Northern Ireland minister who said Boris Johnson ‘ambushed with cake’ now says there was no cake

Conor Burns is originally from Belfast.

The minister who claimed Boris Johnson was “ambushed with a cake” at a birthday gathering during coronavirus restrictions has now said there was no cake and therefore the event was simply a meeting.

Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns defended the Prime Minister amid reports his wife Carrie had organised a surprise birthday get together on June 19, 2020, in the Cabinet room which 30 people attended.

The Belfast-born MP told Channel 4 News earlier this week: “It was not a premeditated, organised party in that sense, that the Prime Minister himself decided to have.

“As far as I can see, he was, in a sense, ambushed with a cake.”

But Mr Burns – who was ridiculed on social media for the comment – has now backtracked, and No 10 said it could not confirm or deny the presence of a cake while senior official Sue Gray’s investigation into the partygate saga engulfing Whitehall continues.

Mr Burns told The Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast: “I’m told under some authority, indeed from him, that there actually wasn’t a cake.”

He told the podcast the line he gave to defend the PM was “not part of a strategy” and was a “lone operation, for which I have paid a price”.

When asked what a birthday party without a cake is, he said: “A meeting.”

On Friday, No 10 said it could not comment on whether there was cake at the birthday celebration until investigations into the partygate saga have concluded.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “You will know what we said earlier this week on the matter, that a small number of staff briefly came into the Cabinet room on the PM’s birthday.

Boris Johnson holds up a birthday cake – baked for him by school staff – during a visit to Bovingdon Primary Academy Credit: Andrew Parsons/No 10

“Beyond that I can’t comment further ahead of any conclusion of the investigation.

“As you’re aware, there’s an independent investigation ongoing by Sue Gray in the Cabinet Office. I can only point you back to what we said earlier this week.”

But a resurfaced article from The Times the day after the gathering suggested there had been cake – and it was decorated with a Union Jack pattern.

At the time, the newspaper said: “Boris Johnson celebrated his 56th birthday yesterday with a small gathering in the Cabinet room. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, and a group of aides sang him Happy Birthday before they tucked into a Union Jack cake.

“The celebrations provided a brief respite after another gruelling week that featured two U-turns in 48 hours, Conservative backbenchers in open revolt and the Government’s competence called into question again.”