Boris Johnson is committed to addressing the “underlying culture” in Downing Street after a number of alleged parties, said Oliver Dowden (Alamy)
4 min read
The Prime Minister “is committed to addressing the underlying culture” in Downing Street after reports of widespread drinking by staff during lockdown, according to Tory chairman Oliver Dowden.
He said reports of rule-breaking in Number 10 had angered him but that Boris Johnson did not need to resign.
Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme, Dowden said of his leader’s response to the allegations: “I can tell you that when he responds to the House of Commons, as he has committed to do so, he will make sure that we address the kind of culture that has allowed that to happen in the first place.”
There are also widespread reports Johnson is pursuing a strategy dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog”, which will see a clearout of Number 10 in response to the expected criticism coming in Sue Gray’s inquiry into the various gatherings.
Dowden called the alcohol-fuelled parties “totally wrong”, saying Johnson will “need to take further steps” to deal with them, adding: “I also know the Prime Minister is committed to addressing the underlying culture.”
He said he was “disgusted” at the fact events took place in Number 10 the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April last year, but said we needed to wait for Gray’s report to “establish the full facts of what happened at all the different alleged events that took place”.
“I can tell you that the Prime Minister is genuinely committed, both in demonstrating his remorse and apology for what happened, but also in taking steps to ensure that we address the kind of culture in Downing Street that enabled something like that to happen, which clearly should never have happened in the first place,” the Cabinet minister told Sky News.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Johnson “broke the law” and then “lied about what had happened”.
Speaking on BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, he said: “I think he’s as good as admitted that he broke the law. And, after all, Downing Street has now apologised to the Queen for some of the parties that have gone on.
He said while the government’s position is to wait for Gray’s report it is “pretty obvious what’s happened”, adding: “This industrial-scale partying had been going on at Downing Street, not much of it is really denied, and I think that the public have made up their mind. I think the facts speak for themselves.”
The Sunday Times is reporting the PM is also planning a series of policy announcements to win back Tory MPs calling for him to stand down, dubbed Operation Red Meat.
As well announcing a workplace “booze ban” he will give the military control of dealing with migrant crossings in the Channel, unveil new measures to tackle the NHS backlog, publish the levelling-up white paper, and freeze the BBC licence fee for two years.
The government is also set to lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions on January 26, but Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting suggested he could not be confident such a decision was not only being done to shore up Johnson’s leadership.
“If the Prime Minister or the health secretary from the Conservative Party is coming forward saying, ‘we’re going to remove Plan B measures’, I want to be absolutely confident they are making that decision in the national interest and not in the party interest, for party management reasons,” he told Sky News.
“I don’t have total confidence about that.”
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