‘He was mugged by a cake’

The Scottish Secretary has mounted an extraordinary defence of Boris Johnson over the partygate scandal, claiming the Prime Minister was “mugged by a birthday cake”.

Alister Jack suggested that Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak were unfortunate to be fined by police over the scandal, arguing that “they didn’t attend a party, a party arrived”.

A loyal Cabinet ally of the Prime Minister, Mr Jack also said he was “optimistic” that he would continue to lead the country and that he wanted to “reset” his Government.

A birthday celebration for Mr Johnson held in Downing Street on 19 June 2020 resulted in fixed penalty notices being issued to him, his wife Carrie and the then Chancellor.

The party for the Prime Minister was held in the Cabinet Room after being arranged as a surprise by an adviser, with sandwiches, snacks, soft drinks and beer laid out on the table.

At the time, gatherings of two or more people indoors were banned by law, but Mr Jack said the Prime Minister had not known anything about the celebration in advance.

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“He was mugged, as was Rishi, by a birthday cake they didn’t see coming as they sat in the Cabinet Office,” he told Scottish reporters at a briefing in London.

“They didn’t attend a party, a party arrived and caught them out. I mean, let’s be honest about that. And the Metropolitan Police saw the word ‘party’ after ‘birthday’ and gave the pair of them a fixed penalty notice. And that is a matter of fact.”

Mr Jack also defended the Prime Minister’s handling of the Chris Pincher affair, arguing he had to be careful not to “jump to judgement” because there were “so many rumours all the time” about politicians’ behaviour.

“In Westminster, there are many allegations surrounding many people, and – I’m not going to say 90 per cent – but the vast majority of them turn out not to be true,” he added.

Mr Jack continued to back the Prime Minister despite the rush of Cabinet and ministerial resignations, saying he had personally always found him to be honest and straight dealing.

“I’m optimistic that the Prime Minister will endure. The road is bumpy, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise, but he has faced challenges before and he has endured. We need a reset of the Government, and that will come,” he said.

Calling for the rest of the Conservative Party to unite behind him, he added: “Divided parties don’t win elections. What I would say to people, to my colleagues, [is] you have a Prime Minister who got an 80 seat majority.

“The point is that he can achieve great things. He’s a great electoral asset to us.”

Mr Jack also said he had no intention of quitting as Scottish Secretary if Mr Johnson did resign, saying he would be happy to serve in the same job under a new Prime Minister.

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