London politics latest news: Dominic Cummings invites public to ‘ask me anything’ after partygate report

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·17 min read
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Former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings has invited the public to “ask me anything” following the publication of Sue Gray’s report into partygate.

The much-anticipated report investigating alleged Downing Street parties is expected to be published this week, although the date is not confirmed.

Mr Cummings has submitted written evidence to Ms Gray’s investigation, he said in his blog on Monday.

Ms Gray is investigating a string of bombshell claims about lockdown-breaking parties at Downing Street during the pandemic.

At the same time the prime minister has launched a Cabinet Office inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia after MP Nusrat Ghani claimed she was told she had been sacked as a junior minister because of concerns about her “Muslimness”.

Mr Johnson said he took the allegations “extremely seriously”.

Follow the live updates below.

16:22 , Lily Waddell

That is all for our coverage today. Thank you for reading.

Labour MP calls for wider inquiry into Islamophobia

14:56 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson confirmed an inquiry was being launched into allegations Nusrat Ghani was sacked from her role in the Conservative party because of her “Muslimless” on Monday.

Reacting to the news, Labour MP Tan Singh Dhesi said: “It should really not have come to this.”

He added: “Language matters, and that is why I think that the tone that was set means issues such as Islamophobia have not been taken seriously by the Conservative party.

“I hope that we will not only have this inquiry but a wider independent inquiry.”

Boris Johnson defends national insurance hike

14:19 , Sami Quadri

Following a visit to Milton Keynes Hospital, the Prime Minister was asked by broadcasters if the rise would go ahead despite widespread calls for it to be scrapped.

The Prime Minister said the money generated from the national insurance rise will help fund the NHS.

He said: “The NHS has done an amazing job but it has been under terrible strain.

“Listen to what I’m saying: We’ve got to put that money in.

“We’ve got to make that investment in our NHS.

“What I’m telling people is, if you want to fund our fantastic NHS, we have to pay for it – and this Government is determined to do so.”

Downing Street will decide what is published from Sue Gray report

13:59 , Sami Quadri

Boris Johnson will decide what is published from the inquiry into the so-called “partygate” scandal, Downing Street has suggested.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said “it’s very much our intention to publish the findings in full as set out in the terms of reference”.

But asked if it was up to the Prime Minister or Ms Gray what could be published, the spokesman said: “I think it is a report that comes to the Prime Minister.”

It comes amid concerns staff held back evidence over fears it would be seen by the Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings said further evidence of parties held across Whitehall, including in No 10, during coronavirus restrictions was being suppressed by staff “because they know the PM will see everything SG (Sue Gray) collects”.

Call to axe mandatory vaccines for frontline staff

13:48 , Sami Quadri

Unmet need is “paralysing” health and social care services and the requirement for frontline staff to be vaccinated against coronavirus must be abandoned, a social care boss has warned.

The Homecare Association said “serious harm” will be inflicted on older and disabled people if between 15 and 20 per cent of home care staff cannot work because they are unvaccinated.

It said the Government has “seriously misjudged” the balance between the mitigated risk of infection and the risk of people going without vital care.

Chief executive Dr Jane Townson said: “All along, we have strongly supported vaccination against Covid-19, as there is clear evidence it helps to save lives.

“At the same time, we have consistently argued that persuasion would likely be more successful than compulsion in achieving high vaccine uptake, especially among those with genuine fears.

“And we have repeatedly stressed the need to balance the mitigated risk of infection with the risk of older and disabled people going without vital care at home.

“In pressing ahead with regulations requiring vaccination as a condition of deployment in CQC-regulated wider care settings, including homecare, we believe the Government has seriously misjudged this balance of risk.”

British combat troops will not be deployed in Ukraine

13:42 , Sami Quadri

Downing Street has insisted that British army personnel will not be deployed in Ukraine amid fears of a Russian invasion.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there were “further signs of Russian aggression” on the country’s border and that “we are ready to act if needed”.

However, he added that there are “no plans to send UK combat troops” to the region.

The spokesman added: “We don’t speculate on things like sanctions, but certainly there will be significant economic measures put in place.”

Cummings submitting evidence to Sue Gray ‘in writing'

13:17 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings said he was not meeting Sue Gray on Monday but was submitting evidence to her investigation in writing.

On his blog, Mr Cummings said: “When SG (Sue Gray) asked to speak to me I emailed to the effect: if we speak the PM will invent nonsense and spin it to the media and you and I will both have problems, let’s keep everything in writing, therefore he cannot invent things I’ve supposedly said to you, there is only a written record, this makes both our lives easier.

“She agreed. So I have answered questions in writing and will answer further questions in writing if she wants.

“But I will not speak and therefore provide the PM with more chances to lie and confuse everybody.”

Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team to carry out Islamophobia probe

12:55 , Elly Blake

The Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team will carry out the investigation into claims of Islamophobia made by MP Nusrat Ghani, No 10 said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the inquiry had been launched “because of the seriousness of these allegations”.

He said: “She did speak to the Prime Minister back in 2020 and was encouraged to use the process through the Conservative Party.

