Boris Johnson has had enough and will fight back say friends amid revolt threat
“This is Boris’s moment. He is not going to allow himself to be abused like this.”
The former PM’s friends believe he is the victim of a witch-hunt after the Cabinet Office contacted police about diary entries that allegedly showed visits by friends to Chequers during lockdown.
The decision was taken by the department’s top civil servant, Alex Chisholm, who was following rules laid out in the code of conduct.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “To be clear, we have not seen the information or material in question. That would not be right. Nor has the Prime Minister.
“No10 and ministers have no involvement in this process and were only made aware after the police had been contacted.”
Asked if the situation was a politically motivated stitch-up as claimed by Mr Johnson’s supporters, the spokesman replied: “No.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman insisted ministers had “played no role” in the decision.
Tory MP Marco Longhi said: “I believe there’s been a witch-hunt against Boris. I believe that Dominic Raab has had to resign simply for doing his job and expecting others to do the same. And now I believe that Suella [Braverman] too has been involved in an attack over something that took place nine months ago, something that she was completely entitled to do.”
But a Government insider dismissed claims that Tory MPs would start moving against Rishi Sunak in retaliation by submitting letters of no confidence.
The senior source said: “The Boris camp is furious. They are talking about suing and having MPs put letters in, but they are all pretty empty threats. No minister was involved in any of this.”
Tory MP Michael Fabricant said: “Only the most avid readers of The Prince by Machiavelli or viewers of House of Cards could imagine what No10 would have to gain by referring these diaries to the police. It doesn’t stack up. This was a single-handed initiative and one which did not involve ministers of any rank.”
Mr Johnson’s legal representation was appointed by the Cabinet Office on behalf of a number of figures who are involved in the pandemic inquiry.
But the Government was classed as the client, rather than the former Prime Minister personally, which meant they passed on the information uncovered in the diaries to civil servants rather than him.
He is now looking for a new legal team that will be dedicated to representing him after losing confidence in the lawyers working for the Government.
The Cabinet Office will continue to pick up the bill as the work relates to Mr Johnson’s time in government.
A spokesman said: “The Cabinet Office has not made any assessment or conducted any investigation of the material that has been passed to the police.
“Ministers played no role in deciding whether the information should be handed over to the police. The police were first contacted on May 16, prior to any minister being made aware. The decision to contact the police and the subsequent decision to share the information was not made by ministers but by officials acting in line with the Civil Service Code.”
In a separate development, the Cabinet Office was threatened with legal action after refusing to release unredacted WhatsApp messages and diaries belonging to Mr Johnson. In an eight-page ruling yesterday, Covid inquiry chairwoman Lady Hallett rejected the argument that the request was unlawful and claimed the Cabinet Office had “misunderstood the breadth of the investigation”.
She said the information was of “potential relevance” to the inquiry’s “lines of investigation”. Noting that “those who hold documents will never be in as good a position as the inquiry itself to judge the possible relevance”, she said some “important passages” had initially been declared “unambiguously irrelevant” by the Cabinet Office.
No10 insisted the Government was supplying “all relevant material” to the inquiry. The PM’s spokesman said: “We established the inquiry to ensure the actions of the state during the pandemic are examined as rigorously as possible to ensure we learn the right lessons for the future.”
Partygate is the toxic tale that simply won’t go away and there are now strong suspicions the establishment is pursuing a vendetta against Boris Johnson.
Today is exactly one year since Sue Gray published a report that did enormous damage to his premiership. Now she’s about to become Chief of Staff to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Partygate was a disaster – it dominated the news, destroyed one of the most popular Prime Ministers in history and left his critics so addicted they simply can’t give up now.
The Cabinet Office – at the heart of government – has opened up a new front, with allegations about illegal gatherings at Chequers. Is that a good use of public funds and precious official time?
I wasn’t there when the fridge was full and the bottle openers busy, nor when someone advised Boris he could tell Parliament “there was no party”.
