Region's MPs rally to support Prime Minister Johnson over latest Covid party claims

  • Watch a video report by Matthew Hudson

Conservative MPs claimed it was a "waste of everybody's time" to discuss Downing Street party allegations in the Commons as they launched a staunch defence of Boris Johnson.

They argued Russia's military build-up on the Ukrainian border was among the issues which deserved greater attention, minutes before a planned statement from the Prime Minister on this exact topic.

Their claims came during an urgent question tabled by Labour following the decision by the Metropolitan Police to investigate potential breaches of coronavirus laws at a "number of events" in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Conservative MP Giles Watling (Clacton) described the urgent question as a "vexatious waste of everybody's time" but was forced to withdraw his claims by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who decides upon the urgent questions.

There was also evidence of support in the town of Yaxley, part of Conservative constituency of North West Cambridgeshire held by MP Shailesh Vara.

At the last general election very nearly two thirds of votes went to the Conservatives.

People we spoke to seemed to largely agree that it was time to focus on other things. One woman told ITV News Anglia:

"I think we should just move on personally. I voted for Boris to get us out with Brexit and he did that for us."

While another said: "There's been a lot said about him but he's done a lot of good over the last two years."

That will please the town's Conservative MP Shailesh Vara. Speaking in the House of Commons this morning (Tuesday 25th January) he said: "We really do need to concentrate on matters that really affect our constituents on a day-to-day basis, cost of living, energy prices and so on, as well as the fact that there are 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border."

But the allegations have left some people angry. Natasha Harpley is one of them. In June 2020 the Broadland Labour councillor was unable to properly enjoy her mother's birthday or her own because of lockdown. She never saw her mum again, she died from a heart attack that September.

Natasha is furious that while they were obeying the rules at great personal cost the Prime minister was apparently enjoying a sizeable party.

"This is organised parties, people at the end of the shift in the NHS were coming home having to strip in the hallways before seeing their families, it’s completely inexcusable."

Natasha's mother Sonia at a family event before Covid.

The scandal of Downing Street gatherings during lockdowns, revealed in a string of ITV exclusives, continues to engulf the Government.

On the same day Mr Johnson was apparently celebrating he'd had a socially distanced visit to a school in Hertfordshire.

Today it was the turn of Transport Secretary and Hertfordshire MP Grant Shapps to face the media.

Mr Shapps said: "I don't seek to defend it or but nor do we have, I think, all the facts. A number of them are disputed by Number 10.

"I do know the facts have already been passed to Sue Gray and we await to see the outcome of her investigation."

Cabinet Office minister and Northamptonshire MP Michael Ellis told MPs this morning (25th January) that the senior civil servant Sue Gray's investigation into Downing Street parties: "There is ongoing contact between the Cabinet Office investigation and the Metropolitan Police Service, however, the Cabinet Office investigation will continue its work.

"I would urge the House to wait for the findings of that investigation and for the police to conclude their work. That is important to allow the work to take place unimpeded and to protect the rights of all involved."

Mr Ellis added: "I can confirm that the findings of the investigation will be provided to this honourable House and made public."

Earlier on Tuesday, Number 10 said Boris Johnson welcomed the police investigation and is willing to be interviewed by officers.

The PM thinks it is "entirely right" for the Met to launch a probe, his spokesperson said, and everyone necessary in government will "fully co-operate" with inquiries.

Mr Johnson told MPs the police investigation will "help to draw a line under matters".

Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick confirmed a "number of events" held on Downing Street during the pandemic were being investigated.

There had been speculation that Ms Gray's report would be delayed by the police probe, but ITV News understands that Dame Cressida has raised no objection to the internal inquiry's findings being published.