“She’s made clear over the weekend that she felt it was not the right process and in light of that, that’s why we’ve started the Cabinet Office investigation, and obviously the Prime Minister spoke to her last night.”

The spokesman said he was not aware of whether Ms Ghani had made clear in 2020 that she did not think the Conservative Party complaints process was appropriate for her concerns.

He said: “The Prime Minister has been clear there’s absolutely no place in our society for anti-Muslim hatred, racism or discrimination of any kind.”

Cummings to do an ‘ask me anything’ Q&A session after Sue Gray report published

12:33 , Elly Blake

The prime minister’s former aide Dominic Cummings has said he will do “an AMA [ask me anything] after Sue Gray’s report is out”.

He called on the public to post and like questions, which will see him answer “the top rated, plus wild cards I think are most interesting”.

Sue Gray’s report into alleged Downing Street parties is expected sometime later this week.

Covid tests for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England axed, PM confirms

12:21 , Elly Blake

Covid-19 tests for fully vaccinated passengers arriving in England are being scrapped, Boris Johnson has announced.

It comes after the chief executives of the UK’s largest airlines urged the government to end all coronavirus-related travel restrictions in a bid to boost the ailing industry.

PM gives warning to Vladimir Putin

12:18 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson has warned Russian presidnent Vladimir Putin that invading Ukraine would be a “disastrous step” and a “painful, violent and bloody business”.

It comes after news that some British embassy staff and their dependants are being pulled out of Kyiv in response to the mounting Russian threat to Ukraine.

PM taking Nusrat Ghani’s concerns ‘extremely seriously'

12:03 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson has insisted he was taking former minister Nusrat Ghani’s allegations that she was sacked because of concerns about her Muslim faith “extremely seriously” after he launched a Cabinet Office investigation.

When will Sue Gray publish her report?

11:18 , Elly Blake

The much-anticipated report investigating alleged Downing Street parties is expected to be published this week, although the date is not confirmed.

Boris Johnson’s former aide, Dominic Cummings, is thought to be giving his evidence to the civil servant charged with handling the investigation, Sue Gray, on Monday.

Ms Gray - who is currently a permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office - is investigating a string of bombshell claims about lockdown-breaking parties at Downing Street during the pandemic.

The outcome of the report could threaten Mr Johnson’s position as prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party.

PM visits vaccination training hub in Milton Keynes on Monday

11:05 , Elly Blake

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has visited a coronavirus vaccination training hub at Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire on Monday.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)
 (PA)
(PA)
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

He was seen speaking to staff at the hospital, where he chose to wear a face covering.

It comes amid what is likely to be a tough week for the prime minister, ahead of the expected publication of the Sue Gray report into partygate later this week.

France's controversial vaccine pass comes into force

10:08 , Elly Blake

In France, all adults must now show a pass proving they are fully vaccinated against Covid in order to visit cafes, restaurants and cinemas, and to board intercity trains.

A proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.

Opponents of the plan say it violates principles of equality and liberty, and people’s individual choice on vaccines.

About 38,000 people protested against the pass across France yesterday, according to the interior ministry.

Less than 10 per cent of the French population is still unvaccinated with two doses.

Growth in the UK economy this month slowest since lockdown measures were in place

09:41 , Elly Blake

Growth in the UK economy this month is set to have been the slowest since lockdown measures were in place last spring, according to an early reading of a closely followed index.

The IHS Markit/CIPS flash UK composite PMI report came in at 53.4 for January so far, representing a 11-month low.

It reflected a further slowdown following the reading of 53.6 for December.

Scores above 50 represent growth, while anything below that is a contraction, meaning the UK’s private sector continued to expand during the quarter despite the slight slowdown in activity.

Long Covid: nearly two million days lost in NHS staff absences in England

09:24 , Elly Blake

NHS trusts in England lost nearly two million days in staff absences due to long Covid in the first 18 months of the pandemic, according to figures that reveal the hidden burden of ongoing illness in the health service.

MPs on the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on coronavirus estimate that more than 1.82 million days were lost to healthcare workers with long Covid from March 2020 to September 2021 across England’s 219 NHS trusts.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the APPG, said the government had paid “almost no attention to long Covid and the severe impact it was having on vital public services” and called for immediate support for those affected.

Increasing NI to pay for social care ‘the right thing to do’, says minister

09:12 , Elly Blake

Increasing national insurance contributions to pay for social care is “the right thing to do”, according to a Cabinet minister, as calls swell for the tax increase to be revised.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the move would “create a system of adult social care that is sustainable and deliverable without breaking families”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is really important to just focus on why we are doing this, why I think it is the right thing to do, because it will finally create a system of adult social care that is sustainable and deliverable without breaking families.”

Pressed on suggestions the move could “shock” the economy and prevent the tax rise from raising the predicted sums, Mr Zahawi replied: “I think the Treasury have done the work on this and it is the right thing to do.

“We will of course make sure we review any policy we introduce – if it is not working, then we will look at it. I absolutely believe it is the right thing to do.”

From April 2022, National Insurance contributions will increase by 1.25 per cent and will be spent on the NHS and social care in the UK.

