Allies of the former prime minister said that MPs loyal to him could adopt a policy of ‘non-co-operation’ with the Government over its attempt to ‘stitch him up’.
Mr Johnson today sacked his government lawyers after discovering they passed information without his knowledge to the police and MPs investigating the Partygate row.
Diary entries relating to his stays at Chequers during the pandemic supposedly raised concerns that events at the grace-and-favour mansion might have broken Covid rules in place at the time – a claim strongly denied by Mr Johnson.
Downing Street today denied that ministers had been involved in a ‘stitch up’ designed to hobble the former PM.
Boris Johnson today sacked his government lawyers after discovering they passed information without his knowledge to the police and MPs
Diary entries relating to his stays at Chequers (stock image) during the pandemic supposedly raised concerns that events at the grace-and-favour mansion might have broken Covid rules in place at the time – a claim strongly denied by Mr Johnson.
In a statement, the Cabinet Office said it had ‘not made any assessment or conducted any investigation of the material that has been passed to the police. Ministers played no role in deciding whether the information should be handed over to the police.’
But the Daily Mail can reveal that government lawyers did assess the material, telling MPs on the Commons privileges committee – which is investigating Mr Johnson over allegations he misled MPs about Partygate – that it suggested rules may have been broken.
In a letter to Mr Johnson, seen by the Mail, the committee said: ‘The Government has told us that: As part of their work preparing Boris Johnson’s witness statement for the Covid Inquiry, the counsel team supporting Mr Johnson identified a number of diary entries as potentially problematic.
‘These entries […] are based on an assessment by Government Legal Department as to events/activities which could reasonably be considered to constitute breaches of Covid Regulations.’
A friend of Mr Johnson said the letter showed the Cabinet Office had ‘lied on the record’ – a claim denied by the department, which said it was the Government Legal Department which carried out the assessment.
It also emerged that Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin signed off the handover of material to the privileges committee without informing Mr Johnson.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson told him it was ‘totally untrue’ that events at Chequers had broken Covid rules. The spokesman said legal advice had found that all events were within the laws in place at the time.
Mr Johnson today cut ties with the government lawyers who handed over material to the police. They were meant to be assisting him to prepare for the Covid inquiry. But, to his fury, they handed over material to the police without discussing it with him.
Allies suggested that MPs loyal to him could now go on strike and refuse to co-operate with the Government.
One said: ‘Boris has been supportive of the Government, he has not been causing trouble. But this is an attempt to whack him – it is definitely political, and it is very hard to believe that ministers did not know what was going on.
‘Some of his supporters are telling him that if the Government isn’t going to stop this then it is time to go to war.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson told him it was ‘totally untrue’ that events at Chequers had broken Covid rules
‘We are putting the Government on notice that if it continues to treat Boris this way then we will have no option but to campaign against the Government.’
One former minister loyal to Mr Johnson said that opponents within government were determined to mire him in Partygate allegations to ensure he could never make a political comeback.
‘Colleagues are furious at this witch hunt,’ the source said. ‘These people won’t be happy until he’s dead and buried six feet under in concrete – and even then they will probably keep coming back to check.’
But government sources vehemently denied involvement in the decision to reignite the Partygate row.
Downing Street said civil servants had acted independently after deciding that failure to inform the police of potential law-breaking would leave them in breach of the civil service code.
One ally of Rishi Sunak said that a fresh war with Mr Johnson was ‘the last thing we want’, adding: ‘The PM’s focus is on delivering his five priorities – everything else is a distraction.’
The Cabinet Office flatly denied claims that Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden was involved in the decision to hand over material. A spokesman said ministers were not told until after material had been passed to the police.