Priti Patel defends Boris after saying she’d call police on Covid rule-breakers


Home Secretary Priti Patel and a WhatsApp message in which she urges Tory MPs to 'back Boris' after Boris Johnson admitted to attending a Number 10 garden party on May 20, 2020 during the first Covid-19 lockdown
Priti Patel called on fellow Tory MPs to ‘back Boris’ after his humiliating appearance in the Commons (Picture: PA)

The Home Secretary issued a gushing defence of Boris Johnson after he finally admitted to attending a party at Number 10 during lockdown.

But Priti Patel’s rallying cry on a WhatsApp group of Tory MPs appears to be at odds with some of her previous remarks on Covid rule-breakers.

Johnson is fighting for his job after telling the Commons he attended a ‘bring your own booze’ party on May 20, 2020 – but that he thought it was a ‘work event’.

This was at a time when people were limited to meeting just one other person outdoors, while funerals were socially distanced and had limits on attendees.

Despite his apology, Johnson kept on urging MPs to wait for the conclusion of an investigation led by civil servant Sue Gray into a number of alleged Downing Street lockdown parties.

A leaked message to fellow Tories shows Patel saying: ‘Team, today the Prime Minister has given his heartfelt apologies and taken responsibility for what has happened.

‘Thanks to Boris’ majority, the work of this Government is so extensive, we continue to bring forward some of the biggest reforms in decades to Level Up – to the NHS, asylum system, housing & more.

Priti Patel’s defence comes after she said she would call the police on her neighbours for breaking lockdown rules

‘Now is the time to put our shoulders to the wheel & back Boris to deliver on the People’s Priorities.’

All of this was sent by a Cabinet minister who told the public they would get in trouble for sitting on a park bench.

In September 2020, Patel told Sky News she would call the police on her neighbours if she saw them breaking Covid restrictions.

She said: ‘I’m rarely at home, but if I saw something that I thought was inappropriate then, quite frankly, I would call the police.

‘It’s not dobbing in neighbours. It’s all about us taking personal responsibility. Anyone that is effectively defying the rules, they will be helping to spread coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 12, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS PMQs. Photo credit should read: House of Commons/PA Wire
Boris Johnson is fighting for his job as many of his own MPs turn their backs on him (Picture: PA)

‘That is not a good thing and obviously we all have a role to play. We’re all taking personal responsibility, we all have to be conscientious to one another.’

This was picked up on by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, who tweeted: ‘Sept 2020 Priti Patel said she’d call police to report neighbours holding parties.

‘Today she’s defending Boris Johnson after he admitted doing just that. As Home Sec she’s responsible for upholding the rule of law for all. Not one rule for your mates & another for everyone else.’

Also leaping to Johnson’s defence was Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who tweeted: ‘PM was right to personally apologise earlier.

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‘People are hurt and angry at what happened and he has taken full responsibility for that.

‘The inquiry should now be allowed to its work and establish the full facts of what happened.’

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, Michael Gove shared the tweet with the message: ‘Nadine is right.’

Roughly eight hours after Johnson’s grilling in the Commons, Chancellor Rishi Sunak posted: ‘I’ve been on a visit all day today continuing work on our #PlanForJobs as well as meeting MPs to discuss the energy situation.

‘The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her enquiry.’

A long list of Boris Johnson’s private and public scandals

Boris Johnson was sacked from his job at The Times after falsely attributing a quote to his godfather.

He became a trainee journalist at the newspaper after graduating from the University of Oxford in 1987.

Johnson was tasked with writing about the discovery of King Edward II’s long-lost London palace on the south bank of the Thames.

But he decided to spice it up with references to gay sex among the royals and a fake comment from Sir Colin Lucas.

His historian godfather was an expert on the French revolution, rather than medieval England, but that didn’t seem to bother Johnson.

The quote claimed that the king had ‘enjoyed a reign of dissolution with his catamite, Piers Gaveston’ in the palace, which was built in 1325.

But Gaveston was beheaded in 1312, so imagine the damage this would have done to Sir Colin’s reputation as a historian.

Johnson was sacked after his godfather complained and has since said in interviews it was his ‘biggest cock-up’.

After his departure from the Times, Johnson landed himself a job at the Daily Telegraph as its Brussels correspondent between 1989 and 1994.

His articles contained a number of dubious claims widely described as ‘euromyths’.

