Boris Johnson ‘questioned by Sue Gray’ as new No 10 lockdown party claim emerges

British prime minister has reportedly 'shared what he knows' with senior civil servant

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being investigated over accusations of breaching Covid-19 lockdown measures. Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly been interviewed as part of the investigation into "partygate" allegations, as claims of another lockdown breach at his official residence and office surfaced.

The Prime Minister is said to have “shared what he knows” with senior civil servant Sue Gray about alleged parties at 10 Downing Street, as she prepares to publish her report into claims of coronavirus rule flouting as soon as this week, the Daily Telegraph reported.

It comes as The Mirror said Mr Johnson attended a farewell party before Christmas 2020, during which he gave a speech to mark the departure of his defence adviser Captain Steve Higham.

His office did not respond to request for comment and the Ministry of Defence declined.

The farewell party claim is the latest in a long line of allegations about rule-breaking on Downing Street, with Ms Gray looking into a litany of possible events, including a “bring your own booze” garden party during the first coronavirus lockdown that Mr Johnson has admitted he attended – although he insists he understood it to be a “work event”.

Mr Johnson’s sister, journalist and LBC presenter Rachel Johnson, told her listeners on Sunday that the Prime Minister was “completely compliant” with Covid rules whenever they met under restrictions.

Referring to the May 20 2020 BYOB event, she said: “To my mind, if he did go out into the garden, and he has told us he did, for him that would have been work.”

In a bid to survive the "partygate" storm, reports have suggested Mr Johnson could overhaul his top team, with the likes of his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, who sent an email inviting staff to enjoy the good weather in the No 10 garden in May 2020, being shown the door as part of a move said to have been dubbed “Operation: Save Big Dog”.

Social media pictures surfaced on Sunday, apparently showing the office of Robert Largan, the Tory MP for High Peak, graffitied repeatedly with the words “Lies”.

It comes as Tory MPs wrestled publicly with their conscience over the weekend as a sixth backbencher, Tim Loughton, demanded that the Prime Minister resign, citing the “terminal damage” the revelations have done to his reputation.

Others, such as former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, said it was for Ms Gray to determine what Mr Johnson knew about possible lockdown breaches in No 10, while newer MPs suggested the affair raised questions about the “moral authority” at the top of government.

West Dorset MP Chris Loder, who was elected in 2019, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “I’m not going to call for anyone’s resignation until I’ve seen the facts, but then real action is required, and then we shall go from there.”

Andrew Bowie, Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said he would wait to read the conclusions of the investigation but admitted there was “a lot of ill-feeling out there and discomfort” on the Tory benches.

The former party vice-chairman said he thought Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg should apologise to Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross after he branded him “lightweight” following his call for the Prime Minister to stand down.

Mr Bowie told the Westminster Hour that Mr Ross was “by no way a lightweight”.

Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland – who was sacked from the Cabinet by the Prime Minister in September – told Times Radio that it would be “a bridge too far” for the No 10 incumbent if it emerged in Ms Gray’s report that “people at the top of government” were involved in “organising and planning and absolutely openly disregarding the rules”.

For a Tory leadership contest to be triggered, 54 letters of no confidence in Mr Johnson have to be submitted by MPs to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, asking for a vote on his future.

Sir Graham does not publicly state how many letters he has received, but reports suggest about 20 might have been handed in.

Updated: January 17, 2022, 5:34 AM