Number 10 dismisses claim Johnson is victim of stitches over police referral

Rishi Sunak will not make a decision on possible lockdown breaches by Boris Johnson, Downing Street said, as it rejected claims of a politically motivated stitch-up by the former prime minister.

Mr Johnson, who believes he is the victim of such a conspiracy, has meanwhile handed them over to the police after government-appointed lawyers represented him in a public inquiry into Covid.

Number 10 Mr Sunak and ministers were not involved in the decision to pass on police concerns over events at Checkers and Downing Street following a review of the former prime minister’s official diary.

The prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “To be clear, we have not seen the information or material in question. It will not be correct. Neither has the prime minister.

“Number 10 and the ministers have had no involvement in this process and were only made aware after the police were contacted.”

The Cabinet Office also said that ministers “played no role” in the decision to hand over information to the police, with referrals being made instead by officers working within the Civil Service Code.

Mr Johnson’s office claimed the handling of the situation was “bizarre and unacceptable” and that the incidents in question were within the rules.

Many will conclude that this has all the hallmarks of another politically motivated manipulation

boris johnson’s office

“It appears that some people within the government have decided to make unfounded suggestions to both the police and the Committee of Privileges,” it said in a statement.

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“Many would conclude that it has all the makings of yet another politically motivated stitch-up.”

Asked whether he agreed, a spokesman for Sunak said: “No.”

Asked whether the prime minister was concerned about allegations of further lockdown breaches, the official declined to give an opinion, saying Mr Sunak “did not have knowledge of the information given to the police”.

The spokesman also said that it was “not for the prime minister to decide” whether the matter had been handled well by the civil service.

“Civil servants have clear obligations in relation to how they approach these types of issues and the Cabinet Office has followed those rules,” he said.

Entries in the former prime minister’s official diary revealed new allegations about a visit by friends to Checkers during the pandemic and his behavior in Downing Street, The Times reported, which broke the story.

Cabinet Office officials reported concerns to the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police after new information emerged during a review by taxpayer-funded lawyers ahead of a Covid public inquiry.

The Privileges Committee, which is probing whether Mr Johnson lied to Parliament about the Partygate scandal, has also been informed.

The result adds to the problems facing Mr Sunak, who was fined in June 2020 over a gathering in Downing Street during the pandemic with Mr Johnson.

Mr Sunak “certainly” did not go to the Checkers grace-and-favour retreat in breach of coronavirus rules when he was chancellor during the pandemic, his press secretary said.

The prime minister has not discussed the controversy with his predecessor, it suggested, because he refused to answer a “hypothetical” question about whether Mr Johnson would lose the Tory whip if police charged him.

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Mr Johnson indicated in a letter to the chairman of the Covid inquiry that he was breaking ties with the taxpayer-funded lawyers representing him.

He is understood to have lost faith in the Cabinet Office.

“I am currently instructing new solicitors to represent me at the inquiry,” he wrote, adding that “agreeing over funding is in the hands of the Cabinet Office”.

Mr Sunak is facing backlash from allies of Mr Johnson who claim the latest inquiry is politically motivated.

Former Downing Street director of communications Guto Harri told The News Agents podcast: “Some people are just addicted to Partygate and their appetite to vent their anger over it and to exact revenge on Boris Johnson in particular will never be satisfied.” ,

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