Downing Street party row: Preston Tory leader calls for "consequences" for Boris Johnson, as Jacob Rees-Mogg suggests early Covid rules were "too hard on people"

A senior Preston Tory says that there should be “consequences” for Boris Johnson in the wake of the Downing Street party allegations.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 1:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 4:19 pm

Sue Whittam, leader of the opposition Conservative group on Preston City Council, contrasted the bring-your-own-booze gathering during the first lockdown in May 2020 with the “absolutely rigid” adherence to the Covid rules that she witnessed locally during the early days of the pandemic.

In an apology in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said he believed “implicitly” that the event - at which he says he spent 25 minutes thanking staff for their efforts - was work-related.

The matter is currently being investigated by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray. However, Cllr Whittam told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that if the rules were broken “something has to be done”.

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Preston City Council Conservative group leader Sue Whittam says that local people stuck to the Covid rules 'rigidly'

“[For] many millions of people in the country, the decision to lock down - which the government put in place on scientific and medical advice - caused serious hardship to [those] who struggled with not being able to be with family and loved ones.

“We stuck to the rules, because we knew it was important.

“I'm sure the government worked hard during this time [and] it's not for me to say the Prime Minister should resign, but clearly if he has broken the rules, there have to be some consequences here,” said Cllr Whittam, who has sat as a Conservative on the city authority since 2014 and been group leader for the last three.

Meanwhile, West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper said that the affair was another instance of the Prime Minister and his staff showing that they “ have no respect for the rules they themselves put in place”.

She added: “I am disgusted that whilst people were dying every day, Downing Street were hosting huge parties. They should be deeply ashamed and held personally accountable.

“Once again, the government have made it plain to see - there is one rule for us and no rules for them.”

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, the Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, questioned whether the Covid regulations implemented at the start of the pandemic were too tough.

"I received a message last night from a friend of mine who was unable to go to the funeral of his two-year-old granddaughter.

“Now one cannot hear these stories without grieving for people who suffered. And this was something - decisions that were taken at the beginning of the pandemic - that affected people up and down the country and they were very hard.

“We must consider, as this goes to an inquiry - and we look into what happened with Covid - whether all those regulations were proportionate or whether it was too hard on people.

“Because I think as we hear of these stories, we inevitably grieve for those who suffered, those who could not visit people that they loved, their family, and could not attend funerals.

“But I think the key is that this is being looked into, that Sue Gray will report and that the Prime Minister has made his apology clear,” the Conservative politician added.