Boris Johnson: Covid rule-breaking claims a load of nonsense
Boris Johnson has branded suggestions he may have taken part in further rule-breaking during the pandemic as “a load of absolute nonsense”.
The former Prime Minister emphatically denied gatherings at Chequers had breached Covid rules when asked as he touched down in the US.
He also insisted that the Cabinet Office decision to hand over entries from his official diary during the pandemic to police without first querying them with him was “ridiculous”.
Speaking for the first time about the latest claims, he told Sky News: “This whole thing is a load of nonsense from beginning to end.
“I think it’s ridiculous that elements in my diary should be cherry-picked and handed over to the police, to the privileges committee without even anybody having the basic common sense to ask me what these entries referred to.”
On Tuesday it emerged that Mr Johnson was referred to police after Cabinet Office lawyers discovered evidence of the new meetings, said to include former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, the TV presenter Kate Garraway and his family and friends.
No10 has said ministers were not involved in the decision to pass to the police concerns over events in Chequers and Downing Street following a review of his official diary.
Pressed on whether the entries showed him “mingling with friends”, Mr Johnson insisted “that is absolutely not what these diary entries show”.
He said: “I just think it’s totally nonsensical and bizarre that there are tens of thousands of entries in the prime minister’s diary. I’ve never seen these things before.
“I have looked through it. None of them constitute a breach of the rules during Covid, they weren’t during lockdown.
“They were during other periods of the restrictions. None of them constitute a breach of the rules. None of them involve socialising. It is total nonsense.”
His team previously said attempts were being made to “stitch him up” and that any meetings were lawful.
Mr Johnson has since sacked the Cabinet Office legal team assigned to represent him at the official Covid Inquiry and has appointed new lawyers.
They have now reportedly presented his legal defence to both the police and the Privileges Committee.
A spokesperson for the committee said it had received new evidence and had written to the former Prime Minister for a response, adding: “The committee will take this evidence and Mr Johnson’s response into account when considering its final report. The committee is making progress with its inquiry expeditiously.”
The separate Covid inquiry has also demanded to see the diary entries and WhatsApp messages relating to any Downing Street parties.
Mr Johnson was catching a flight in Washington DC on Friday as part of his trip to the US, where he is speaking about the war in Ukraine, when he was approached by a Sky News journalist asking about the revelations.
“You want my honest view, I think this whole thing is completely nonsensical,” he said.
Asked what the entries show, he replied: “They merely record events in my day.”
Mr Johnson was previously fined for attending a gathering in Downing Street to mark his birthday in June 2020 – one of a series of political crises that ultimately led to the end of his premiership.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said earlier on Friday the public was “fed up to the back teeth” with stories about the former prime minister.
“These are deeply personal things and increasing revelations about Boris Johnson, I think, just add to that sense of hurt and people are fed up with it,” he said.
“I do think there are questions now about why have these allegations not come out before, all these allegations.