Boris Johnson’s Chief Inquisitor, Partygate, is facing an investigation into a drinks party for his wife after a leaked invitation debunked claims it was a ‘work event’.
Tory politician Sir Bernard Jenkin, the top Conservative on the Commons Privileges Committee who so vehemently condemned the former prime minister last week, had denied breaking Covid rules while at a Commons function.
But his defense that he was attending a work event is scuppered by an invitation from his wife, Tory colleague Anne Jenkin, which The Mail on Sunday is able to reveal today. In a WhatsApp message, Baroness Jenkin explicitly invited her “favorite people” to a “birthday drink.”
When the allegations against Sir Bernard first emerged, Mr Johnson called for his resignation from the committee, accusing him of ‘blatant and monstrous hypocrisy’. Hours later, the commission ruled that the former Prime Minister had deliberately misled the Commons at meetings in Downing Street during the pandemic.
But an ally of Mr Johnson, who stepped down as MP before the report was published, said The Mail on Sunday’s revelation “invalidates the findings” of the 14-month-long inquiry.
Sire Bernard Jenkin is facing an investigation into a lockdown-breaking drinking party for his wife after a leaked invite exploded claims it was a ‘work event’. He is pictured with his wife, Anne, at the Conservative Party Summer Ball at the Natural History Museum, London, June 6, 2011
Tory grandee Sir Bernard Jenkin had denied breaking Covid rules at a Commons function. Sir Bernard is pictured in the Commons, September 30, 2020
Boris Johnson stepped down as MP before the report was published. Pictured, he returns to Downing Street after a cabinet meeting on December 8, 2020
The meeting Sir Bernard attended was in the office of Deputy Chairman Dame Eleanor Laing on 8 December 2020, when indoor socializing was banned in England. In her invitation, Baroness Jenkin offered “birthday drinks” for “some of our favorite people this Wednesday 8th 6.30 to 7.30 in Eleanor Laing’s conference room in [the] Commons’.
The message ended with “x anne.”
Although the invitation stated that the drinks would be ‘v small and social distancing’, this newspaper has been told that there were at least ten people in the room at all times, preventing effective social distancing. At the time, all indoor social gatherings were against regulations.
An ally of Johnson said last night: “Bernard Jenkin appears to have attended an illegal social event. If so, he withheld this crucial information from Parliament while sitting in court over Boris Johnson for over a year.
“This disclosure invalidates the Privileges Committee’s findings because its process has been corrupted. Sir Bernard’s whole case was that Boris ‘must have known’ he was attending an allegedly illegal meeting. Clearly Sir Bernard must have known he attended one too. This matter must be immediately investigated by Parliament.’
One of the people who witnessed the event said they had lodged a formal complaint with the Commons chairman Sir Lindsay Hoyle yesterday – and intended to present their evidence to the police. Scotland Yard has so far only received a complaint from a ‘third party’, not someone claiming to have direct evidence of misconduct and saying they are ‘assessing’ it.
Sir Bernard Jenkin’s defense that he attended a work event is scuppered by an invitation from his wife, Tory colleague Anne Jenkin (pictured together), which The Mail on Sunday is able to reveal today
Sir Bernard Jenkin has since declined to answer any further questions, and neither he, his wife (pictured together) nor Dame Eleanor would comment last night.
A Johnson mainstay said last night that the revelation about the true nature of the party would increase pressure on police to investigate.
When confronted last week about his attendance at the event, Sir Bernard was quoted in The Guardian as saying that it was “a working event held by senior figures in the Women2Win network, encouraging more Tory women to to stand for political office’ and that Sir Bernard ‘came to fetch his wife’.
Sir Bernard said curtly on the Guido Fawkes website: ‘I have not attended any get-togethers during the lockdown.’ Asked to confirm if he had been drinking at his wife’s party, he replied, “I can’t remember.”
He has since declined to answer any further questions, and neither he nor his wife nor Dame Eleanor would comment last night.
But a source told The Mail on Sunday: “That is absolute nonsense. He was there at the start and for the whole thing. Drinks.’ Dame Eleanor told Guido Fawkes she had a “business meeting” where “I was so strict with my six-foot ruler and told everyone we’re going to abide by those rules and be very careful.” When asked if drinks were being served, she said, “I don’t know. I’ll have to check.’
However, a source said: ‘There were at least ten people in a small room, so the social distancing went out the window. There was no trace of that ruler. People were very close together. There were four or five bottles of prosecco, snacks were ready and everyone got a piece of birthday cake.’
Mr Johnson is pictured returning to his home after running Oxfordshire, June 14, 2023
Sir Bernard Jenkin responds to then Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement to MPs in the House of Commons on the Sue Gray report, 31 January 2022
Two MPs who would have been present – former cabinet minister Maria Miller and backbencher Miriam Cates – did not respond to a request for comment last night.
Mr Johnson, who labeled the investigation into his behavior a ‘witch hunt’, told the committee that Sir Bernard should have withdrawn as he could not be regarded as ‘a valid judge or investigator’.
MPs will debate the report tomorrow and are expected to approve it, including a recommendation that Mr Johnson be denied the entry pass to the Palace of Westminster usually given to ex-MPs. To the relief of many Tories who fear an angry backlash from supporters still loyal to Johnson, the report passed without a formal vote.
During the inquiry, led by former Labor deputy leader Harriet Harman, Sir Bernard said: ‘The rules were clear, they were there for everyone and no one is above the law’ and that ‘it is only right that those in power lead by example’.