Update 12.01.2022: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has admitted attending an illegal lockdown party in his garden in May 2020. He said he did not know it was a party, but thought it was a “work event.” He stayed for 25 minutes, he told the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions today, 12 January. There have been widespread calls from opposition MPs and ministers in his own party for Johnson’s resignation.
Another day, another leak, another party, another set of allegations, another nebuchadnezzar of information appearing to suggest that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been lying, that his government repeatedly flouted the coronavirus rules they passed into law and asked the public to follow. A new email has been published by ITV News, sent by Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds to approximately 100 people, inviting them to a socially distanced “bring your own booze” event in the gardens of 10 Downing Street in May 2020.
The email, including the subject line, reads as below:
Socially Distanced Drinks! [OFFICIAL-SENSITIVE-No10 ONLY]
After what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening.
Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!
This event, which 30 people are said to have attended, is alleged to have taken place when official coronavirus rules in England stated that one could meet just a single other person from a different household, outside with social distancing in place. It has been reported that the Tesco Express next door to Westminster tube station was raided for very average bottles of wine, per the BYOB directive from Reynolds.
On the same day, May 20, 2020, then culture secretary Oliver Dowden said in the Downing Street press briefing: “You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart.”
It is not the first time the public have learned of a drinks gathering in the garden of 10 Downing Street; in December, the Guardian published a photograph showing Johnson, his wife Carrie, their new baby, former advisor Dominic Cummings, and Martin Reynolds himself at a table with wine and cheese and others socialising in the garden’s grounds beyond. This, the government said, was also a “work meeting,” which took place on 15 May 2020, five days earlier than the event Reynolds’s email invites guests along to.
News of that party/piss-up/meeting/work event came in the wake of a series of leaks at the back end of 2021 detailing a whole host of gatherings — during the summer and winter of 2020 — at the heart of government: Christmas parties, catered events, cheese, wine, and drinks dos took place when the vast majority of rest of the country was abiding by strict restrictions to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
The Prime Minister has consistently asserted that rules were followed, he personally broke no rules, and that restrictions had not been breached. Could it be that the party popper PM has been telling porkie pies?