Grant Shapps Insists Boris Johnson "Didn't Organise" Lockdown Birthday Party
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said it was “for Sue Gray” to decide whether it was “appropriate” that the Prime Minister attended a birthday gathering in Downing Street while Covid restrictions banned indoor gatherings.
ITV News revealed on Monday evening that around 30 people, including some not employed by Number 10, gathered in the Cabinet Room to celebrate Boris Johnson's 56th birthday in June 2020.
It is also alleged that a separate gathering was held upstairs in Johnson's private residence the same evening, though this has been denied by Number 10.
This morning Shapps offered a response to the latest wave of lockdown party scandal to hit Downing Street. "He didn't organise a party, someone presented a cake to him," he told Sky News.
"It was his birthday and these are people that he worked with all the time.
"I don't seek to defend it, this is for Sue Gray to decide on whether this was appropriate.
"I think we can be pretty clear – the Prime Minister didn't present a cake to himself.
"I'm furious with everybody who broke the rules and a lot of different people will find that perhaps they transgressed the rules unwittingly during periods of lockdowns."
A Number 10 spokesperson confirmed on Monday that "a group of staff working in Number 10 that day gathered briefly in the Cabinet Room after a meeting to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday", but they stressed that Boris Johnson was only in attendance for "less than ten minutes".
Separate claims that a gathering was held upstairs at Downing Street that evening were "totally untrue", they added.
Other Cabinet ministers have also sought to downplay the severity of the latest party allegations.
Environment secretary George Eustice told ITV News on Monday evening that this latest revelation does not “really constitute a party in the way that some of the other more serious allegations that are being investigated maybe do. I think they've gone slightly over the top".
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries also came to the PM’s defence, writing on Twitter: "So, when people in an office buy a cake in the middle of the afternoon for someone else they are working in the office with and stop for ten minutes to sing happy birthday and then go back to their desks, this is now called a party?"
Labour leader Keir Starmer said the revelations were "yet more evidence that we have got a Prime Minister who believes that the rules that he made don't apply to him".
He tweeted: "The Prime Minister is a national distraction and he's got to go."
Reports of the June 2020 birthday party come as the government awaits the publication of civil servant Sue Gray’s report into previous allegations of lockdown-breaching parties across Whitehall.
She is currently investigating claims relating to gatherings at Number 10 in May 2020, November 2020 and December 2020.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe