Tory minister Conor Burns says Boris Johnson was 'ambushed' with cake at 'birthday party' in No10

By Katie Weston For Mailonline Published: 21:13 GMT, 25 January 2022 | Updated: 21:42 GMT, 25 January 2022 Boris Johnson was 'ambushed' with a cake while working at Number 10 and the celebration was n

Tory minister Conor Burns says Boris Johnson was 'ambushed' with cake at 'birthday party' in No10

Boris was 'ambushed with a cake' at lockdown-breaking 'birthday party' in No10, claims Tory minister sparking widespread ridicule of latest partygate excuse from Downing Street

  • Conor Burns backed PM after it was revealed he attended birthday bash in 2020
  • Northern Ireland minister said Mr Johnson was working before people came in
  • Tory MP added: 'As far as I can see, he was in a sense ambushed with a cake'
  • The comments led to a flurry of 'ambushed with a cake' memes on social media 
  • It follows Cabinet ministers downplaying seriousness of PM being at gathering 

Boris Johnson was 'ambushed' with a cake while working at Number 10 and the celebration was not a 'premeditated, organised party', said a Tory minister tonight.

Conor Burns defended the Prime Minister after it was revealed he attended a gathering, complete with a Union Jack cake and singing, that was organised by his wife Carrie in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020.

The Northern Ireland minister said Mr Johnson was working in the room before people came in and presented him with the cake, adding: 'He was there for about 10 minutes.'

The comments led to a flurry of memes on social media, with one person writing: 'Next up, Lockdown Parties with their latest single Ambushed By A Cake.'

Meanwhile, senior Cabinet ministers including Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries also downplayed the seriousness of the PM attending the bash. 

They insisted that the gathering of around 30 people specifically to mark the PM's 56th birthday in June 2020 could be seen as a extension of the workplace. 

A day of high drama and chaos in Westminster started this morning when Scotland Yard chief Dame Cressida Dick announced that the Metropolitan Police will finally probe alleged lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall. 

Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, defended the Prime Minister after it was revealed he attended a gathering, complete with a Union Jack cake and singing, that was organised by his wife Carrie in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020

Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, defended the Prime Minister after it was revealed he attended a gathering, complete with a Union Jack cake and singing, that was organised by his wife Carrie in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020

Boris Johnson holding a birthday cake presented to him by staff during a socially distanced visit to Bovingdon Primary School on June 19, 2020 - the same day as the birthday bash

Boris Johnson holding a birthday cake presented to him by staff during a socially distanced visit to Bovingdon Primary School on June 19, 2020 - the same day as the birthday bash

The comments led to a flurry of memes on social media, with one person writing: 'Next up, Lockdown Parties with their latest single Ambushed By A Cake'

The comments led to a flurry of memes on social media, with one person writing: 'Next up, Lockdown Parties with their latest single Ambushed By A Cake'

Mr Burns told Channel 4 News: 'You can characterise these things in different ways. My understanding of that, from what I know of it, and I know as much as you do or your viewers at home know, the Prime Minister was out on a visit.

'He came back, he was working in the Cabinet Room. People came in and presented him with the cake on his birthday, they sang happy birthday. He was there for about 10 minutes.

'It was not a premeditated, organised party in that sense, that the Prime Minister himself decided to have sent out. 

'He, as far as I can see, he was in a sense, ambushed with a cake. They came to his office with a cake, they sang happy birthday, he was there for 10 minutes.

'I don't think most people looking at that at home would characterise that as a party.' 

Questioned over whether his defence of the PM was 'farcical', the MP for Bournemouth West said: 'He's our leader, I support him. I want him to continue as Prime Minister. 

'I want him to show the British people what we can do in government to make their lives and their communities better.

'Of course, we want to draw a line under this, and that's why we want the Sue Gray report to come forward as soon as she is ready.

