WATCH: Norfolk MP says PM birthday celebration a 'relatively minor offence'
- Credit: UK Parliament
A Norfolk MP has defended Boris Johnson, saying the prime minister only committed a "relatively minor offence" by attending an indoors birthday celebration in his honour during the first Covid lockdown.
No 10 has conceded staff “gathered briefly” in the Cabinet Room on the afternoon of June 19, 2020, following a meeting, after ITV News alleged 30 people attended, shared cake, and sang “happy birthday” to the prime minister, despite social mixing indoors being banned.
The revelation has led to fresh calls for Mr Johnson to resign, but in parliament on Tuesday, South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon defended the prime minister, while attacking others in the Labour party, including Sir Tony Blair.
During questions to the paymaster general Michael Ellis, Conservative MP Mr Bacon said: "Does the paymaster agree, that, compared with being interviewed under caution for flogging peerages, as Tony Blair was; compared with trying to prosecute a former first minister of Scotland when they were told there was no evidence to do so; and compared with taking money from Chinese spies, that eating a piece of birthday cake is a relatively minor offence?"
Mr Ellis replied that Mr Bacon had made his point "powerfully and eloquently".
Mr Bacon was apparently referring to the 'cash for honours' scandal which saw the then Labour prime minister questioned by police - although Mr Blair was not questioned under caution.
The parliamentary debate also heard from Joanna Cherry, Scottish National Party MP for Edinburgh South West, who said one of her constituents had not been able to visit her mother in a Norfolk nursing home because they had adhered to coronavirus restrictions.
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Ms Cherry said her constituent's mother had died at the age of 82, alone in a ward of strangers and called for an apology "to him and all the other people who kept the rules when the prime minister and his mates didn't".
The parliamentary discussion came after Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick announced officers were investigating a “number of events” in Downing Street and Whitehall over two years after being passed information from the Sue Gray inquiry.
Updating the Commons on the inquiry, Mr Johnson said: "That process has quite properly involved sharing information continuously with the Metropolitan Police, so I welcome the Met’s decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe this will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters.”
The prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters that “everyone required will fully cooperate in any way they are asked”.
Pressed if Mr Johnson is willing to be interviewed by officers, his spokesman responded: “Anyone asked to will cooperate fully as you would expect.”
Asked if the prime minister thinks he has not broken the law, the spokesman said: “I need to be cautious about what I say but I think that’s fair to say that he does not.”