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  • Birthday party held for Boris Johnson in lockdown
  • Ukraine: Joe Biden prepares troops
  • Lord Agnew’s parting shot at No 10
  • Sajid Javid faces questions over Nusrat Ghani sacking
  • David Cameron’s ‘ticket tout’ look the talk of Twitter

Grant Shapps has said he is “furious” with those who broke lockdown rules during the pandemic – but insisted that Boris Johnson did not organise a birthday party on June 19, 2020.

Mr Johnson was presented with a cake at around 2pm and attendees sang “happy birthday” in the Cabinet room at a time when indoor social gatherings indoors were banned,  ITV News reported.

A spokesman for No 10 confirmed Mr Johnson attended the event, but insisted he was there for less than 10 minutes and that staff had only gathered “briefly”.

“He didn’t organise a party, someone presented a cake to him,” the Transport Secretary 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 [that] the Prime Minister didn’t present a cake to himself. I’ve explained to you 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.”

The Cabinet room was used for meetings “all the time” during the pandemic and Sue Gray – whose report is expected later this week – “will be able to get to the bottom of [it]”, Mr Shapps added.

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‘We know this man can’t stick to the rules’

Sir Keir Starmer said the latest revelation showed Boris Johnson “believes that the rules that he made don’t apply to him”.

“The Prime Minister is a national distraction,” the Labour leader wrote last night.

“Millions of people are struggling to pay the bills, but Boris Johnson and his government are spending the whole time mopping up their own rule-breaking, sleaze and deceit. He’s got to go.”

Boris Johnson was driven away from Downing Street earlier this morning Boris Johnson was driven away from Downing Street earlier this morning Credit: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office and shadow secretary of state for the future of work, quipped: “Is this what they mean by sing ‘happy birthday’ twice?”

Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, recalled her mother’s birthday in May 2020 “on Zoom… We wore paper hats and had a family quiz themed around her.

“We love each other so we made it work. Every family will have memories like this, some very painful. We know this man can’t stick to the rules.”


Birthday party pours fuel on fire of Tory civil war

Ruth Davidson and Nadine Dorries have clashed over new revelations about a party at Downing Street, which will do little to ease the current tensions at the heart of the Tory Party.

“By coincidence, my partner shares a birthday with the Prime Minister (June 19),” wrote Baroness Davidson, the former leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.

“We marked it in 2020 by inviting one other household to sit outside, socially distanced, in our garden. It didn’t occur to us – literally couldn’t conceive – that we would act outside the rules.”

Ruth, you were at home with your partner. The PM was working in Downing St with 100s of staff in Covid war room offices. Where/what is the comparison? https://t.co/jvZBbmh6Ap

— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) January 25, 2022

Speaking at the despatch box, Lord Agnew reeled off a list of alleged failings, including that 1,000 companies received Bounce Back loans that were not even trading when Covid-19 struck.

He finished the speech announcing his resignation with the words “thank you and goodbye”, before marching straight out of the Lords, as others in the Chamber applauded.

​Ben Riley-Smith and Dominic Penna have the story


‘I can’t see how it could have been lawful’

A human rights barrister who has displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of Covid rules during the pandemic questioned the legitimacy of the birthday party held at Downing Street in June 2020.

“If the police had come across a gathering like this, a prearranged gathering with food and cake – there was obviously a birthday party even if a short one – I think they would have handed everybody £100 penalty notices because people were committing criminal offences,” he told the Today programme.

“So I don’t think even Number 10 is giving an excuse which would have amounted to a defence in law.”

It’s actually more straightforward than the 20 May gathering as the gatherings rule didn’t apply to private spaces then – so you have to rely on the “being outside the home without a reasonable excuse” rule which is a bit more nuanced and wouldn’t apply to the PM. This would.

— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) January 24, 2022

Mr Wagner noted in a tweet last night indoor gatherings of two or more “were banned unless it fell within a list of exemptions” on June 19, 2020, and that “birthday parties (or any social gatherings) were not an exemption”.

“If this was a a purely social event, which the cake and M&S food strongly suggest it was, then it can’t have fallen within any of the list of exceptions to the strict gatherings rules.”