Examples of these included plans to set-up a ‘banana police force’ to regulate the shape of the fruit and plans to ban prawn cocktail crisps.

Other claims made by the now-Prime Minister included plans to ban balloon blowing for under-eights and to introduce same-size ‘eurocoffins’.

In his final months as London Mayor in March 2016 he was told by the Treasury Select Committee that his claims were a ‘figment’ of his imagination.

Chairman Andrew Tyrie said Johnson was guilty of ‘exaggeration to the point of misrepresentation’ in making his case for Britain to leave the EU.

But Johnson stood his ground, saying: ‘There is a great deal of effort being made to deprecate those who think we should leave the EU and everything we say is somehow mythical.’

In the summer of 1990, Johnson’s old friend Darius Guppy rang him up and asked for help tracking down a journalist.

His pal from Eton and Oxford had arranged to have himself and his business partner in a gemstones company tied up in a New York hotel room.

The aim was to make it look as if they had been robbed of £1.8million worth of jewels so they could claim the money back under their insurance.

When News of the World reporter Stuart Collier started looking into it, Guppy wanted to scare him away and asked Johnson for help.

Then a Brussels corespondent for the Daily Telegraph – Johnson was asked if he could provide Collier’s address.

The pair had a 21-minute conversation which was secretly taped by accomplice Peter Risdon – who had turned against Guppy.

When asked if Johnson had Collier’s number, he replies: ‘There is a guy at the moment going through his files.’

As Guppy says ‘there is nothing I won’t do to get my revenge’ Johnson asks: ‘Uh, how badly are you going to hurt this guy?’

Guppy says he won’t have his arms broken but adds: ‘He will probably get a couple of black eyes and a cracked rib…but he will get scared.’

Johnson then says he has approached four people to trace Collier, only two of whom he trusts. At the end of their chat, he says: ‘OK, Darry, I said I’ll do it and I’ll do it. Don’t worry.’

The attack never took place, and in 2013 Johnson said he was only ‘humouring’ his old buddy.

Writing in the Daily Mail in 2012, his old boss at the Telegraph, Max Hastings, said: ‘If the day ever comes that Boris Johnson becomes tenant of Downing Street, I shall be among those packing my bags for a new life in Buenos Aires or suchlike, because it means that Britain has abandoned its last pretensions to be a serious country.’

During his time as editor of the Spectator, Johnson edited an article blaming drunken Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough disaster.

The editorial also suggested people from the city were reliant on the welfare state.

It added: ‘They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it.’

If you think that’s distasteful, the article was written as reaction to the death of Ken Bigley, a Liverpool engineer kidnapped and executed by Islamic extremists in Iraq in 2004.

While the article wasn’t written by Johnson himself, he edited it, and ultimately the decision to publish came down to him.

Johnson apologised for the ‘outdated stereotype’ that year as he prepared to visit the city to say sorry.

In an open letter in the Liverpool Daily Post, he wrote: ‘I am sorry, too, for the hurt and dismay we have so evidently caused in our description of Liverpool.

‘There may well be Liverpudlians who still answer to the characteristics in question, just as there are all over the country. We should not have generalised.

‘And we should clearly not have blamed drunken fans at the back, when this cause was specifically ruled out by the inquiry report.

‘Anyone, journalist or politician, should say sorry to the people of Liverpool – as I do – for misrepresenting what happened at Hillsborough.

‘I repeat that the leader made a serious point about risk and sentimentality, and the culture of blame, and I stick by it. In so far as it imposed an outdated stereotype on the whole of Liverpool, and thereby caused offence, I sincerely apologise.’

Johnson’s affair with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt hit the headlines in 2004.

He initially dismissed reports as ‘an inverted pyramid of piffle’.

But the gig was up for Johnson after ‘Petsy’s’ mother revealed her daughter had aborted his baby.

Hours later, then-Tory leader Michael Howard sacked Johnson as shadow arts minister for lying.

Shortly after he was fired, Johnson insisted he ‘certainly didn’t’ lie to Howard – who initially stood by him about the affair.

He insists he never spoke directly to Howard about his relationship with Wyatt.

But at the time Tory officials said: ‘He completely denied it to Guy Black, David MacLean (the Tory chief whip) and the Press.

‘Is he seriously suggesting it was OK to lie to newspapers providing he did not lie to the party leader’s face?’

For years, the Prime Minister has avoided questions about his private life.

A question mark remained over exactly how many children he had, until he opened up to US broadcaster NBC in September 2021.

