Nothing to see here! Police saw Partygate photos and concluded Boris broke no rules

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Nothing to see here! Police saw Partygate photos and concluded Boris broke no rules

Partygate: PM says ‘rules were followed at all times’ in December

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Pictures emerged last night of the PM raising a toast at a gathering said to be farewell drinks for a departing senior aide. But it is understood police viewed the photos and, after further investigation, concluded that Mr Johnson was present in a work capacity and did not break the law. The Prime Minister is said to have spent 10 minutes at the event on November 13, 2020, to say goodbye to his communications chief Lee Cain.

The leaking of the snaps, published by ITV News, comes as Mr Johnson and his team are braced for the release of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s final report into Partygate – possibly on Tuesday.

Downing Street said the Met had access to all relevant pictures and decided not to take action against him over this particular event.

But the Opposition claimed the photos confirmed that Mr Johnson knowingly broke Covid laws.

Earlier yesterday his frontbench colleague Simon Clarke had insisted the PM did not need to quit over the scandal as his one £50 penalty was for a “slice of cake between meetings”.

Tory MP Peter Bone told Times Radio yesterday’s leaked photos did not show a party, saying: “I don’t think it looks like that at all.

“The police had seen these photographs as well. So I’m happy to accept the police’s verdict on it. But we’ve still got to wait for the Sue Gray report.”

Some No 10 insiders believe Ms Gray’s verdict may be unveiled on Tuesday, although the Cabinet Office would not confirm it was finished.

Mr Johnson is committed to making a Commons statement after the findings are published.

Partygate

It is understood police viewed the photos and concluded that the PM was present in a work capacity (Image: ITV)

He said yesterday: “I’m with great respect not going to comment or give any running commentary on her report until we get it and I think that – to be frank – the moment is not very far off.”

He added, on a visit to a school in Orpington, Kent: “It can’t be long now before I’ll be able to say something but I really want to wait, as I’ve said for a long time now, until Sue reports.

“You’re just going to have to hold your horses a little bit longer. Then I’ll be able to say a bit more.”

The Cain leaving do was one of 16 events probed by Ms Gray. Mr Johnson was not fined for being there but did receive a penalty for attending a gathering to mark his 56th birthday in June 2020.

Bottles of alcohol and party food are visible on a table in the pictures leaked yesterday, which appear to show at least eight people.

At the time they were taken, only two people from different households were allowed to mix indoors by law.

Mr Johnson’s red box for his official paperwork is on a chair. Two bottles of sparkling wine, four bottles of wine and a half-bottle of gin are on a table with party cups,

biscuits, crisps and other food.

The Prime Minister has spoken in Parliament about the event, when claims of lockdown breaches first came to light last December.

He was asked by Labour MP Catherine West if he would “tell the House whether there was a party in Downing Street on the 13th of November”.

Mr Johnson replied: “Mr Speaker, no. But I’m sure that, whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”

It is not known if others at the leaving do were fined. Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said yesterday: “While the British public were making huge sacrifices, Boris Johnson was breaking the law.

“Boris Johnson said repeatedly that he knew nothing about law-breaking – there’s no doubt now, he lied. Boris Johnson made the rules, and then broke them.

“The Prime Minister has demeaned his office. People deserve better. While Labour has a plan for tackling the cost-of-living crisis, Tory MPs are too busy defending the indefensible actions of Boris Johnson.”

Scottish Tory chief Douglas Ross asked the PM for an explanation.

Mr Ross, who has previously called on Mr Johnson to quit over lockdown breaches, said: “These images will rightly make people across the country very angry. The Prime Minister must outline why he believes this behaviour was acceptable. To most, these pictures seem unjustifiable and wrong.”

The Lib Dems asked the Independent Office for Police Conduct to explain why the Met did not fine the PM for this event.

Deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “If anyone else had been pictured at a party like this during lockdown, surely this would have been enough evidence.

“People will rightly be furious to see pictures of Johnson drinking at what is an obvious party.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Mr Clarke said yesterday he had confidence in Mr Johnson because “the Prime Minister has apologised and I know very sincerely regrets what happened”. A Downing Street official confirmed the PM held a meeting with Ms Gray, instigated by his office, to discuss the “timings and publication process” for her report.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused ministers of attempting to undermine the Partygate findings.

Partygate

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused ministers of attempting to undermine the Partygate findings (Image: ITV)

Windfall tax on energy giants ”not off the table”

Boris Johnson has hinted he could press ahead with a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help struggling households deal with the rising cost of living, writes Martyn Brown – Daily Express Senior Political Correspondent

The Prime Minister said “no option is off the table” as he faced increasing pressure from MPs, including some Tories, to bring in the one-off levy to help households cope with food and energy bills.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is crunching the numbers on the possible tax, which was used by George Osborne and Margaret Thatcher.

