Boris Johnson invokes his inner Dr Seuss on Downing Street partygate

'This was no time for play, this was no time for fun,' he says

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons. AFP
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invoked his inner Dr Seuss as a defence against the partygate controversy surrounding Downing Street.

His favourite books to read to his children in bed were Dr Seuss, he said, before misquoting The Cat In The Hat Comes Back.

“This was no time for play, this was no time for fun, this was no time for games, there was work to be done — which is our motto in Number 10. There’s work to be done,” he said.

In an interview with Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts, Mr Johnson discussed partygate, Northern Ireland and parenting.

Trying to highlight his nappy-changing skills, the prime minister told her: “I’m doing a lot at the moment, Justine, and I’m saying that without any fear of inhibition or fear of contradiction. I can tell you I’ve changed a lot of nappies recently. I’m very fast, by the way.”

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MARCH 02: Books by Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, including "On Beyond Zebra!" and "And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street," are offered for loan at the Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library on March 02, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The two titles are among six by the famed children's book author that will no longer be printed due to accusations of racist and insensitive imagery. The other titles include “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!" and “The Cat’s Quizzer.” (Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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He admitted his wife “does far more” than he does when it comes to sharing the workload of looking after their two children.

“I think the more you put in, the more you get out,” he said. "Carrie obviously does more than I do, I’m not going to conceal that fact from you. She does far, far more than I do.

“But I think if you really sat her down and interrogated her, she would admit I do quite a lot, too.”

Mrs Johnson gave birth to their first child Wilfred in April 2020 and then to their daughter Romy in December 2021.

In discussing partygate, Mr Johnson said that resigning over the “miserable” scandal would be irresponsible.

When he was told a teacher would have lost their job if they had broken the law and was asked why the same did not apply to him, he repeated apologies for what happened at Downing Street.

“If people look at the event in question, it felt to me like a work event,” he said. "I was there for a very short period of time in the Cabinet Office at my desk and, you know, I was very, very surprised and taken aback to get a fixed penalty notice but of course I paid it.

“I think that on why am I still here, I'm still here because we've got huge pressures economically, we've got to get on, you know, we've got the biggest war in Europe for 80 years, and we've got a massive agenda to deliver. which I was elected to deliver.”

Lord Christopher Geidt, the British prime minister’s independent ethics adviser, has suggested that Mr Johnson's partygate fine may have breached the Ministerial Code.

He said there was a “legitimate question” as to whether the case of the fixed penalty notice might have constituted a breach of the code.

Mr Johnson was last week accused of watering down the Ministerial Code after the government said it was being updated — making it clear that ministers would not necessarily have to resign for minor breaches.

Now, for the first time, the prime minister will have the option of imposing a lesser sanction such as “some form of public apology, remedial action or removal of ministerial salary for a period”.

Updated: June 02, 2022, 8:23 AM
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