No10 frantically denies ‘stitching’ Boris Johnson

Downing Street frantically denied having “stitched up” Boris Johnson by referring possible Covid breaches to police today.

No 10 said there was no attempt by the government to sabotage the former prime minister and insisted that ministers were not involved in the decision to send material to detectives.

It is said that Rishi Sunak was only notified after the referral was made.

Johnson believes he is the victim of a “politically motivated seam” after Whitehall officials raised fresh concerns about events at the prime minister’s official country home, Checkers and Downing Street, during the lockdown.

The information apparently emerged after a review of its official journal by lawyers ahead of the public inquiry into the pandemic response.

Mr Johnson’s office has flatly dismissed the claim rules being broken, saying the developments are “bizarre and unacceptable”. “It appears that some within the government have decided to make unfounded suggestions to both the police and the Privileges Committee,” a statement said.

Downing Street frantically denied ‘stitching up’ Boris Johnson (pictured) today by referring possible Covid breaches to police

“Many will conclude that this has all the makings of another politically motivated plot.”

Friends of Mr Johnson have warned that he is “seriously considering” taking legal action against the government over the references.

This afternoon it emerged that the former prime minister is ditching the government-appointed lawyers representing him in the Covid inquiry.

In a letter to the chairman of the inquiry, he wrote: ‘You may be aware that I am currently training new lawyers to represent me in the Inquiry.

‘That process is well advanced, but it is in the hands of the Cabinet Office to agree financing and other practical arrangements. I have no control over the timing of that process.

“To this day, I have no representation and my legal team has been instructed not to give me any advice.”

Asked if civil servants or ministers are involved in a plot, the prime minister’s spokesman told reporters: ‘No. I think he has seen the details laid out by the Cabinet Office on this.

“To be clear, we have not seen the information or material in question. That wouldn’t be right. Neither did the prime minister.

“No 10 and the ministers are not involved in this process and were only informed after the police were contacted.”

He added: “To be crystal clear, the ministers were not at all involved in the decision to forward the information to the police.”

Government sources suggested that the information had been unearthed in the “normal disclosure processes carried out by lawyers acting on behalf of the Government Legal Department”.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The Cabinet Office has not carried out any assessment or investigation of the material that has been passed to the police. The ministers played no role in deciding whether the information should be released to the police.

‘The police were first contacted on May 16 before any ministers were informed. The decision to contact the police and the subsequent decision to share the information was not made by the ministers but by officials acting in accordance with the Civil Service Code.’

The Committee on Privileges, which is investigating whether Johnson lied to Parliament about the Partygate scandal, has also been informed. That notification was apparently signed by the ministers.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk previously said that due process had been followed and that “there was no ministerial intervention.”

Chalk told LBC: ‘A Covid investigation is underway. In the course of that, the attorneys must clean up or review the documentation to ensure it can be disclosed in the normal way.

‘Material came to light that was passed on to the public administration. The civil service considered that in accordance with its code, and without ministerial intervention, I want to make it absolutely clear, that then passed to the police.

‘From a civil service point of view, if they had sat down and suppressed it, people would have criticized them. If they passed it on, that will also raise questions.

“Ultimately, whether it was the right judgment to do so depends on what’s in those documents.”

Johnson’s office said lawyers for the former prime minister wrote to police to “explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is completely wrong in its assertions.”

It read: ‘No contact was made with Mr Johnson prior to these incorrect allegations being made to both the police and the Committee on Privileges. This is strange and unacceptable.

“Whatever the political purpose, it is clear that a last-ditch attempt is being made to drag out the Committee on Privileges investigation as it drew to a close and undermine Mr Johnson.”

Senior Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Johnson loyalist, told GB News he visited Checkers with his family during the pandemic, but the meeting was “totally within the rules”.

He said: ‘I can tell you that during that period I went to Checkers. I was invited there with my children, fully according to the rules. Another senior government minister was coming, but the prime minister canceled it because he was only allowed to have one family present at the time.

It is said that Rishi Sunak was only notified after the referral was made.

It is said that Rishi Sunak was only notified after the referral was made.

The fallout adds to the problems facing Sunak, who was fined for a Downing Street meeting during the pandemic along with Johnson in June 2020.

The prime minister’s press secretary said he had “definitely not” gone to Checkers in breach of coronavirus rules while serving as chancellor.

Asked if Mr Sunak believes the matter has been well handled by the civil service, the No10 spokesman said: ‘It is not for the Prime Minister to form a judgement. This has been a process in which the Prime Minister has not been involved.

“There are clear obligations regarding public officials and how they deal with these kinds of issues and the Cabinet Office has followed those rules.”

Sunak found out about the matter “after all the information was passed to the police” and “was informed before it became public knowledge,” the official said.