BORIS Johnson’s former chief of staff has defended him and said he gave a credible explanation for apparent breaches of lockdown rules


BORIS Johnson’s former chief of staff has defended him and said he gave a credible explanation for apparent breaches of lockdown rules at 10 Downing Street during the Covid pandemic.

Lord Edward Lister told GB News: “I was mightily impressed by his performance. I thought he came out fighting. I thought he gave a good explanation of what took place.

“I think there must have been enough doubt created by what the evidence he put forward and what he said.

“And I think he was very, very clear – he did not deliberately mislead Parliament.”

In an exclusive interview with GB News, he said: “I thought he gave a very credible, reasonable explanation about what took place in Downing Street at a particularly difficult time. And I think it is worth just remembering it was a hard time, it was difficult.

“There were a limited number of people in their offices and Downing Street, there were, what, 250 people in that building? It’s a very small building. It’s quite cramped at the best of times, and it’s an old building.

“So you know social distancing is never going to be easy in a place like that.”

Asked if he should have realised that bottles of alcohol at one event suggested it might have been a social one, he said: “He said two things on this, firstly, that he didn’t really appreciate that point at the time and he should have done later. And he acknowledged that and apologised for that.

“But he also made the point about morale and keeping morale up, but a difficult time when people were at work.

“Look, yes, it was a mistake. He shouldn’t have done it. And he said so and he apologised for it.”

He added: “Yes, there shouldn’t have been those drinks parties but did people have a drink at their desk? Probably.

“Things happen. You’re there for months and months. And it’s worth remembering people in Downing Street weren’t off. They weren’t working from home. They were all working in the office, very hard.

“Coming in very early in the morning because of the drumbeat of that building, it’s the same today as it was then as it has been for years.

“It’s a starting time of around eight o’clock because the day demands that and you rarely leave before eight o’clock in the evening.”

On a “booze fridge” in the study, he said: “I am not defending that. And to be fair, he apologised for that…

“Should he have apologised a bit earlier and that was a criticism they made? Possibly, yes. Possibly. There was a bit of a timing issue there but that’s all.”

Asked if the Commons Privileges Committee could end Mr Johnson’s career by recommending he be suspended, Lord Lister said: “I think that would be appalling.

“I really do think that would be appalling. I can understand why they have to rap his knuckles. I get that, I get that completely.

“But I think there’s a world of difference between something minor and something very serious.

“I do not think this is so serious that you should destroy somebody’s career and he has a rap. That’s pretty extreme by anybody’s standards.”