Politics latest: Boris Johnson speaks out for first time on fresh rule breaking claims - labels claims 'nonsensical and bizarre' (2023)

Key points
  • Boris Johnson speaks out for the first time since fresh rule breaking claims
  • Johnson meets Trump in US to discuss Ukraine
  • What are the ex-leaders' histories with the country and the conflict?
  • Back home, people'fed up to back teeth' of ex-PM's COVID stories, says Starmer
  • Chancellor comfortable with recession if it brings down inflation
  • Hunt has 'right' attitude, says Lamont
  • Scotland 'to pilot a UK-wide deposit return scheme' for drinks bottles
  • Asylum backlog hits record high - as decision-making 'slows'
  • Beth Rigby:'Take back control' is an easy slogan to create but fiendishly hard to implement
  • Live reporting by Ben Bloch and (earlier) Faith Ridler


Watch in full: Boris Johnson speaks out for the first time since fresh rule breaking claims

Earlier this week, fresh allegations against Boris Johnson of lockdown rule breaking in Downing Street and Chequers emerged.

The Cabinet Office reportedly referred events in the former prime minister's diary to the Met Police and the Thames Valley Police, both of which have said they are "assessing" the claims.

Mr Johnson's spokespeople have denied that any rule breaking occurred, and have hit out at the Cabinet Office for contacting the police and parliament's privileges committee.

Now, Mr Johnson speaks for himself.

Watch the full interview with Sky News US correspondent James Matthews here:


'The domestic issue Boris Johnson just cannot leave behind is his behaviour during COVID'

"I have to say, it's not been easy catching up with Boris Johnson," says Sky News US correspondent James Matthews.

"He has been on a tour of the United States. In Texas, he met with influential Republicans in that party's heartlands. He met with former president George W Bush.

"Then he went to Las Vegas where he delivered a speech for which he was paid a reported six-figure sum.

"There was a media presence there. He managed to dodge that.

"Last night, he had dinner with another former president Donald Trump. They spoke about Ukraine - Boris Johnson has been banging the drum here for continued support for Ukraine in the conflict with Russia.

"But of course, the domestic issue that he cannot leave behind is COVID and his behaviour during COVID."

Watch the full analysis from US correspondent James Matthews here:


Boris Johnson: Events at Downing Street and Chequers 'weren't during lockdown'

Boris Johnson has told Sky News that the events referred to the police and parliament's privileges committee by the Cabinet Office were not during lockdown periods.

He told Sky News US correspondent James Matthews: "None of them constitute a breach of the rules during during COVID - they weren't during lockdown. They were during other periods of the of the restrictions.

"None of them constitute breach of the rules. None of them involve socialising. It is total nonsense."

Mr Johnson insisted that all events and meetings were within the rules in place at the time.

Read the full story here:


'Total nonsense' - Boris Johnson speaks out after fresh claims of lockdown rule breaking

Boris Johnson has denied fresh allegations that he broke COVID rules by hosting friends at Downing Street and Chequers will restrictions were in place.

Speaking exclusively to Sky News ahead of a flight out from Washington DC, the former prime minister labelled the allegations "a load of nonsense".

He also said it is "extraordinary" that the Cabinet Office passed these allegations to the Met Police and the privileges committee "without any attempt to establish what these things actually mean with me".

He added: "I can assure you that, and I can assure the public that they're all completely innocent and within the rules."

Mr Johnson was speaking to Sky News US correspondent James Matthews, who caught Mr Johnson as he was checking in for a flight at a Washington DC airport.

Asked about the rule-breaking allegations, Mr Johnson said: "This whole thing is a load of nonsense from beginning to end, and we've made that clear in the statements that I have issued.

"I think that it's ridiculous that elements in my diary should be cherry picked and handed over to the police, to the privileges committee without even anybody having the basic common sense to ask me what these entries referred to."

He said that he has "never seen" the prime ministerial diaries referred to.


'Astonishing betrayal': Tories face backlash for scrapping animal welfare bill

By Faye Brown, politics reporter

The government has been accused of an "astonishing betrayal" after scrapping its flagship animal welfare bill over fears it would be forced into a vote on hunting.

Farming minister Mark Spencer confirmed the long-awaited legislation - aimed at banning live animal exports and introducing powers to tackle puppy smuggling - will not progress through parliament.

The Conservative 2019 manifesto promised to bring in new laws to protect animal welfare, including tougher sentences for animal cruelty.

Mr Spencer insisted these commitments will be kept by introducing the measures individually before the next general election - expected by the end of 2024.

He also announced the launch of a new animal sentience committee, and a consultation on new financial penalties of up to £5,000 for those who commit offences against animals.

But campaigners and Conservative MPs have lashed out at the decision to abandon the bill - which had already suffered long delays since it was first introduced in June 2021.

Read the full story here:


Sunak has staked his premiership on five pledges but there are no easy answers to Britain's challenges

As a sullen Conservative party resumed its favourite displacement activities this week - arguing over the entrails of Boris Johnson's political career while taking chunks out of the civil service - few were paying attention to the only graph that matters in British politics, write Sky News deputy political editor Sam Coates.

