Boris Johnson has insisted fresh claims he broke lockdown rules are “total nonsense” and that elements of his ministerial diary were “cherry-picked and handed to police”.
The former prime minister was confronted by Sky News about the allegations as he made his way through the Dulles International Airport in Washington following a brief tour of the US.
Asked if he broke the rules he told Sky’s US correspondent James Matthews: “This whole thing is a load of nonsense from beginning to end.
“I think it’s ridiculous that elements in my diary should be cherry-picked and handed over to the police, to the privileges committee without even anybody having the basic common sense to ask me what these entries referred to.”
Mr Johnson was referred to the police by the Cabinet Office on Wednesday over events in Chequers and Downing Street following a review of his official diary as part of the official COVID inquiry.
Pressed on whether the entries showed him “mingling with friends”, Mr Johnson insisted “that is absolutely not what these diary entries show”.
He said: “I just think it’s totally nonsensical and bizarre that there are tens of thousands of entries in the prime minister’s diary. I’ve never seen these things before.
“I have looked through it. None of them constitute a breach of the rules during COVID, they weren’t during lockdown.
“They were during other periods of the restrictions. None of them constitute a breach of the rules. None of them involve socialising. It is total nonsense.”
Mr Johnson has previously said he believes he is the victim of a “politically motivated stitch-up” and ditched the government-appointed lawyers representing him in the COVID-19 public inquiry following his police referral.
He would not be drawn on who was “stitching him up” but said: “Someone somewhere thinks it’s sensible to do this. I don’t.”
However a Labour source said: ‘If Boris Johnson is confident he has acted with proprietary, then he has nothing to fear from scrutiny.”
Mr Johnson has already been fined by the Met Police for breaking lockdown rules and is currently being investigated by the privileges committee over whether he lied to parliament over his repeated partygate denials.
On Friday night the committee confirmed it had received new evidence from the government and had written to Mr Johnson for a response.
A spokesperson said: “The committee will take this evidence and Mr Johnson’s response into account when considering its final report. The committee is making progress with its inquiry expeditiously.”
The latest developments have turned attention back again to the partygate controversy which played a major role in the former prime minister’s downfall.
He was in the US on Wednesday when the news broke and during his tour met former president Donald Trump.
Johnson met Trump to ‘talk about Ukraine’
Earlier on Friday, Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said the purpose of this was “to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the vital importance of Ukrainian victory”.
It is not clear where the meeting took place, but during his US visit Mr Johnson stopped off in both Texas and Las Vegas.
Union drops strike ballot after last minute offer of talks
The two leaders have known each other for many years and worked together when Mr Trump was US president and Mr Johnson was in charge at Downing Street.
Mr Trump has spoken highly of Mr Johnson and earlier this month called him a “wonderful guy” and “a friend of mine”.
The two have previously been aligned on policy issues, such as Brexit, but they have also diverged in recent years, most notably on Ukraine.
Mr Johnson was still prime minister when Russia invaded its southern neighbour last February and was a leader in helping rally international support for the Ukrainian people and its military.
Meanwhile Mr Trump – who has touted his “very good relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin – has something of a chequered history involving Ukraine, dating back to before Moscow’s invasion last year.
In September 2019, reports emerged he had asked Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy to investigate then former vice president Joe Biden, who was expected to run against him in the 2020 presidential election.
That phone call led to Mr Trump’s first impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of congress – but he was not convicted after a trial in the senate.
Earlier this month, in a town hall conversation broadcast as part of his 2024 presidential campaign, Mr Trump – who is running to be the Republican candidate again – refused to say who he thinks should prevail and said he’d end the war in just 24 hours.
He said: “I want everybody to stop dying. They’re dying. Russians and Ukrainians. I want them to stop dying. And I’ll have that done in 24 hours.”