Boris Johnson has compared Partygate to the Salem witch trials and criticised Sue Gray’s report into what happened for fuelling attempts to drive him from office. The former prime minister told Nadine Dorries that the report had been used to blacken his name despite a lack of evidence that he had actually attended events that broke lockdown rules.
Writing in her new book, The Plot: The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson, which is being serialised in the Mail, Ms Dorries recounts a conversation with the former PM in which he vented his anger at the investigation by Ms Gray, who has now become Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.
‘We tried after Sue Gray’s report appeared to track down the sources of her allegations. It all just crumbled away,’ Mr Johnson told her. ‘Most people think, as a result of her narrative, that I was either at illegal parties or knew about illegal parties, and I did not. Nothing I attended in the way of thanking people, to keep morale up in the office with those I was sitting down with and working with all day long, went on for longer than was strictly necessary. Of course the notion of Partygate was a fantastic piece of media. BBC and Sky, they ran with it.’
Mr Johnson said he had asked for the Partygate investigation ‘because I didn’t know what had happened’. It began life under cabinet secretary Simon Case but was taken over by Ms Gray (pictured) after it emerged that one of the alleged lockdown gatherings had taken place in Mr Case’s office. When the Partygate report was published in May last year, Mr Johnson told MPs he was ‘grateful’ to Ms Gray for her work, and apologised for events that had happened on his watch. But Ms Dorries said that some of Ms Gray’s claims about covid breaches had proved impossible to substantiate.
Writing in her book, she said: ‘If it looks like a stitch-up … certainly, in the course of researching this book, it would have been a great deal easier if the report had given some indication of who Sue Gray had spoken to. Trying to verify anything – other than the most obvious facts – is almost impossible.’ Mr Johnson was fined £50 over a so-called ‘birthday party’ event in No 10 when a number of colleagues, including Rishi Sunak, wished him a happy birthday at the start of a Covid meeting. Pictured: Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine in Downing Street garden in May 2020.
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