The cost of government borrowing - a measure of whether global markets trust Britain to pay its obligations - climbed to within a whisker of the worst levels seen after Liz Truss's mini budget last Autumn.

This lunchtime 10 year gilt yields were around 4.35%, after higher than expected inflation figures led to the second biggest one week rise since the 2008 financial crisis.

During the Truss era, it peaked at 4.54% after the biggest one week rise. For four of the last five years, this measure was below 1.5%.

Instead the prime minister was sitting on the This Morning sofa, briefing the country about his Jilly Cooper reading habit while batting away questions on another political firestorm:record immigration figures.

There is no easy answer to the latest challenge Britain faces.

Read Sam Coates' full analysis of a pivotal week in Westminster:


'Take back control' is an easy slogan to create, but fiendishly hard to implement

Back in 2016 in the run-up to the EU referendum, and as Leave campaigners pledged to "take back control" of our borders, chief Brexit cheerleader Nigel Farage promised the British people that leaving the European Union would allow the UK to cut net migration to below 50,000, writes Sky News political editor Beth Rigby.

He wasn't the only one to promise to drive migration down. David Cameron and Theresa May promised to cut net migration to the "tens-of-thousands", while Boris Johnson promised in 2019 to reduce the net migration from the-then 226,000 a year.

Instead, seven years after the UK voted to leave the EU, net migration has hit a record high of 606,000 in the year to December 2022, while illegal migration has quadrupled from just over 13,000 in 2018 to more than 52,000 last year.

Out of control might be a better three-word slogan for the current state of affairs that puts huge pressure on the Conservative government - which now owns this mess.

Because it's easy to make the promise, but fiendishly hard to keep it.

Read Beth Rigby's full analysis here:


Rishi Sunak talks 'international collaboration' on AI with Google's Sundar Pichai

By Faye Brown, politics reporter

Rishi Sunak held a private meeting with the boss of Google on Friday as part of his ongoing discussions with tech leaders about the challenges posed by artificial intelligence.

The prime ministermet with Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google's parent company Alphabet, at the Darlington Economic Campus.

They discussed the challenges posed by AI as well as growing the UK's tech industry and the government's ambition tomake Britain a science and technology superpower.

On artificial intelligence, a Downing Street spokesperson said: "They spoke about striking the right balance to ensure the right regulatory guardrails are in place, whilst driving forward innovation.

"They discussed possible opportunities for industry and international collaboration on safe and responsible AI development and agreed to remain in touch on this issue."

Mr Sunak hasalready held talks this week with tech bossesincluding the CEOs ofOpenAI, Google DeepMind, and Anthropic.

Read the full story here:


Exclusive: Chancellor comfortable with recession if it brings down inflation

By Ed Conway, economics and data editor

Jeremy Hunt has told Sky News he is comfortable with Britain being plunged into recession if that's what it takes to bring down inflation.

The chancellor said that he would fully support the Bank of England raising interest rates higher, potentially towards 5.5%, as it battled higher-than-expected prices.

Asked by Sky News whether he was "comfortable with the Bank of England doing whatever it takes to bring down inflation, even if that potentially would precipitate a recession", he said: "Yes, because in the end, inflation is a source of instability.

"And if we want to have prosperity, to grow the economy, to reduce the risk of recession, we have to support the Bank of England in the difficult decisions that they take.

"I have to do something else, which is to make sure the decisions that I take as chancellor, very difficult decisions, to balance the books so that the markets, the world can see that Britain is a country that pays its way - all these things mean that monetary policy at the Bank of England [and] fiscal policy by the chancellor are aligned."

The comments came after market expectations for the eventual peak of UK interest rates leapt dramatically, followinghigher-than-expected CPI inflation data this week.

You can watch more from Ed Conway's interview with Mr Hunt below:


What happened outside Downing Street last night?

As we reported live yesterday afternoon, a car crashed into the gates of Downing Street in central London on Thursday - with one man arrested.

Just in case you missed it, here's what happened:

  • A silver Kia car crashed into the gates of Downing Street at around 4.20pm yesterday;
  • The car was immediately surrounded by emergency vehicles;
  • The Metropolitan Police confirmed there were no injuries;
  • Counter-terrorism police are not involved in the investigation at this stage, it is understood;
  • Rishi Sunak was inDowningStreet at the time of the collision, but departed after the crash - as he had planned;
  • One witness said he heard a "bang", then saw police pointing Taser guns at a man;
  • A man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of criminal damage and dangerous driving;
  • Cordons were erected around Whitehall, with police officers blocking access to the street from outside the Ministry of Defence;
  • It was quickly reopened to cars.

We have not had an update yet from the Metropolitan Police on the man arrested and the investigation into the incident, but we'll bring you any news as soon as we have it.

In the meanwhile, you can watch the moment of impact in the video below:

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