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Rishi Sunak challenged over Downing Street COVID parties by man who lost his mother | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has been challenged over COVID parties in Downing Street while out on the campaign trail for the general election.

During a Q&A session in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, a member of the audience described how his mother died at the height of the pandemic in 2020 and neither he, nor his brothers, were able to be with her in hospital due to the rules in place.

“You’ll probably remember that was the month where all the parties were going on in Downing Street – I think the month after you attended a gathering where you got a fixed penalty notice,” he added.

“So my question was… how can anyone trust you or the [Conservative] party after things like this?”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Milton Keynes. Pic: PA
The prime minister on a visit to Milton Keynes. Pic: PA

Politics live: Man who lost mum in pandemic asks Sunak about lockdown parties

Mr Sunak, who was chancellor at the time, was among 83 people working in Downing Street who were fined by the Metropolitan Police for attending illegal gatherings during lockdown – dubbed “partygate”.

Pictures emerged of him and cabinet secretary Simon Case having food and drinks alongside Boris Johnson on the then prime minister’s birthday in June 2020.

Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie was also fined.

Mr Sunak said he was “really sorry” that the man lost his mother “in those circumstances”, adding that he “can’t imagine what it must have been for you not to be able to be with her at that time”.

But while he also apologised for the lockdown-breaking gatherings, he attempted to defend himself, saying the reason he was fined was because he “showed up to a meeting earlier”.

Rishi Sunak takes part in a Q&A in Milton Keynes. Pic: PA
Rishi Sunak took part in a Q&A session. Pic: PA

Mr Sunak said: “As you know, I was working on things to help you and your business and many other families like that, and in fact, it was probably in that same period of time that you got to know me as chancellor.

“Most of you didn’t know who I was before then and I popped up on your TV screens [and] announced the furlough scheme, because I knew that we were going to have to work together to get through that and it was going to be a difficult time and hopefully some of you here benefitted from some of the support that we put in place.”

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Rishi Sunak still
Mr Sunak was chancellor under Boris Johnson during the COVID pandemic. Pic: Reuters

Mr Sunak added: “So when you ask can you trust me… we have had some really big shocks over the past few years with the pandemic and what happened with energy bills, and when those things happened I did everything I could to protect you and your families and to help get the country through it.

“Whether it was furlough, whether it was the considerable support with energy bills, because that’s who I am as a person. I am in this to help you, help your family and, particularly when your country goes through tough times, I will always be there to support you.”

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But Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said Mr Sunak would “go down in history as the partygate chancellor”.

She added: “People up and down the country won’t forget Sunak’s involvement in Boris Johnson’s lying and lawbreaking government. His weasel words will come as cold comfort to bereaved families who struggled during the pandemic.”

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