Boris Johnson joked about Vladimir Putin, his Partygate scandal troubles and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s approach to transgender rights at a dinner for Conservative MPs.
The prime minister is said to have made light of the Russian leader’s political position and his own struggles to contain a backbench Tory rebellion over parties while speaking at London’s Park Plaza hotel.
“One of reasons that Putin is deluded and isolated is because he has no cabinet of equals, no 1922 committee and nobody to write 54 letters to Sir Graham Brady,” Mr Johnson quipped, according to Politico.
The prime minister described the recent no-confidence letters sent to the 1922 committee chair, some of which have now been withdrawn, as “elastic – they go in and you can pull them out.”
Mr Johnson also joked about Sir Keir’s refusal to answer questions on whether a woman can have a penis. “Good evening ladies and gentleman, or as Keir Starmer would put it, people who are assigned female or male at birth.”
The Labour leader had said too many people were intolerant of others when discussing the issue when he was asked about the matter on LBC earlier this week.
Asked if a woman can have a penis, Sir Keir said: “I don’t think we can conduct this debate with … I don’t think that discussing this issue in this way helps anyone in the long run.”
It comes as Conservative MP Jamie Wallis announced he has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. In a highly personal statement on Twitter, the Bridgend MP said he was trans, “or to be more accurate, I want to be”.
Meanwhile, Tory ministers were heckled by bereaved families of Covid victims as they attended a dinner held by the prime minister at the Park Plaza on Tuesday night.
Shouts of “Shame on You” and “Off to another party are we?” were directed at cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg as they turned up to the venue, where a penthouse costs up to £653 a night.
It came after the Metropolitan Police earlier confirmed Partygate investigators will begin handing out 20 fines over gatherings held across Whitehall during Covid measures.
June Newbon, who lost her husband to the virus, branded the evening “disgusting” in light of the Met’s conclusion that Covid laws were broken at the heart of government.
She said holding a lavish dinner was especially inappropriate given the cost-of-living crisis hitting millions of people and the war in Ukraine. “I think it’s disgusting. No-one else can afford to do this given the prices going up, and the war as well.”
Mr Johnson was said to have admitted he is currently “more popular in parts of Kyiv than in parts of Kensington” at the dinner, but vowed to “turn” his popularity around.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said there may still come a “day of reckoning” regard to the partygate scandal, but not at this moment in time.
Mr Bridgen, who has withdrawn the letter of no confidence in the PM, said he would back Mr Johnson if there was a vote on his future “otherwise we’d be playing into the hands of Mr Putin”.
The public may never know who in government is issued with a fixed-penalty notice (FPN), as Scotland Yard said they would remain anonymous – although Downing Street has promised to confirm if Mr Johnson or cabinet secretary Simon Case are fined.
Former chief whip Mark Harper suggested law-breaking civil servants or special advisers would have to be sacked. In a tweet, the Tory MP posted a screenshot of the Civil Service Code, highlighting a passage saying they must “comply with the law”.