When asked if he was a father-of-six, he replied ‘Yes’, and since then he has welcomed his daughter Romy Iris Charlotte Johnson into the world.

The PM had four children with his previous wife, Marina Wheeler, before they separated in 2018.

Johnson’s fifth child is Stephanie, who was born to art advisor Helen Macintyre in 2009.

The PM previously denied being Stephanie’s father, until a court battle in 2013 revealed he had sought an injunction to prevent knowledge of her existence being reported in the media.

Lawyers for the Daily Mail argued it was in the public interest, as it was an ‘issue of recklessness and whether on that account he was fit for public office’.

Johnson and his four oldest children are not believed to be involved in Stephanie’s life.

The PM and his third wife Carrie Johnson had their first child, Wilfred, in April 2020, before Romy’s birth.

American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri claims she had a four year affair with Johnson while he was mayor of London.

She claims they began their relationship during his second term in office while he was married to barrister Mariana Wheeler.

At the time, the tech entrepreneur received thousands in taxpayer-funded grants for her firms.

In November last year, she claims Johnson vowed to help her company in order to ‘win my love’.

It is alleged Arcuri received favourable treatment for her business ventures during Johnson’s eight-year stint as mayor.

The Greater London Authority is currently investigating her presence at trade missions to boost London’s economy.

Late last year Arcuri agreed to let the GLA ethics watchdog inspect entries in her diary detailing her alleged affair.

She also agreed to be questioned for the first time over their relationship.

Johnson managed to avoid a criminal investigation when the police watchdog said it found no evidence of him influencing payments to Arcuri’s firms.

But her decision to cooperate with the GLA could open the door to a new criminal probe.

Boris Johnson was accused of ‘conning’ the public with his claim that Brexit would save £350million a week for the NHS.

He was so confident of this claim that it was slapped on the side of the Vote Leave campaign’s red battle bus.

Then-Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson called the figure a ‘lie’ during the referendum campaign, but Johnson said he thought it could be even higher.

In May 2016, the UK Statistics Authority issued a statement describing the claim as ‘misleading’.

But that didn’t stop Johnson repeating it in an article in the Telegraph in September 2017.

A spokesman for him at the time said: ‘I should make it clear that because of the interest in this case that it is absolutely denied by Mr Johnson that he acted in an improper or dishonest manner at any time.’

After the 2016 EU referendum, Johnson distanced himself from controversial claims made by the Vote Leave campaign about Turkey.

In January 2019 during a visit to JCB’s Staffordshire headquarters, the then-foreign secretary was challenged on his views on immigration.

Channel 4’s Michael Crick said Vote Leave’s claim that ’80million Turks would come to this country if we stayed in the EU’ was ‘absurd then as is absurd now’.

Johnson replied: ‘Actually, I didn’t say anything about Turkey in the referendum

‘Since I made no remarks, I can’t defend them… I didn’t make any remarks about Turkey.’

But Johnson had co-signed a letter stating that ‘the only way to avoid having common borders with Turkey is to vote Leave and take back control’.

He was also quoted as saying: ‘I am very pro-Turkish but what I certainly can’t imagine is a situation in which 77million of my fellow Turks and those of Turkish origin can come here without any checks at all. That is mad – that won’t work.’

Boris Johnson dodged questions about his past cocaine use as he launched his bid to become Tory leader.

It came as now Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove admitted to taking the drug on several occasions while working as a journalist.

The admission prompted several other Conservative leadership hopefuls to open up about their drug use.

Perhaps the most left field accounts were Jeremy Hunt sipping on cannabis lassi while backpacking in India and Rory Stewart smoking opium at a wedding in Afghanistan.

Appearing on Have I Got News For You in 2005, Johnson said: ‘I think I was once given cocaine, but I sneezed and so it did not go up my nose. In fact, I may have been doing icing sugar.’

He face a slightly different account in a 2007 interview with GQ in which he admitted to trying cocaine at university.

Johnson said: ‘I remember it vividly. It achieved no pharmacological, psychotropic or any other effect on me whatsoever.’

But when asked about this during his leadership bid, he said: ‘I think the canonical account of this event when I was 19 has appeared many, many times.

‘I think what most people in this country want us to focus on is what we can do for them and this great country.’

During the campaign, he also Sky New’s Sophie Ridge that the ‘naughtiest’ thing he would admit to doing was sometimes cycling on the pavement.

