Grant Shapps claims PM ‘clearly not’ partying in drink-filled lockdown pictures

(Right to left) Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Mayor of Lond

Grant Shapps (left) has defended Boris Johnson over photos of the prime minister at a drinks-filled leaving do during lockdown. - Credit: PA

Grant Shapps has claimed Boris Johnson was ‘clearly not’ partying after photos emerged of the Prime Minister drinking with colleagues during lockdown.

New pictures obtained by ITV News show the PM appearing to toast Conservative Party colleagues at a leaving do for the then-communications chief Lee Cain.

The gathering was allegedly to have taken place on November 13, 2020, during the second national lockdown when people were not allowed to mix with other households inside.

Welwyn Hatfield MP and transport secretary Mr Shapps has jumped to Mr Johnson’s defence, claiming he was ‘clearly not’ partying in an interview with Sky News.

“The question is, was he down there partying? No, clearly not - he'd gone by to say thanks and raise a glass to a colleague who was leaving,” he said.

“The police have spent a lot of time with a lot of people and a lot of resources crawling over it and they've come to their conclusion - as we know he wasn't fined for that event.”

The photos emerged in the week that saw a Met Police investigation into the parties hand out 126 fines to 83 people, including the PM, and ahead of the report into more events by Sue Gray being published.

Further defending the PM, Mr Shapps continued: “It looks to me like he goes down on his way out of the office and thanks the staff and raises a glass and doesn't in his mind recognise that as a party.

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“This is well-covered territory. These are things that we have known about.

“The Prime Minister has said it shouldn’t have happened and he has apologised and of course the police have spent their time investigating it as well.

“I don’t think the fact of the pictures, us seeing them for the first time, changes what the police and Sue Gray would have already known.”

Back in January, Mr Shapps revealed his anger at the Downing Street parties, telling this newspaper they were ‘unacceptable’.

“As someone who was unable to see my own dad who spent four months in hospital seriously ill during COVID-19 restrictions and not knowing whether we would ever see him again, I share the public anger about reports of lockdown breaking events. Holding parties was unacceptable at that time.”