Scoffers edge back to No 10 during TV conference by Theresa May

MPs not given time to give a quote after BBC and Sky programmes underline similarity of the response to the Grenfell Tower blaze with April’s election aftermath Downing Street has declined to invite a…

Scoffers edge back to No 10 during TV conference by Theresa May

MPs not given time to give a quote after BBC and Sky programmes underline similarity of the response to the Grenfell Tower blaze with April’s election aftermath

Downing Street has declined to invite a group of senior government ministers to appear on air to answer questions about its handling of a gaffe-strewn party by the prime minister at the weekend, instead turning to an email to press its brief.

There has been widespread fury at a picturesque drive to Downing Street on Saturday evening as Theresa May invited her party of younger Tories and Downing Street staff to recreate a photo that famously showed the Queen at a political party.

The prime minister later cancelled her visit to Russia, which had been planned to take place on the eve of Tuesday’s summit of the G20 countries in the Russian resort of Vladivostok.

Leading MPs such as Damian Green, the first secretary of state, and Priti Patel, the international development secretary, were approached by the BBC to comment on the gaffe, and they declined to do so. The Guardian has also contacted Nick Hurd, the international development minister, as well as David Lidington, the cabinet office minister, and not one of them has agreed to do so.

Questioned on television and radio, Hurd said the Downing Street party was not a purposeful nod towards the Queen. “The Queen has done that before,” he said. “She did it on occasions when she attended functions that were about campaigning for the party, if you like.”

Asked why she couldn’t bring any senior cabinet ministers into the studio, he said: “She wanted to get in touch with the press in the sense that she wanted to put across a message that was relatively brief and specific. I would say that was the main reason.”

He was dismissive of the protesters that attempted to disrupt the event, saying that they were a “small minority of the British people” and denying that the prime minister was accused of a stunt.

Green said that on this and other occasions he had attended parties at Westminster, a situation that “hasn’t changed”. He said that he was not offered a place on television, but “the overwhelming message was how well Theresa May is doing, how strong and stable she is, how competent she is.”

Meanwhile, the unelected Cabinet Office minister, David Lidington, who is acting as May’s de facto deputy, said the gaffe was an example of good government.

“I’m slightly surprised that people think that this was staged or a stunt,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I’ve got to say the prime minister has reacted well to the events of the last week. People have been very impressed by her resilience and courage in the face of extraordinary pressure to resign.”

May had told her advisers to stop looking to her for an immediate response to the Grenfell Tower fire, Lidington added.

On Sunday, she said it was crucial that she appealed to the country for collective responsibility.

She told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “What I can say is that I will continue to make the big speeches, as I have done on the economy and on housing. And I’ll make the big speeches over the coming weeks.

“But I believe it is vital that my deputy, who is acting in my stead, gets out there and meets the British people, working with communities, working with MPs to produce a good deal for the country, a Brexit that works for the whole country, a country that works for everybody in our country.

“And that’s what I want to do, because I believe we are stronger and better together.”

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