By the time I joined the team, a police investigation was already underway, the media was relentless and Sue Gray was getting ready to deliver what someone close to her described as an “excoriating” verdict.
The police – following the letter of the law and investigating specific allegations – only found Boris at fault on one occasion.
One afternoon in the Cabinet Office, the most senior figures in government were about to have a meeting about Covid. One person in the room should not have been there, an external contractor.
The rest were key workers – not only allowed but required to be at work. The issue of whether anyone raised a glass or not was by the by. There was nothing in the guidelines about alcohol. The teetotal Chancellor, now Prime Minister himself, was also fined.
Whereas the police went in search of a breach, attached it to a perpetrator and then punished the individual, Sue Gray did not name any of the offenders.
She described the breaches, hinted at lewd and deeply offensive behaviour, then pinned it all on the “leadership”, as if an abstract noun could break the law or behave immorally.
In not naming civil servants, she ensured all the public blame would be attributed to the PM. She didn’t collar her boss, Simon Case, nor did the police fine the Cabinet Secretary for being at the same event as the PM or his Chancellor.
As the inevitable became imminent, the tension began to rise. “Psycho Sue” was referred to as “destroyer of the nation”, who was trying to “do us in”.
Boris was wrestling with war in Europe, crashing from Covid into a cost-of-living crisis, trying to get a new generation of nuclear power stations off the ground and manifesto promises back on track after a global pandemic.
He often said we’d get back to things properly once he was “acquitted of war crimes” or “cleared of genocide”. As he saw it, the media had been “cheated of a scalp” over the police inquiry and so looked to Sue to “deliver the bullet”. He was so cross
by the eve of publication, I had to take drastic action to talk him down.
About four of us were in the room working on the speech he would deliver in response to her report, when he grew hysterical – shouting, swearing and ranting.
Junior officials didn’t know where to look. The speech writer was in despair. They all looked to me – who first met Boris four decades ago – to calm him down.
What he needed was a bucket of water or a slap, but times have changed since the latter was widely accepted and you can’t do either to the most powerful person in the country.
So I said: “Boris… Boris… Boris… Look at me, here’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna order a drone strike. We’re gonna take out Sue Gray.”
Let me stress that this was not a serious proposition. No one contemplated taking any action – violent or otherwise – against the civil servant. Sue Gray is happily alive and well and on her way to becoming Chief of Staff to the Labour leader. Yes, the person we were all meant to trust with a quasi-judicial verdict is now signed up to work 24/7 to help Sir Keir get into No10.
Anyway, it worked – Boris calmed down, finished his speech and told Parliament the following day: “I understand the anger. I get it and I’ll fix it.”
Parts of Sue Gray’s report were a real shock to him. I could tell he had no idea about some of the shenanigans she documented: vomit on the carpet, sordid couplings on the sofa in the room I inherited when I became his comms chief, and countless incidents of young, entitled and drunk people being rude to staff.
When he was done in the Commons, I took him round to offer a direct private apology to the cleaners, custodians, mail room staff and security. All said, without exception: “You’ve never been rude to us, sir.”
It was Sue Gray who first told me Harriet Harman would be a good choice for the “kangaroo court” that is currently pondering (at great length) whether Boris knowingly misled Parliament.
We don’t need to know what Harriet Harman will do next. She’s already been deputy leader of the Labour Party – the role occupied by Angela Rayner, who describes Tories as “scum”.
Imagine putting your fate in the hands of someone institutionally opposed to you. It doesn’t seem like the due process and fair trial the UK was once famous for.
I did once get pretty drunk with Boris. It was great fun. But it was the only time I saw him get a little p***** and guess what, it was more than a decade ago, at City Hall. Never at No 10. Yet a year after Sue Gray shared her findings, we are still waiting for another Labour supporter to deliver her verdict and – perhaps – the final, fatal bullet.
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