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'It's not like he's robbed a bank': Excuses Boris Johnson's supporters have given for partygate

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/26/2022 hdyer@insider.com (Henry Dyer)
Boris Johnson gives a thumbs up to a cake Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images © Provided by Business Insider Boris Johnson gives a thumbs up to a cake Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images
  • Boris Johnson has been under sustained criticism over the partygate scandal.
  • Johnson's supporters have produced a variety of apparent defences for his conduct.
  • Some have tried to play down the severity of the lockdown breaches.

With a constant drip of leaks and multiple allegations of breaches of lockdown rules in Downing Street, some of Boris Johnson's supporters have attempted to defend the prime minister in a variety of ways.  

Westminster is awaiting the publication of a report by the civil servant Sue Gray into parties held during lockdown, as well as the results of an investigation by the Metropolitan Police, although the latter is expected to take many months.

With no certainty on a publication date for Gray's report or the end of the Met's investigation, Johnson's supporters in the Conservative Party have filled the vacuum by continuing to defend his own conduct, especially over reports, confirmed by Downing Street, that he was at a party in the Cabinet room of 10 Downing Street in June 2020 to mark his birthday, with cake and singing.

Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, told Sky News on Wednesday morning: "Lots of people break the law in small ways, sometimes unintentionally.

"I just think - this is not. He's not robbed a bank. This is getting out of control."

Conor Burns, a Northern Ireland minister and long-time Johnson ally, told Channel 4 News on Tuesday evening: "He was, in a sense, ambushed with a cake." Burns' defence has been mocked by his fellow Tory MPs.

Crispin Blunt, Conservative MP for Reigate, told BBC Radio 4's PM on Tuesday evening that "probably inside most homes and inside most businesses, and inside most places of public administration, people may not have kept absolutely to the rules."


Video: Boris Johnson apologizes, admits breaking lockdown by going to a party at his residence (INSIDER)

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In a Parliamentary debate on the news of the Met Police's investigation of breaches of the coronavirus regulations, Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, asked a minister at the despatch box if they agreed with her "that anyone taking a view on the Prime Minister must take into account the fact that he has presided over the most successful vaccination programme in the world, which is taking us out of the pandemic ahead of most other countries in the world?"

Another MP, David Morris, suggested the police should investigate "the activities of the Leader of the Opposition with his beer party".

Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, highlighted other politicians' wrongdoing in a bid to help his boss. 

The backbencher said compared to "being interviewed under caution for flogging peerages, as Tony Blair was" or the prosecution of former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond "despite being told there was no evidence", and  "taking money from Chinese spies", Johnson "eating a piece of birthday cake is a relatively minor offence".

Blair was not, in fact, interviewed under caution but as a witness. 

Mark Jenkinson, MP for Workington, pointed the finger at "those on the Opposition Benches" as being "in cahoots with the media to undemocratically depose" Johnson.

And Michael Ellis, the minister responding to the debate, said: "Ten minutes of eating cake and wishing someone a happy birthday would not a party make".

Grant Shapps, a transport minister working to shore up Johnson's Parliamentary support, told Sky News on Tuesday morning that Johnson "didn't organise to be given cake."

Meanwhile Nadine Dorries, culture secretary and one of Johnson's most vocal online supporters, questioned whether the event - with a group of people singing, having cake, and marking a birthday - was a party.

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