Somerset MP defends PM attending Downing Street 'party' after 'busy day'

James Heappey Sky News

Wells MP James Heappey appeared on Sky News with Kay Burley - Credit: Sky News

A Somerset MP has said he imagines the Prime Minister attended a party in the garden of Number 10 Downing Street having been 'grabbed from his office at the end of a very busy day'.

Armed Forces Minister and Wells MP James Heappey - whose constituency includes Burnham on Sea - did the rounds on television this morning (January 19), answering questions on a range of issues - including the Partygate scandal which has engulfed Boris Johnson's Government in recent weeks.

Appearing on Sky News with Kay Burley, Mr Heappey outlined his theory on how the Prime Minister's appearance at the party came about.

"The reality is, the Prime Minister's day is put together in five-minute blocks," he said. 

"I spent six months as his Parliamentary Private Secretary, running around in Downing Street and around Westminster behind him and it is the most extraordinary job.

"You can bounce from a national security meeting, straight into a meeting with fellow ministers on a domestic policy issue, straight into a phone call with a foreign leader and then someone comes and grabs you from your office and takes you down to the garden - and in the 30 seconds that takes to get down the stairs you get a pre-brief on what is going on at the thing you're going to."

He added: "I can perfectly imagine, having worked closely with him, and in Number 10, exactly how this happened.

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"He will have been grabbed from his office at the end of a busy day of very significant decisions around the pandemic and everything else that was going on in the world, and would have been launched into an event which he himself said at the Despatch Box (in the House of Commons), he should have shut down immediately.

"He has apologised for what happened."

Mr Heappey's appearances came amid reports of growing anger among Conservative MPs at the Prime Minister's defence of his attendance at the Downing Street party - and at other reports of a culture which allowed parties and social gatherings at the heart of government.

On Good Morning Britain, he said he accepted Mr Johnson's explanation that he 'didn't know' the event he attended - where attendees were reportedly drinking alcohol and enjoying food laid out on trestle tables - was a 'party'.

"I'm choosing to take the Prime Minister at his word," Mr Heappey said.

"I'm not suggesting for a second he didn't know the rules, I am accepting that he didn't know the event he was about to walk into was breaking them."

Asked whether he thinks the Prime Minister will 'survive' PMQs this afternoon, he said he expects the session to be 'a festival of political blood-letting'.

However, he told Kay Burley he did not think the time was right to oust Mr Johnson.

"I suspect there are lots of colleagues reflecting on what they've heard in their constituencies and are feeling under a lot of pressure right now," he said.

"The Prime Minister has apologised and I can tell colleagues that the meetings (when) I see the Prime Minister, which are some of the meetings in which we discuss the most sensitive matters that the state has to deal with at a time when the world is incredibly unstable, the Prime Minister is taking really big decisions and is making the right calls and this doesn't fell like the time to be changing our Prime Minister if you ask me."