Boris Johnson tells allies there was no ‘ambush with cake’ at No 10 lockdown birthday party

Chopper’s Politics podcast – Burns, Redwood

Boris Johnson has told allies he could not have been “ambushed” by a cake at a Covid rule-busting Downing Street birthday party – because there was not one there.

In an unexpected twist in the “partygate” saga gripping Westminster, Conor Burns, a close ally, said: “I’m told under some authority indeed from him that there actually wasn’t a cake.”

Earlier this week, ITV News disclosed that Mr Johnson attended a birthday party thrown in his honour in Downing Street during the first Covid lockdown, despite social gatherings indoors being banned.

The event took place around 2pm on June 19 2020, with a birthday cake presented to the Prime Minister and attendees singing “happy birthday”.

Boris Johnson pictured on a school visit on June 19 2020. Later that day, a gathering took place in the Cabinet Room to mark his birthday Boris Johnson pictured on a school visit on June 19 2020. Later that day, a gathering took place in the Cabinet Room to mark his birthday Credit: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images

Mr Burns later told Channel 4 News: “As far as I can see, he was in a sense, ambushed with a cake,” adding that: “It was not a premeditated, organised party.”

His comments were later ridiculed on social media.

However in an interview on Friday’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, which you can listen to using the audio player at the top of this article, Mr Burns said he had been personally told by Mr Johnson that there was no cake at the birthday party.

He said: “I must be the first government minister in history who stands accused of cake-ism without an actual cake.”

Asked what was a birthday party without a cake, Mr Burns replied: “A meeting.”

Mention of a “cake ambush” was “not part of a strategy” to defend the Prime Minister, he said, adding: “That was definitely a lone operation, for which I have paid a price.

“A colleague said to me this morning: ‘You do realise, Conor, that’s going to be in your obituary. That will stay with me for some time.’

“But listen, when you make a bit of an a— of yourself, the key is to own it and not to be pompous about it.”

Conor Burns was interviewed on the Chopper's Politics Podcast Conor Burns was interviewed on the Chopper’s Politics Podcast Credit: Paul Grover for The Telegraph

Mr Burns stressed he was not trying to make light of the difficulties that millions of people experienced during the pandemic.

He said: “One of my aunts died during the pandemic, not of Covid, and her family had to watch her die through a sort of Perspex screen.

“I don’t for one second diminish the hurt the people feel, how difficult those rules were and precious time that people will never get back. And the Prime Minister understands that.”

Mr Burns urged Tory MPs considering putting in letters of no confidence in Mr Johnson to ask themselves: “What are we doing?

“Not only is he going to survive, he is going to thrive. There was a headline the day after Margaret Thatcher resigned in the Daily Express, a picture of her standing outside No 10 with a huge bouquet of flowers. And it was the day after her amazing, no confidence speech and the headline was simply: ‘What have they done?’

“I think there was a sense in the parliamentary party over the last 10 days of: ‘What are we doing?’ And I think colleagues have pulled back. So I think he will get through this.

“I think he will rededicate himself to delivering for the British people. And I am absolutely confident that not only will he lead us into the next general election, he will win the next general election handsomely for the Conservative Party and for the United Kingdom.”

No 10 declined to comment on whether there was cake at Mr Johnson’s birthday party.

Listen to Conor Burns and Sir John Redwood on Boris Johnson’s crisis-hit 10 Downing Street, as well as The Telegraph’s Nataliya Vasilyeva and Lucy Fisher, on Chopper’s Politics podcast using the audio player at the top of this article, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your preferred podcast app.

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