Daily Mail

I suffered a Salem witch trial, says Boris

- By Jason Groves Political Editor

BORIS Johnson has compared Partygate to the Salem witch trials and criticised Sue Gray’s report into what happened for fuelling attempts to drive him from office.

The former prime minister told Nadine Dorries that the report had been used to blacken his name despite a lack of evidence that he had actually attended events that broke lockdown rules.

Writing in her new book, The Plot: The Political Assassinat­ion of Boris Johnson, which is being serialised in the Mail, Ms Dorries recounts a conversati­on with the former PM in which he vented his anger at the investigat­ion by Ms Gray, who has now become Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.

‘We tried after Sue Gray’s report appeared to track down the sources of her allegation­s. It all just crumbled away,’ Mr Johnson told her.

‘Most people think, as a result of her narrative, that I was either at illegal parties or knew about illegal parties, and I did not.

‘Nothing I attended in the way of thanking people, to keep morale up in the office with those I was sitting down with and working with all day long, went on for longer than was strictly necessary. Of course the notion of Partygate was a fantastic piece of media. BBC and Sky, they ran with it.’

Mr Johnson said he had asked for the Partygate investigat­ion ‘because I didn’t know what had happened’.

It began life under cabinet secretary Simon Case but was taken over by Ms Gray after it emerged that one of the alleged lockdown gatherings had taken place in Mr Case’s office. When the Partygate report was published in May last year, Mr Johnson told MPs he was ‘grateful’ to Ms Gray for her work, and apologised for events that had happened on his watch.

But Ms Dorries said that some of Ms Gray’s claims about covid breaches had proved impossible to substantia­te.

Writing in her book, she said: ‘If it looks like a stitch-up ... certainly, in the course of researchin­g this book, it would have been a great deal easier if the report had given some indication of who Sue Gray had spoken to.

‘Trying to verify anything – other than the most obvious facts – is almost impossible.’

Mr Johnson was fined £50 over a so-called ‘ birthday party’ event in No 10 when a number of colleagues, including Rishi Sunak, wished him a happy birthday at the start of a Covid meeting. Speaking to Ms Dorries, Mr Johnson likened the case to the infamous Salem witch trials in 17th century Massachuse­tts.

He said: ‘Frankly, the event I was fined for, the bloody cake that wasn’t even taken out of its box, I was sat at my desk. It’s not like I organised a social event. It was utterly mad.

‘It was kind of like Salem. The idea of an illicit party. Absolute nonsense. There were people working around the clock to save others from a virus. My efforts were totally fixed on getting us a vaccine; that was the way out of this mess.

Ms Dorries says a No10 insider told her that, regarding the parties: ‘Boris had absolutely no knowledge they were taking place. He wasn’t even in the building for the main one that was investigat­ed.’

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