A YouGov poll showed that more than seven in 10 Tory voters support such a move.

Mr Johnson, when pressed on the matter yesterday, said: “No option is off the table, let’s be clear about that.

“I’m not attracted, intrinsically, to new taxes – but we’ve got to do what we can, and we will, to look after people through the aftershocks of Covid, through the pressures on energy prices and with what’s going on in Russia.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke also suggested: “The sector is realising enormous profits. If those profits are not directed in a way which is productive for the real economy, we can’t rule out a windfall tax.”

Food, power and petrol at RMT’s mercy

A summer of union strikes could lead to blackouts, empty supermarket shelves and dry petrol pumps, warn industry insiders, writes Sam Lister – Daily Express Deputy Political Editor.

Union barons could cause “irreparable damage” if 40,000 Rail, Maritime and Transport union members back action.

If Network Rail’s signallers strike, services are expected to only run for part of the day, such as from 7am to 7pm – and only on main lines.

Journeys could be reduced to around 20 percent of the normal weekday timetable.

Drax, which keeps lights on in millions of homes, Puma Energy, a major forecourt supplier, and Tesco have said supplies may be affected.

Yesterday the RMT also announced a 24-hour London Underground walkout for the Monday after the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Bank of England boss denies causing 9 percent inflation

Bank of England chief Andrew Bailey has hit back at claims that the institution allowed inflation to skyrocket.A fall in the size of the UK workforce is to blame, the Governor declared at a Vienna conference, writes Macer Hall – Daily Express Political Editor.

He made a speech as tensions between the bank and Government grow – as a result of the annual inflation rate reaching a 40-year high of nine percent last month.

He said : “What I reject is…that in our response to Covid, the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee let demand get out of hand and…stoked inflation.”

He pointed out that the national GDP in March was only 0.6 percent above its pre-Covid level, substantially below the path it was expected to follow prior to Covid.

He went on: “What we do have is a very tight labour market.“But…the labour force has shrunk by around one percent since the onset of Covid. It looks much more like an impact from the supply of labour.”

Highlighting “very large economic shocks”, such as the war in Ukraine, he added: “It is domestic actions that have to get us back to price stability. For monetary policy, the choice of policy actions is influenced by the nature of the shocks we face.

“We are facing a very big negative impact on real incomes caused by the rise in prices of things we import [to the UK].”

Stand by for ”summer of discontent” 

Police  are gearing up for public disorder this summer with fears that the soaring cost of living could trigger riots across the country, writes Ciaran McGrath.

The claim, issued by a senior police source, comes after inflation hit nine percent last week.

The source said: “Police are braced for frustrations tipping over. It’s clear with the cost of living, availability of some foodstuffs and the economy tanking – when that starts to hit people in the pocket, that frustration grows.

“We know historically that when the economy suffers, acquisitive crime goes up and there is more potential for unrest.

”Former Tory Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has called for benefits to rise in line with inflation to provide a “shield” for the vulnerable.

While E.ON energy chief executive Michael Lewis has warned that 40 percent of families could be plunged into fuel poverty this winter unless the Government acts.

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No Universal Credit boost says Minister

Restoring the £20-per-week uplift to universal credit has been ruled out by the Government as a way to ease the cost-of-living crisis, writes Martyn Brown – Daily Express Senior Political Correspondent

Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said the measure was only temporary because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the Government is urgently mulling ways to help people ahead of “what will likely be a challenging autumn and winter ahead”.

The return of the uplift, withdrawn in October, has been seen as a way by some Tory MPs of targeting help at the poorest with inflation at a 40-year high and rocketing energy bills.

Conservative MPs, including the chair of the Northern Research Group, Jake Berry, want more done to help the most vulnerable.

Michael Lewis, chief executive of energy giant E.ON UK, has said increasing benefits would ease the pressure on those dealing with ballooning energy bills.

Beer prices to rise over glass shortage

The UK is on the brink of a bottled beer shortage as stocks plummet and production costs soar, a wholesaler warns.

Prices have jumped by 80 percent in the past 12 months due to rising energy costs.

Julie Dunn, from one of Scotland’s largest wholesalers Dunns Food and Drinks, said: “It won’t be long before glassware shortages hit UK consumers.

“Our wine and spirits suppliers from around the globe are facing ongoing struggles that will have a knock-on effect.

“While some breweries will convert to cans to ensure supply, others will see this as devaluing the brand so will pass on the additional cost to drinkers.”

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