Grant Shapps 'furious' with anyone who broke lockdown rules & admits 'mistakes were made' over Downing Street parties

GRANT Shapps today said he was "furious with everybody who broke" lockdown rules as he acknowledged "mistakes were made" over No 10 parties.

The Transport Secretary said he didn't "seek to defend" a birthday party held for Boris Johnson in Downing Street during the harsh Covid restrictions.

But he did back the PM who he insisted hadn't organised the "clearly unwise" bash, and said he still has full confidence in his leadership of the country.

No 10 staff gathered in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020 to mark Boris' 56th birthday – at a time when indoor social gatherings were banned.

It is claimed his then fiancée Carrie surprised the PM with a cake and led a chorus of Happy Birthday with at least 30 workers.

ITV News said well-wishers included interior designer Lulu Lytle, who was at the time in charge of the controversial six-figure revamp of the No 10 flat.

Mr Shapps said he "understands the sense of concern" over the latest reports of Downing St partying and acknowledged: "Mistakes were made."

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He said: "I understand the sense of concern about the sort of reports we see on the front of the newspapers.

"I do agree and understand why – not least from my own personal experience – this would cause upset."

"I feel personally very upset when I see stories about lockdowns being broken in in any form.

"I don't seek to defend it. I'm furious with everybody who broke the rules. I share a sense of unease about all this."

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But he also suggested that the gathering didn't really constitute a party.

He said: "The PM clearly didn't organise to be given a cake. Some people came forward and thought it would be appropriate on his birthday to present one.

"Most people would think of a party as being an arranged event rather than something where on somebody's birthday, in the office they work in with the people they always work with, someone says 'it's your birthday here's a cake'.

"These are staff he would've been working with and was working with all day long, and will have been many times in the same room with them."

The Transport Sec also said the June 2020 party took place during "a period of slightly more relaxed rules" on gatherings.

Lockdown 'regrets'

And he suggested "lots of people will have found they perhaps unwittingly transgressed the rules during the period of lockdown".

He said: "During Coronavirus lockdowns people will regret the things that they did."

In June 2020 groups of six people were allowed to meet up outdoors, but only two people could gather inside.

Mr Shapps wasn't allowed to see his elderly father, who spent four months in hospital during lockdown.

No10 insisted that the PM was at the birthday party for “less than ten minutes” after staff had “gathered briefly” after a meeting.

A spokesman for Lulu Lytle insisted the interior designer was at Downing St for work and hadn't been invited to the bash.

He said: "Lulu was not invited to any birthday celebrations for the prime minister as a guest.

"Lulu entered the cabinet room briefly as requested, while waiting to speak with the prime minister.”

Mr Shapps said it will be up to Whitehall enforcer Sue Gray, who is leading the No 10 parties inquiry, to decide if the bash was "appropriate".

She is expected to report back with her findings later this week in what will be a make or break moment for the PM.

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