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London politics latest: Sajid Javid admits there were parties in Downing St as he defends Boris Johnson

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The Cabinet minister defended Boris Johnson on Thursday ahead of a report on Partygate by a senior official – but admitted parties took place in Downing Street.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has called on people to wait for Sue Gray’s report, due next week, before passing judgements, stressing that it would be “absolutely crucial” to reveal what happened in number 10.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We now know there were parties. We know this because some of the people involved and who broke the rules have come forward to say so.

“For example, the one the day before Prince Philip’s funeral, it was completely false. It was false in every way. It’s already damaging, of course it is.

Downing Street has apologized to Buckingham Palace after it was revealed that two departures took place the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, a suitcase of wine was allegedly brought to No 10 late at night, and a member of staff reportedly acted as a DJ at one of the gatherings.

“If there were people at the heart of government who were breaking the rules, they absolutely should be disciplined and I look forward to seeing that disciplinary action take place,” Mr Javid added.

However, he also defended Mr Johnson who apologized for the May 20, 2020 ‘bring your own booze’ rally in the garden of No 10 when Britain was closed, telling the Commons he believed that It was a work event.

Mr Javid said: ‘The Prime Minister, he himself has said he has already taken full responsibility for everything that happened in Downing Street and he will come to Parliament once the report is out and respond to any question that will be put to him and that is the right way to go.

Live updates

1642689635

Train utilization up 10% at end of WFH order

Network Rail figures show the number of people using its stations between 6am and 10.30am today is up 10% on the same time last week.

It comes as Downing Street announced an immediate change to the work-from-home order, with Britons now encouraged to return to the office.

This is an increase from 275,000 people to 303,000 people.

The rise from Wednesday was only 1%.

Statistics show that the number of daily passengers was increasing even before the work-from-home guidelines were lifted.

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Sturgeon calls for independent investigation into blackmail allegations

The Scottish Prime Minister has said an independent inquiry should be launched into allegations that Tory MPs calling on the Prime Minister to quit were blackmailed and intimidated.

William Wragg, chairman of the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said he had received reports of conduct amounting to “blackmail”.

He said they included “staff at 10 Downing Street, special advisers, government ministers and others encouraging the publication of articles in the press seeking to embarrass those whom they suspect lack confidence in the Prime Minister”.

Asked about the allegations, Nicola Sturgeon told ITV Border: “These are extremely serious allegations – intimidation, blackmail and the use of public funds to do so.

“I would say that these accusations must be fully investigated and, above all, independent.

“With every day right now Boris Johnson is tarnishing the job of Prime Minister and I think if he has concerns for the interests of the country he will go.”

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‘Big mistake to attack the BBC’, warns Blair

Tony Blair has warned the government it is making a ‘big mistake’ by threatening to scrap licensing fees and cut funding for the BBC.

The former prime minister told BBC Radio 4’s World At One program that the company was “a great institution”.

He said: “It’s an internationally renowned institution, it does a lot of good in the country, a lot of people listen to it all over the world and I think it would be a big mistake if we put it in jeopardy.

“What this means for future funding…I’ll let other people more experienced than me determine that.

“I don’t like the attacks on him, I don’t think they are right and I don’t think they make sense for the future of the country.”

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Watch: Boris denies allegations that whips blackmailed rebel MPs

Boris Johnson says he has ‘seen no evidence’ to back up claims Tory MPs are being blackmailed or intimidated

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The pressure is mounting on Shaun Bailey

Shaun Bailey’s resignation from the London Assembly must be “inevitable” following his role in the partygate scandal, Sadiq Khan has said.

The Tory Assembly member, who opposed Sadiq Khan in London’s mayoral election last May, has already resigned as chairman of two key Assembly committees following the revelations that he attended a party at Tory headquarters during lockdown in December 2020.

But speaking at the first meeting at the new Newham Town Hall building on Thursday, Sadiq Khan said ‘Londoners deserve better representatives than this’ and called on Mr Bailey to step down.

Mr Bailey, who attended his first London Assembly meeting since December 15 on Thursday, offered no response to the Mayor of London’s comments.

There is now growing pressure from the London Assembly for Mr Bailey to resign, with Green Party Assembly Member Caroline Russell also calling on him to account.

My colleague Joe Talora has the whole story here.

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“It’s checkmate for PM,” says Steve Baker

Tory MP Steve Baker said it felt like a ‘checkmate’ for Boris Johnson over the ‘appalling’ allegations of parties breaking the rules in Number 10.

He told the BBC’s Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast: “It’s a sorry situation we find ourselves in. I am appalled that we have reached this position.

“We didn’t appoint Boris Johnson Prime Minister for his meticulous mastery of tedious rules, but it is appalling and the public is rightly furious.

“At the moment I’m afraid it looks like checkmate, but if he can save himself we’ll see.”

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No 10: Up to Sue Gray to decide if she’ll expand investigation into PM Checkers’ route

Downing Street said it was up to Sue Gray to extend her investigation to cover the Prime Minister’s decision to shuttle Checkers to No 10 in March 2020.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘The terms of reference already allow the investigation team to consider matters which they deem relevant or worthy of further investigation.’

Downing Street has repeatedly said the decision to go to Checkers at the start of the pandemic was because it was safer for Carrie Symonds, then pregnant fiancee of Mr Johnson.

She was “acting in accordance with clinical advice to reduce contact, given the nature of Downing Street and the way it operates”.

“The Prime Minister was going to work to lead the coronavirus response.”

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No 10 ‘unaware’ of plans to investigate blackmail allegations

Following a Labor Party call for an inquiry into Tory MP William Wragg’s allegation, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked about plans to open an inquiry.

“Certainly not to my knowledge,” replied the spokesperson.

“I believe the comment from my political colleagues was that we are not aware of any evidence to support these serious allegations.”

Asked about the Lib Dems’ allegation Mr Johnson is acting like a ‘mafia boss’, the spokesman replied: ‘We have again been clear that there is no evidence to support the assertions made, but that’s a question for the whips’ office. and not one I can comment on.

Asked whether Mr Johnson condemns all forms of bullying and harassment, he replied: “Yes.”

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London business leaders call for help

London’s business and political leaders have called for an unprecedented package of measures to help ‘energize’ the capital’s rebound from its worst peacetime disruption, write Jonathan Prynn and David Bond.

The demands came after Boris Johnson on Wednesday lifted the work from home advisory seven days earlier than expected due to falling Covid case numbers. The other Plan B restrictions will end next week.

The move was greeted with relief after a painful six-week ‘lockdown lite’ which once again emptied the streets of the West End and City and cost the central London economy an estimated £500million in losses commercial.

Writing in the Standard on Thursday, Professor Kevin Fenton, London’s regional director of public health, said we can now ‘look forward to life without restrictions and the London we love bouncing back’ while bearing in mind that the virus has not disappeared.

Read our full report here.

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Shadow Commons leader welcomes Wakeford to work

Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire has welcomed Bury South MP Christian Wakeford to the Labor Party – and urged his counterpart Jacob Rees-Mogg to also cross the floor.

She said: ‘I know the Leader of the House has repeatedly demonstrated his socialist leanings, so I remind him that he is also more than welcome whenever he wishes to come over to this side and join the MP for Bury South. .”