its assertions”.
It read: “No contact was made with Mr Johnson before these incorrect allegations were made both to the police and to the Privileges Committee. This is both bizarre and unacceptable.
“For whatever political purpose, it is plain that a last-ditch attempt is being made to lengthen the Privileges Committee investigation as it was coming to a conclusion and to undermine Mr Johnson.”
The Cabinet Office said: “Information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the Covid inquiry.
“It was identified as part of the normal disclosure review of potentially relevant documents being undertaken by the legal team for inquiry witnesses.
“In line with obligations in the Civil Service Code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them.”