Public should avoid ‘rushing to condemn’ Johnson over No 10 parties, says Education secretary

The Education secretary has urged people not to “condemn” the prime minister over Downing St lockdown party allegations before the results of Sue Gray’s investigation are published.

Nadhim Zahawi also said it would be appropriate for Sir Keir Starmer to apologise to the House of Commons for an alleged work drinks during a constituency office meeting in Durham last May.

Sir Keir has insisted the photograph of him drinking beer in Durham MP Mary Foy’s constituency office was a permitted work break, and did not breach restrictions on indoor mixing at the time.

“I say this sincerely, I watched Keir Starmer’s interview yesterday with Sophie Raworth and I hope he also apologises because it’s only right,” Mr Zahawi told Sky News Breakfast programme this morning.

He later told Times Radio that he had seen the BBC “questioning Keir Starmer on this and he didn’t apologise. That’s a mistake in my view.”

He also rejected speculation over ‘Operation Red Meat’ or ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ following suggestions that the government has been working on plans to persuade disgruntles voters with a slew of populist policies as questions around Boris Johnson’s premiership grow by the day.

“I’m a member of the Cabinet, I don’t recognise that language” he explained. “I don’t recognise this stuff as if overnight we’ve just trumped up these ideas, that’s not how government works.”

“I think the Prime Minister understands people’s level of hurt and their sacrifice,” Mr Zahawi, who served as vaccines minister before being promoted to Education, told Sky News.

“All I can say to you is I completely understand how people feel angry about this. Let’s wait for the investigation – it’s only right. Our British values are all about fairness and you don’t condemn an individual before having all the facts before you. The thing that you and I both know is he’s apologised and I hope other politicians do the same,” he went on.