Downing Street has conceded staff 'gathered briefly' in the Cabinet Room following a meeting after it was alleged 30 people attended and shared cake despite social mixing indoors being banned

Downing Street has conceded staff 'gathered briefly' in the Cabinet Room following a meeting after it was alleged 30 people attended and shared cake despite social mixing indoors being banned

Scotland Yard chief Dame Cressida Dick announced that the force has now launched a probe into lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall over the past two years

Scotland Yard chief Dame Cressida Dick announced that the force has now launched a probe into lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall over the past two years

They are said to have celebrated his birthday after his return from a visit to Bovingdon Primary Academy in Hemel Hempstead (pictured), where the PM showed children how to social distance

They are said to have celebrated his birthday after his return from a visit to Bovingdon Primary Academy in Hemel Hempstead (pictured), where the PM showed children how to social distance

Timeline of chaos in Downing Street

9:30am: Boris Johnson hosts weekly Cabinet meeting in Downing Street. He is aware that Dame Cressida Dick is planning to announce a police investigation into Partygate, but he doesn't reveal this to the assembled ministers beyond an 'allusion' at the end. They find out via their mobile phones.

10.10am: The Metropolitan Police Commissioner uses an appearance in front of as London Assembly committee to confirm the Met had launched a criminal probe into Partygate allegations.

12:45pm: No10 suggests Sue Gray will pause investigating or publishing any party allegations that the police are inspecting but is free to publish other matters in her inquiry. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: 'As the terms of reference make clear, they won't publish anything that relates to the work of the police, there are a number of events and allegations that they have looked into that the police said don't reach their threshold, which they are able to continue looking into.'

1:20pm: Boris Johnson tells MPs: 'I welcome the Met's decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe this will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters.'

1:46pm: The Guardian reveals that the Metropolitan Police have no objections to the whole report being published alongside their investigation.

4:10pm: No10 confirms talks are taking place between Sue Gray's inquiry team and the Metropolitan Police to decide what can be published. The Prime Minister's official spokesman insists No 10 was not trying to block publication of the report.

 

'We want the Met to get on with looking at whatever they're looking at, and then to make their findings public and then the public ultimately will judge.' 

The Met's decision to probe the alleged breaches, announced at a London Assembly committee, represents a step change in the seriousness of the situation facing the Prime Minister and senior staff at No10, who could face £100 fines, and, more seriously and the end of their political careers.

Now it has been revealed that civil service inquisitor Ms Gray has obtained pictures of the parties, showing Mr Johnson and others close together next to wine bottles, reports Sky News.

Events had descended into farce by lunchtime today as No 10 insisted that the criminal probe meant that parts of an internal report by Ms Gray would not be published until it was completed. 

This stance, seemingly kicking the most potentially damaging parts of the report into the long grass, was swiftly abandoned, however, after Scotland Yard said full publication would not affect its inquiries, which carry fines as the most serious punishments.

Government sources insisted the final decision will be taken by Ms Gray after discussions with lawyers, and there is no 'pressure' from Downing Street. Sources tonight suggested that she could now release the full report as soon as Wednesday.

That would force the Prime Minister to come to the Commons this week and could intensify efforts by Tory backbenchers to oust him from office. 

Ms Dorries was one of the first out of the blocks to defend the PM last night after the allegations surrounding his birthday bash emerged. 

She tweeted: 'So, when people in an office buy a cake in the middle of the afternoon for someone else they are working in the office with and stop for 10 minutes to sing happy birthday and then go back to their desks, this is now called a party?' 

And Jacob Rees-Mogg walked out of No10 shortly after 10.30am and straight over to cameras to vow loyalty to Mr Johnson.  

He said: 'The leadership of this country that Boris Johnson has had, has been so brilliant that he has got us through this incredibly difficult period.

Boris Johnson came out fighting in the Commons today after police dramatically launched an investigation into Partygate

Boris Johnson came out fighting in the Commons today after police dramatically launched an investigation into Partygate

'He has got all the big decision right and we have opened up faster than any other European country thanks to the Prime Minister and I'm honoured to be under his leadership.'

Environment Secretary George Eustice was also sent out to bat for the PM on Monday night. 

He told reporters: 'What really happened here is a small group of staff who had been working closely with the Prime Minister brought in a birthday cake at the end of the day and there was 10 minutes there around sharing a piece of cake.

'I don't think that really constitutes a party in the way some of the more serious allegations that are being investigated maybe do.'

But other normally loyal ministers like Transport Secretary Grant Shapps were tepid in their backing for the PM this morning. 

On a morning media round he admitted he was 'upset' by the latest allegations.

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