Published: 12:06, 11 January 2022
| Updated: 18:10, 11 January 2022
Most Kent MPs have once again failed to condemn a party which took place in Downing Street at the height of lockdown.
It comes after the latest revelation about those at the heart of power breaking lockdown rules. Last month, only two of Kent's 17 MPs responded to the last PartyGate scandal.
So far 12 illegal parties are alleged to have taken place across government between May and December 2020.
This time an email has been leaked showing Boris Johnson's principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 Downing Street employees to a "bring your own booze" garden gathering to "make the most of the lovely weather".
Around 40 people allegedly attended the soirée on May 20, more than a week before the rule of six was brought in.
Boris Johnson and wife Carrie are reported by multiple sources, including former right hand man Dominic Cummings, to have attended.
But when approached this morning for comment only a few MPs responded, with one saying "It wasn't a good time" before hanging up and another saying "My comment is: 'no comment'".
Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat didn't reply to a request for comment.
This morning he was one of only a few MPs to tweet, sharing a "military banter" post about a man going to a termination interview dressed as a chicken accompanied by the message: "It's the expression of confusion on the dog's face that makes this OC's office complete."
Folkestone and Hythe's Damian Collins was also active on the social media platform this morning – sharing an unrelated tweet – but did not respond to a request for a comment.
When called this morning Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti said "it isn't a good time" and told our reporter to email instead before abruptly hanging up. When asked last month about Downing Street events the Tory failed to respond.
Sittingbourne and Sheppey's Gordon Henderson said: "My comment is: 'No comment'"
Dover's Natalie Elphicke said: “I was shocked to read the tone and content of the email.
“I have repeatedly praised our community for working so hard to keep each other safe during such a challenging time.
“An investigation is being carried out by senior civil servant, Sue Gray, and I await the outcome of that investigation.”
Faversham and Mid Kent's Helen Whately was in a Finance Bill Committee this morning and was set to respond on whether she wanted to comment in due course.
Kent's only Labour MP Canterbury and Whitstable's Rosie Duffield said: "It looks like we have all been lied to, again.
"It's offensive, and shows that this Conservative government is dishonest from the top and does not respect the public.
"People here in Kent have had to not visit dying family and not spend valuable time together while Boris Johnson allegedly partied with his chums and appears to have broken the rules.
"This PM is a large part of the problem but it clearly goes deeper.
"As we enter difficult economic times, how can we trust a government to stand up for the people it clearly doesn't respect?"
Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst, who did not respond when asked last month, has again been called and emailed about the latest incident.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson, who did not respond last month, has been approached as has Gravesham MP Adam Holloway.
A spokesman for Tunbridge Wells' Greg Clark said: "Thank you for your email. I’m afraid that Greg is in meetings for most of the day and won’t be able to get back to you before your deadline."
There were also no responses from:
Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch was pondering a new response, but asked in the meantime that we refer to her statement from last month when she said: "I am fuming! My constituents have every right to be angry. Their memories of lost loved ones are traumatised knowing that they died alone, first and last Christmases passed by, and many spent what is usually a special day by themselves. I am not even going to begin to justify or defend a party in Downing Street. We all deserve a fulsome explanation and apology and swiftly."
Referring to an ongoing investigation outspoken North Thanet MP Sir Roger, who alongside Ms Crouch was the only MP to respond last time, last night tweeted: "This is clearly a matter that Ms Gray will wish to add to her investigations and adjudicate appropriately."
Meanwhile the head of Maidstone and the Weald's Conservative association Andrea Thorpe told Radio 4's World at One: "I have spoken to quite a few members this morning and I am getting the distinct impression that people just want Boris to get on with running the party.
"Until it is proven that this was a party with people coming from outside, I'm just waiting on that. People do think 'Oh come let's just get on with running the country'."
This morning former attorney general Dominic Grieve said Johnson was a "serial liar" and must resign.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner asked an urgent question about the latest party at 12.30pm.
But Johnson was not there and nor were any of the cabinet, with the job of defending the Prime Minister this time falling to Paymaster General Michael Ellis.
During fierce questioning, which also saw one MP break down in tears while recalling the death of his mother-in-law who died alone during lockdown, Mr Ellis said he had full faith in the PM's integrity and repeatedly referred to Ms Gray's inquiry.
When asked about whether Johnson would resign if found to have attended the party he said: "The Prime Minister's going nowhere."
The Met Police have been in contact with officials following the latest revelations.
Meanwhile Johnson has said Mr Reynolds has "his full confidence".