Boris 'deserves the benefit of the doubt' over partygate scandal, minister insists

19 January 2022, 08:53

By Emma Soteriou

Boris Johnson deserves "the benefit of the doubt" amid the ongoing partygate scandal, armed forces minister James Heappey has told LBC.

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Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Mr Heappey defended Mr Johnson, detailing the challenges the PM faces in his day-to-day schedule from his time as his parliamentary private secretary.

The Prime Minister claimed on Tuesday that nobody told him holding a gathering was against the rules in a car-crash interview, despite him being the arbiter of England's Covid-19 rules.

Mr Heappey argued: "Very few people get to see what the day-to-day life of a Prime Minister looks like.

"The reality is - and I was looking at some of his diaries from when I was working with him last night - and his diary is put together in five-minute blocks.

"He might go from a call with world leader to a national security meeting, to a meeting with ministers on domestic policy, to a meeting with advisers on Covid policy, and then someone comes and grabs him from his study and in the 30 seconds it takes to walk down the stairs to the garden, he is pre-briefed on who he's about to see and what he needs to say."

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"I know that lots of people won't be willing to accept that as an explanation," Mr Heapey said. "But, as somebody who has worked in that environment, I can see how actually Prime Ministers don't know what's in their diary until it hits them.

"As the PM said at the despatch box the other day, in hindsight, he should have shut that party down there and then. He didn't and he's apologised for that profusely.

"People are furious - my inbox is glowing white hot with constituents who are incandescent."

He went on to say: "I am choosing to give a man that I've worked with closely the benefit of the doubt and to believe what he has said at the despatch box.

"But for the millions of people who listen to your programme who don't want to give him the benefit of the doubt, I just ask that they wait for Sue Gray's report before they make any further judgement."

It comes as the Prime Minister is expected to announce on Wednesday afternoon that most Plan B measures are to be scrapped, with added hopes of changing the narrative of what is set to be another challenging round of PMQs.

He is facing an increasing number of calls from Tory MPs to resign, with at least 20 reported to be hatching a "pork pie plot" to oust him.

The group are said to have come together to discuss Mr Johnson's fate as speculation grows about whether the criteria for a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister could be met.

At the last debate, Mr Johnson issued a humiliating apology after confessing to attending a party at No10 in May 2020.

It is the latest in a string of allegations being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray, with her findings potentially on the way as early as this week.

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