08:33 , Elly Blake

Millions of Londoners including civil servants were today urged to rev the city’s economy back to running at “full speed”.

Cabinet minister Steve Barclay issued the appeal on the first Monday since working from home guidance was ditched.

He told the Standard: “Now we are learning to live with Covid and have lifted Plan B measures, it’s time to get back to full speed in all parts of Whitehall as well as London.”

Read the full report here from our political editor Nicholas Cecil.

 (Jeremy Selwyn)
(Jeremy Selwyn)

WHO chief says ‘we’ve still got a long way to trudge’ with the pandemic

08:23 , Elly Blake

A World Health Organisation chief has there is “still a long way to trudge” with the pandemic.

Asked whether the end of the pandemic is in sight for the countries in Europe, Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy for Covid-19, told Sky News: “The end is in sight, but how long is it going to take to get there?

“What sort of difficulties will we face on the way? Those are the questions that none of us can answer because this virus continues to give us challenges and surprises.”

He added: “It’s as though we’re just passing the halfway mark in a marathon and we can see that yes, there is an end and fast runners are getting through ahead of us.

“But we’ve still got a long, long way to trudge and it’s going to be tough.”

Some Britons being withdrawn from embassy in Ukraine - Foreign Office

08:19 , Elly Blake

Some British staff and dependants are being withdrawn from the embassy in Ukraine in response to growing threat from Russia, the Foreign Office said.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office stressed that the British embassy in Kyiv “remains open and will continue to carry out essential work”.

Hours earlier, the US ordered the families of all American embassy staff in the capital to leave Ukraine amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

Yesterday, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said there is a “very significant” risk that Russia will mount an invasion of Ukraine.

The UK has accused President Vladimir Putin of plotting to install a pro-Moscow leader in Ukraine.

Tory MP Nusrat Ghani ‘welcomes’ Islamophobia inquiry

08:01 , Elly Blake

Tory MP Nusrat Ghani has said she “welcomes” the Cabinet Office inquiry into allegations made that she was sacked as a junior minister due to her “Muslimness”.

She said she wanted the matter to be “taken seriously”, adding the inquiry should “include all that was said in Downing Street and by the Whip”.

Her statement in full: “As I said to the Prime Minister last night, all I want is for this to be taken seriously and for him to investigate.

“I welcome his decision to do that now.

“The terms of reference for the inquiry must include all that was said in Downing Street and by the whip.

“I look forward to seeing the terms of reference.”

Former Brexit secretary: ‘I will wait’ for Sue Gray report before making final decision on if PM should go

07:29 , Elly Blake

A senior Tory MP has suggested it is “pretty likely” he will submit a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister after the report into the “Partygate” scandal is published, political reporter Rachael Burford reports from Westminster.

David Davis said he will wait for the outcome of Sue Gray’s investigation before making his final decision on whether Boris Johnson should face a leadership contest.

The former Brexit secretary told the Today Programme said he will wait “three or four days” after the report into lockdown parties before sending a letter to the 1922 committee.

“I think it’s pretty likely I would want him to go, but I will wait for those few days,” he said.

“At the moment he has a legacy of having delivered Brexit and having brought us through the pandemic. As we carry on as we may do, month in, month out, it will do huge damage to the Conservative Party.”

Last week, Mr Davis called on the Prime Minister to “go” in the House of Commons.

He told him: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”

Chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady must receive 54 letters from sitting Tory MPs to force a leadership contest.

Mr Davis added: “I like Boris, I’ve known him for 30 years but the truth is we’re now into an issue of trust. I don’t think any of the proposed people (to replace him), I’ve seen in the papers have a trust issue.”

Islamophobia ‘not widespread’ in the Tories - Nadhim Zahawi

07:21 , Elly Blake

The education secretary has confirmed Boris Johnson spoke to Nusrat Ghani last night.

Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News it “takes someone a lot to make such a claim” but denied suggestions her allegations were dismissed at the time.

He said the prime minister “took it very seriously”, denying Mr Johnson is Islamophobic.

Mr Zahawi added that Islamophobia is “not widespread in any way” in the Conservative Party and Mr Johnson “doesn’t look at your background, your religion” when selecting ministers.

“I have not actually experienced any form of racism,” he said.

PM gives green light for inquiry into Islamophobia allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP

07:13 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson has announced an inquiry into claims by Tory MP Nusrat Ghani that when she lost her job as a minister she was told it was partly because of concerns about her “Muslimness”.

A No10 spokesperson said on Monday morning: “The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP.

“At the time these allegations were first made, the Prime Minister recommended to her that she make a formal complain to CCHQ. She did not take up this offer.

“The Prime Minister has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened.

“As he said at the time, the Prime Minister takes these claims very seriously.”

Read the full article here.

Good morning

06:46 , Elly Blake

Good morning, back again for another busy week in politics.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a make-or-break week for his premiership with his future in No 10 hanging in the balance.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi is doing the media rounds this morning.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, the final restrictions put in place in response to the Omicron variant sweeping across Scotland will be eased from Monday.

And foreign secretary Liz Truss has called for a “practical solutions” to resolve the deadlock with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Stay tuned for more live developments as they come...

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