Boris Johnson “intentionally” misled Parliament over partygate, the former head of the Civil Service believes.
Lord Kerslake said junior members of staff in Downing Street are now telling the story in their own words about the lockdown events and “that is quite damaging for the Prime Minister”.
Lord Kerslake told Times Radio: “He (Mr Johnson) gave every impression that there wasn’t a party. He gave every impression that there was nothing to see here, and now I think it is pretty clear that he misled Parliament. I think it is pretty clear that he misled intentionally.”
Moreover, Junior members of staff in Downing Street feel as though they have been “hung out to dry” over partygate, he added.
Lord Kerslake told Times Radio: “There is no doubt that senior civil servants, if they are aware of these parties and allowed them to happen, or even participated in them, are responsible and should be held to account.
“The clear and most significant responsibility lies with the Prime Minister. It is his house, it’s his office.
“What I pick up is a huge amount of anger amongst the junior staff, who feel they are being hung out to dry.”Lord Kerslake
“They co-operated with the Sue Gray inquiry; that evidence then went to the police. They have been given fines and they do not feel like they are being properly supported.”
However, Cabinet minister George Eustice insisted Boris Johnson had not lied to Parliament.
“Ministers and politicians are not supposed to knowingly mislead Parliament,” the Environment Secretary told Sky News.
“The Prime Minister himself has also given a very clear account of his own understanding of all of those events that he attended, that he didn’t regard them as parties, that he didn’t regard them as breaking the rules.
“He has explained that, that was his understanding, and obviously where the police have said there were particular failings on his part, in respect of the birthday party where the cake was brought in, he has acknowledged that and paid that fixed-penalty notice.”
Line between work and social
Eustice also acknowledged that the line between work and social activity was blurred in No 10 during the coronavirus lockdowns.
As Westminster awaited the publication of Sue Gray’s report on lockdown-busting parties, George Eustice said: “Clearly what happened in No 10 is a culture developed where they were working there, it was their place of work, and there were times when they would have a drink at the end of the day.”
The Environment Secretary told Times Radio: “That boundary between what was acceptable and what wasn’t got blurred and that was a mistake and Sue Gray highlighted that in her first interim report and I think she is almost certainly going to say more about that when her final report comes out.
“The Prime Minister himself has accepted that and recognises there were of course failings and therefore there’s got to be some changes to the way the place is run.”