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UK's Johnson accused by ex-aide of lying about lockdown parties

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during a press conference for the latest COVID-19 update, in the Downing Street briefing room, in central London, the UK, on December 8, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of lying by his former aide after his office denied that the PM was warned against allowing a drinking party during the first COVID-19 lockdown in May 2020.

In a new blog published on Monday, Dominic Cummings revealed that Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s principal private secretary (PPS) who arranged the party, had checked with Johnson on whether the party should go ahead, and the PM had agreed that it should.

Cummings wrote that he personally heard Reynolds saying “as long as it’s socially distanced I think it’s OK, I’ll check with the PM if he’s happy for it to go ahead.”

“Not only me, but other eyewitnesses who discussed this at the time, would swear under oath this is what happened,” Cummings wrote in his blog post.

Cummings claimed that he repeatedly told Johnson that the PPS should be replaced as an upgrade to the management, but heard him saying: “He’s MY guy; I don’t want you replacing him with YOUR person.”

The development comes on the heels of Johnson’s apology over his participation in the party in the back garden of No. 10 Downing Street when the rest of the country was under a strict COVID-19 lockdown.

However, he claimed that he did not know that the event was a social gathering, in spite of the fact that over a hundred invitations were sent to the staff.

“I want to apologize. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months,” Johnson told the House of Commons during the weekly session on Wednesday.

“I know the rage they feel with me over the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules,” he added.

According to reports, Sue Gray, a senior civil servant responsible for the investigation into the Downing Street lockdown-breaking parties, could make a formal request to interview Cummings and add it to her inquiry.

Gray’s report, which is examining more than 15 separate allegations of illegal gatherings in Downing Street, is due to be delivered by the end of the month.

A former Downing Street staffer was quoted as saying by the Guardian that it was “inconceivable” that Martin would go ahead without checking with Johnson.

“There is no way Martin would go ahead without checking with Boris. There is no way any PPS would. If two senior people come to you and say, ‘this shouldn’t happen’, you don’t then proceed with it without speaking to the principal,” he states.

The party on 20 May last year has snowballed into a major controversy for Johnson, with several lawmakers calling for his immediate resignation.

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