Sir Keir Starmer: PM broke the law over Downing Street parties during lockdown

The findings of the inquiry into No10 parties could come as soon as next week and many Tory MPs are waiting for the results before deciding on Boris Johnson's fate, explains ITV News Political Correspondent David Wood

Boris Johnson "broke the law" when he attended a Covid lockdown-breaking party, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.

Sir Keir argued Mr Johnson had “degraded” the office of prime minister and “lost all authority”.

Speaking on BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Sir Keir said: “I think he (Prime Minister) broke the law. I think he’s as good as admitted that he broke the law. And, after all, Downing Street has now apologised to the Queen for some of the parties that have gone on.

“I know that the government’s holding position is ‘let’s all wait for the Sue Gray report’.

“But I think it’s pretty obvious what’s happened, this industrial-scale partying had been going on at Downing Street, not much of it is really denied, and I think that the public have made up their mind. I think the facts speak for themselves. I think the Prime Minister broke the law, I think he then lied about what had happened.”

Sir Keir recommended that Ms Gray's findings be “passed to the police to look at” once finalised.

Listen to our coronavirus podcast:

The Metropolitan Police have said they will hold back on investigating the parties until the review is over.

But Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden said he did not believe the prime minister had to resign over reports of lockdown breaking parties in Downing Street, although they had angered him.

Instead he said Mr Johnson will seek to “address the underlying culture in Downing Street” that led to partygate. Mr Dowden said the government plans to “address the kind of culture that has allowed” the reported flouting of coronavirus laws to happen, in a hint of a shake-up at the top of Mr Johnson’s administration.

  • Oliver Dowden says it's the culture that needs changing at Downing Street, rather than the person in charge, David Wood reports

It comes after The Sunday Times reported that the PM is devising a policy announcement blitz and a cull of his inner circle as he looks to survive the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into so-called partygate.

Martin Reynolds, his principal private secretary who sent an email inviting staff to “bring your own booze” in the No 10 garden during the first coronavirus lockdown, and Mr Reynolds’ deputy Stuart Glassborow are likely to be forced out of Downing Street, according to the newspaper.

No 10 chief of staff Dan Rosenfield’s position could also be at risk, it suggested.

Oliver Dowden said the PM would "address the underlying culture in Downing Street". Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Mr Dowden said: “I can assure you the Prime Minister is both very contrite and deeply apologetic for what happened.

“But, more importantly, he is determined to make sure that this can’t be allowed to happen and that we address the underlying culture in Downing Street.

“There were failings: we should have done better, much, much better. We need to up our game, and that needs to be addressed, and I know the Prime Minister is committed to addressing that.”

It comes as a sixth Conservative MP called for Mr Johnson to quit, arguing that a change of senior officials would not reverse the “terminal damage” done to the Prime Minister by the allegations.

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton, in a post published on Facebook on Saturday, said: “It is not down to a simple Government policy change or a sacking of ministers or officials to put things right.

“In this case all roads lead back to Downing Street and the person whose name is on the front door.”

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith was also heavily critical of the No 10 regime, labelling the possible lockdown breaches “unforgivable” and blaming it on a “lazy and slack” culture in Downing Street.

Sir Iain told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme that Cabinet Office official Ms Gray’s report would settle the question of the Prime Minister’s “authority and about his decision-making, and whether or not he knew or understood what was going on”.

However, veteran Tory Peter Bone told LBC he had found constituents in his Wellingborough seat were “clearly in support of the Prime Minister” while former trade secretary Dr Liam Fox – who was sacked by Mr Johnson – said it was the “wrong time” for a change of leader.

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

Sir Graham does not publicly state how many letters he has received, but reports suggest about 20 might have been handed in, with East Worthing and Shoreham MP Mr Loughton indicating he could be persuaded to put his own thoughts into writing should the Prime Minister not quit in the “next few days”.

The Sunday Times reported Mr Johnson will look to get on the front foot and save his position, having last week admitted attending the No 10 garden party on May 20 2020, by making a series of “populist” announcements in the coming weeks.

He will focus on reducing the NHS backlog and tackling the small boat crossings in the Channel, while freezing the BBC licence fee for two years, it was reported.

The Conservative Party leader could also put in place a “booze ban” in No 10 following the series of embarrassing claims of Covid rule-breaking.