He did add that he wouldn’t reveal anything that could be ‘terminally politically damaging’.

After becoming Prime Minister, Johnson was accused of misleading the Queen over the prorogation of Parliament.

In a damning Supreme Court ruling, 11 justices unanimously agreed that the five-week suspension in the run-up to Brexit was ‘void and of no effect’, and ‘unlawful’.

They didn’t go as far as saying that Johnson lied to the Queen, but critics said the ruling shows that he misled the monarch.

The PM called the Head of State ‘as quickly as possible’ to personally apologise after the Supreme Court’s embarrassing ruling, according to a Downing Street source.

But when asked later if he had lied to the Queen about his reasons to suspend Commons business, he said: ‘Absolutely not.’

Under British law, disloyalty against the crown is known as high treason and can be met with life imprisonment.

In September 2019 the PM promised voters he would build ’40 new hospitals across England over the next decade’ if they voted for the Tories.

But as it turns out, many of the plans included refurbishments of existing hospitals.

In reality, most of the money was earmarked for just six NHS trusts, which each had a major hospital in dire need of rebuilding.

In October 2020, Johnson said he would put £3.7billion into 32 trusts across England, with a further eight schemes invited to bid for future funding.

But more than half of the projects are either rebuilds of hospitals, or building a hospital on the site of one that already exists.

The money for all 40 projects won’t be available for a number of years.

The PM faced intense scrutiny over claims an expensive revamp of his Downing Street flat was covered by a Tory donor.

Unearthed messages show Johnson seeking funds for his refurbishment while promising Lord Brownlow he’d consider his idea for a new Great Exhibition.

Soon afterwards, the businessman had a meeting with the Culture Secretary to discuss the project.

Johnson had mentioned the idea in a previously hidden WhatsApp conversation in which he asked the Tory peer for more money for the redecoration of the No 10 flat he lives with his wife Carrie.

It was reported that the flat had been decked out with ‘handcrafted’ gold wallpaper costing ‘£840-a-roll’.

The makeover was funded through a loan from Huntswood Associates Limited – a firm controlled by the Tory donor Lord Brownlow.

In December the Electoral Commission said the company transferred £67,801.72 to the Conservative Party in October 2020 – £52,801.72 of which was to cover the cost of three Cabinet Office invoices relating to the Downing Street makeover.

But the Tories only reported receiving £15,000, which was for an event, and left the other £53,000 out of public records, the watchdog said.

Tory chiefs tried to claim the £53,000 sum was ‘not a donation to the party’, and could be classed as ‘a donation to the Prime Minister via the party’, or ‘a ‘gift to the nation’, the Commission said.

But the watchdog dismissed these claims, saying the full amount ‘was a donation and should have been reported to the Commission’.

Its investigation found a total of £112,549 had been paid by Huntswood Associates.

Despite this, Johnson is expected to be cleared of breaking ministerial code, following an inquiry by Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministerial interests.

We’re sure you’re all familiar with this one.

Johnson has faced a grilling over claims he attended a party in No 10’s garden on May 20, 2020.

This was at a time when people were limited to seeing just one other person outdoors under Covid lockdown rules.

A leaked email revealed the PM’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds had invited 100 Downing Street staff to the ‘bring your own booze’ event.

Witnesses said the PM and his wife Carrie had attended the gathering of around 40 people.

After dodging questions for days, Johnson eventually apologised to the Commons.

He admitted attending but said he was sure it was a ‘work event’ and that he stepped out into the garden to ‘thank groups of staff’.

But before that Johnson was already dodging questions over claims of a Christmas party at No 10 and several other alleged illegal gatherings.

No 10 press secretary Allegra Stratton quit her post in December following a leaked video of her joking with aides about a party in December 2020.

An investigation into a number of alleged Downing Street parties is being led by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

During PMQs on January 5, Boris Johnson denied claims that he described fears about rising inflation as ‘unfounded’.

He was on the defensive against Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, saying: ‘Of course, I said no such thing because inflation is always something that we have to be careful about.’

But Johnson was interviewed by Sky News in October saying: ‘People have been worrying about inflation for a very long time… and those fears have been unfounded.’

Just before the New Year, a report by the Resolution Foundation think-tank claimed families were facing a ‘cost of living catastrophe’.

It was thought households would face a hit of at least £1,200 in the face of soaring energy bills and taxes, amid the highest level of inflation in 30 years.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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