UK Covid live: Starmer challenges Tory MPs to oust PM, saying he’s ‘not fit for office’; Omicron Cobra meeting called

Good morning. Boris Johnson has had a dire week and it shows no signs of getting any better. There are three stories around this morning, any one of which would be seriously difficult for No 10. Cumulatively, they confirm that there is an ongoing crisis.

First, it is being reported that Jack Doyle, the PM’s communications director, was present and gave a speech at the Christmas party on 18 December last year that seems to have breached lockdown rules. You would expect a senior member of staff to attend a staff party, but until now this has not been reported as fact. Given that Doyle has been in charge of the communications response to this story (still, broadly, “there was no party, and no rules were broken”), this does not look ideal.

Second, Christopher Geidt, the PM’s independent adviser on ministerial standards, is reported close to resigning after the Electoral Commission published a report yesterday that implied Johnson might have lied to him about what he knew about the No 10 flat refurbishment. The Telegraph (paywall) reports that Lord Geidt will “consider his position if Mr Johnson does not satisfactorily explain why he did not share vital evidence with him when he investigated the affair earlier this year”.

BBC News (UK)
(@BBCNews)

Friday’s Telegraph: “Lord Geidt on brink of quitting over PM’s flat” #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday https://t.co/D2PmaAKxkE pic.twitter.com/ZpKPWQ1Buu


December 9, 2021

This morning Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, cautions that a resignation is not imminent.

Laura Kuenssberg
(@bbclaurak)

Suggestions this morn that Lord Geidt, who did 1st report into No 10 flat for the PM might quit if he’s been misled – I understand he’s unhappy about what emerged yday, but has not as yet, seen the new information for himself, and not intending to go anywhere at this stage


December 10, 2021

And, third, Johnson is on course for a significant Tory revolt when MPs vote on the new Covid rules next week.

This morning there has been another development on partygate; Labour is encouraging the Metropolitan police to reverse their decision not to investigate the No 10 Christmas do. The police are operationally independent in this country – rightly, most people seem to think – and Sadiq Khan, who oversees the Met as mayor of London, and Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, acknowledged this in their interviews this morning. But they also delivered an implicit message that in effect contradicted this, by making it very clear what they think the Met should do.

In an interview with the Today programme, when asked if the police should be investigating the No 10 parties, Khan at first stressed the importance of police independence. He said:


I think it’s very important when you’re the police and crime commissioner that you don’t interfere with the operational independence of the police. Just imagine if I was to direct the police and try to give the impression they should be following a particular path. You’d understand if somebody charged with a criminal offence accused the police of prejudice or bias.

But then he changed tack.


That being said, I think it’s really important for the police generally speaking, to investigate crimes without fear or favour, and to go wherever the evidence points them.

Asked if he thought that was happening in this case, Khan said he thought he should not be directing the police. But he went on:


It is really important, in all cases, for the police to follow the evidence, and often find the evidence. The police do a great job finding the evidence themselves. They don’t wait to be sent an envelope with the evidence, or send a tape … I think there is a huge amount of concern. There’s a public interest in relation to the health of individuals but also the difference it makes if rule makers appear to be rule breakers.

Khan said violent crime should be the priority for the police. But then he deployed another “that being said” (a verbal cut-off that brings to mind the famous quote about the word “but”), and argued it was bad for public confidence in the police if allegations of law-breaking were not investigated. He went on:


Just imagine if the public stop having confidence the police will investigate crime. They’ll stop reporting crime, they’ll stop being witnesses. But also the whole fabric of trust and conference, which is crucial to policing by consent, breaks down.

And later, on the same programme, when asked if he thought the police should be asking to see evidence about what happened at the Christmas party, Streeting said Johnson had already said he was willing to hand over evidence to the police, “so I assume they are waiting for it, and I assume he will be doing that very, very shortly”.

Streeting acknowledged politicians should not direct operational policing. But he went on:


All the public expects, and I speak for them, is that the Metropolitan police will act without fear or favour, because on 18 December 2020 some people in Ilford, where I’m an MP held an illegal gathering, and they were in court being prosecuted.

And people expect the same standards to apply to everyone in this country whether you are the prime minister or whether you are just an ordinary citizen.

Here is the agenda for the day.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

12pm: The Office for National Statistics publishes its weekly Covid infection survey.

12pm: Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former chief adviser, takes part in an online Q&A on Substack.

12.15pm: Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, holds a Covid briefing.

12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, holds a Covid briefing.

Also today David Frost, the Brexit minister, holds another meeting on the Northern Irish protocol with his EU opposite number, Maroš Šefčovič.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com



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