Nobody’s perfect, says Grant Shapps as he attacks ‘trial by media’

“No one is perfect” but Boris Johnson has achieved “remarkable things in a pandemic”, Grant Shapps told the BBC.

Mr Shapps urged Britons to wait for the Sue Gray report rather than “a sort of trial by media, drip, drip”.

He credited “the leadership of the Prime Minister” with the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout, and said: “There’s no textbook for dealing with the pandemic, [he] led this country through it.”


Nusrat Ghani sacking: Sajid Javid set to face questions

Sajid Javid is expected to be questioned by the Whitehall investigation into Nusrat Ghani’s claim that her Muslim faith was cited as a reason she was sacked from the Government.

The Telegraph has learned that Ms Ghani privately confided in the Health Secretary shortly after she alleged that the Chief Whip told her she was fired as a junior transport minister in part due to her “Muslimness”.

Nusrat Ghani during a demonstration with members of the Uyghur community Nusrat Ghani during a demonstration with members of the Uyghur community Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP

Mr Javid acknowledged the seriousness of the claims and urged her to escalate the matter, while honouring her request to keep it confidential, it is understood.

Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, has hit back insisting he “never used those words attributed” by Ms Ghani after the February 2020 reshuffle. He said her claims were “completely false” and added that he believed they were defamatory.

Lucy Fisher and Harry Yorke have the full story


Waiting for Sue Gray

On claims Lulu Lytle, the interior designer redecorating the Johnsons’ Downing Street flat, was present at the birthday party, Grant Shapps told Sky: “I don’t know, maybe it was a meeting.

“Fortunately, Sue Gray, who’s already aware of this, will be able to get to the bottom of that which I think is actually the right way to do it.

“I feel personally very upset when I see stories about lockdowns being broken in any form and many people have found that they crossed the wrong side of that line at different times. I understand that, it upsets me. The Prime Minister’s already said that he takes full responsibility for everything that happened in Downing Street.”

Ms Gray, the second permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, is expected to report back with her findings on Downing Street parties this week, although ministers have not been able to guarantee that her findings will be released in full.

A spokesman for Ms Lytle did not deny she was present at the event, saying she “entered the Cabinet Room briefly as requested” while waiting to speak to Mr Johnson, but said she was “not invited to any birthday celebrations”.


Grant Shapps: ‘Mistakes made’ but Boris Johnson’s party consisted of his coworkers

“Mistakes were made” during the pandemic but a party for Boris Johnson was made up of people who already worked together, the Transport Secretary said.

“People working in the central areas – including the response to coronavirus – were already working together, so this wasn’t a gathering of people who weren’t already working in the same building,” he said.

Josephine sets a great example to us all by postponing her birthday party until we have sent coronavirus packing.

Together we can beat this. In the meantime let’s all wish her happy birthday (twice) whilst washing our hands. #BeLikeJosephine #StayHomeSaveLives https://t.co/xmDOw60hhV pic.twitter.com/yl7uxe9lhh

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 21, 2020

“This was a period of slightly more relaxed rules. The Prime Minister already apologises for any mistakes that were made. I understand that Sue Gray was already aware of this particular incident and will be aware of that report so we’ll wait to see what she says.

Asked about reports that Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, was in attendance, Mr Shapps added: “Of course the unusual thing about Downing Street is that it’s a home and an office.”


Cabinet doubles down in defence of Boris Johnson

Three Cabinet ministers have rallied round Boris Johnson in the wake of potentially damaging new reports that the Prime Minister had a birthday party at Downing Street while restrictions were in place.

Grant Shapps, who has the unenviable job of this morning’s broadcast round, insisted Mr Johnson had not organised the party himself and was presented with a cake by co-workers.

Grant Shapps had more upbeat news to discuss yesterday in the wake of travel restrictions being eased Grant Shapps had more upbeat news to discuss yesterday in the wake of travel restrictions being eased Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, told ITV News: “I don’t think [it] really constitutes 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.”

And Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, asked: “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?”


Good morning

Grant Shapps has said he is “furious” with those who broke lockdown rules during the pandemic – but insisted that Boris Johnson did not organise a birthday party on June 19, 2020.

Here’s the front page of your Telegraph today:

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