Time to face the music, Boris: PM braces for Partygate row in Commons

Time to face the music, Boris: Angela Rayner blasts ‘despicable’ PM as he braces for Partygate mauling in Commons and Tories turn on him with warnings government is ‘f***ed’ unless he says sorry – amid claims of MORE Downing Street bashes

  • Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement at the start of PMQs in a bid to quell mounting anger
  • Senior Tory MPs have told him he must resign if wrongdoing is proved or face a no confidence vote 
  • No minister took to the airwaves this morning in a bid to defend the beleaguered Prime Minister 
  • At least 12 Tory MPs went public with criticism, with some admitting voters were ‘rightly furious’ 

Boris Johnson faces a make-or-break Commons showdown over ‘Partygate’ today with ministers warning the government is ‘f***ed’ unless he can quell mounting fury.

The stage is set for an explosive PMQs with Labour’s Angela Rayner demanding he ‘comes clean’ after ‘despicable’ evasiveness over a ‘bring your own booze’ bash at Downing Street at the height of lockdown in May 2020. 

The picture is looking increasingly grim for Mr Johnson with Tory MPs angry that he ducked questions after the emergence of a bombshell email from his top civil servant inviting 100 staff to the event.

He is expected to try to calm the situation by making comments at the start of the PMQs session, with many of his own MPs insisting he must say whether he and Carrie attended the drinks do. Up to now he has batted away questions by pointing out that senior mandarin Sue Gray is carrying out an investigation.   

But further damaging allegations about parties in Downing Street are circulating today, and nerves are growing among Mr Johnson’s aides about the threat to his position. Snap polls have suggested that up to two-thirds of the public believe he should quit. 

In another bad sign for the premier, no minister was sent out to do broadcast interviews this morning – in echoes of the situation before Christmas when Sajid Javid refused to go out and defend the government.  

Yesterday the premier faced a ferocious backlash from families who were prevented by lockdown rules from saying a proper farewell to loved ones.

And senior Tories warned that his survival in No 10 depends on addressing the claims and restoring trust.

Several warned he will have to resign if he was at the ‘BYOB’ bash, while others suggested he could soon face a confidence vote.

Conservatives are split between those who believe the allegations are fatal to the PM and those who regard them as highly damaging.  

One Cabinet minister told The Times: ‘It’s not terminal yet — there’s still room for humility and a heartfelt apology. We’re f***ed unless we resolve it. Everyone knows this thing happened; nobody is disputing that.

‘The row has moved on from whether the party took place to questions around denial and prevarication.’

Allies of Dominic Cummings, the ex-aide who has waged a determined campaign against his former boss, have been gloating that Mr Johnson has just a 20 per cent chance of political survival.  

As Westminster gears up for another day of intense political drama:

  • Keir Starmer will face Mr Johnson at PMQs after returning negative Covid tests and being released from his sixth period of isolation;  
  • At least 12 Tory MPs went public with criticism of the Government, with some admitting voters were ‘rightly furious’;
  • A major Conservative donor issued an ultimatum to Mr Johnson to ‘sort it out or step aside … so that the Tories aren’t wiped out at the next election’;
  • The Prime Minister has refused to sack his principal private secretary, whose bombshell email inviting 100 staff to the gathering sparked the crisis;
  • His advisers were on alert over fears photographic evidence of the party could emerge;
  • It was claimed that one senior official at the garden party event joked about the risk of surveillance by drones;
  • The civil servant who runs Mr Johnson’s private office was facing claims of involvement in another boozy gathering that may have broken the rules.

Boris Johnson (pictured leaving Downing Street last week) has ducked questions about whether he attended the May 20 garden party, merely insisting it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into allegations of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall 

The Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 staff to bring their own drinks to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20, 2020 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’, an email leaked to ITV News shows 

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the PM’s position could be ‘untenable’ after the Partygate allegations

Only socialise with ONE person outdoors and work meetings must be ‘essential’: The lockdown rules for England on May 20, 2020

Much of Britain was paralysed in a state of fear over coronavirus on May 20, 2020, with the country only two months into the first national lockdown.

About ten days earlier the Government had launched a ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’ campaign, and the first vaccines would not be given for another seven months.

Indoor socialising with other households was strictly banned and only two people were allowed to meet outside in a public space such as a park while at least 6ft (2m) apart.

There was an exemption on gatherings where ‘essential for work purposes’ – but guidance said workers should try to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace’. 

No10 has relied on the get-outs for work when responding to other claims about parties.

Two women at Wandsworth Common in London on May 20, 2020

Britons were regularly washing their hands to stay safe and many mourners had to watch funerals from home on live-streams, with official guidance saying the only people allowed to attend were ‘members of the deceased person’s household and close family members’.

Some mothers were giving birth without partners, shoppers were queuing outside supermarkets which limited numbers of shoppers and others had vital medical appointments put back as hospitals struggled to cope with Covid-19 patients.

As for working from home, Boris Johnson said on May 10, 2020 that people should ‘work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home’ and also advised them to avoid public transport to maintain social distancing. 

Queues at a McDonald’s in Peterborough opening on May 20, 2020  

On May 20, 2020, there were 2,700 daily positive cases while the seven-day average stood at 2,328 – a number that was falling after hitting an average of 4,774 one month earlier.

There were also 268 deaths within 28 days of a positive test on May 20, 2020, with a seven-day average of 255. This was also down, from a peak of 976 on April 10.

As for the global picture, experts at Johns Hopkins University said at least 323,286 people were known to have died from Covid-19 while at least 4,897,567 had been infected.

Police at the Peterborough McDonald’s at lunchtime on May 20, 2020

And then-US president Donald Trump said having more cases in the US than any other country was a ‘badge of honour’, because it meant the US had ‘more testing than anybody else’.

In Britain, non-essential shops were shut and hospitality businesses remained closed, although a handful of fast food chains began reopening for takeaway on the day.

Photographs from the day show police patrolling a park in London to look for rule-breakers, and a group of swimmers in Edinburgh being broken up by officers. 

Thousands of people at Durdle Door beach in Dorset on May 20, 2020

May 20 also saw huge queues outside McDonald’s drive-thrus as 30 were reopened to the public from 11am.  

The move led to police being called to a drive-thru branch of McDonald’s in Cambridgeshire after dozens of customers arrived when it opened.

Cars were queuing around the car park as customers rushed to get their hands on burgers, fries and milkshakes. There were similar scenes at a KFC in Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough. 

A backlog of cars at a KFC outlet in Middlesbrough on May 20, 2020

Britons were also enjoying the warm weather at the time, with thousands of sun seekers photographed flocking to the iconic Durdle Door beach in Dorset on that day.

Dominic Cummings had already made his infamous 30-mile trip to Barnard Castle in County Durham to allegedly test his eyesight by this point, on April 12, although this was not revealed until newspaper reports about it on May 22. 

Mr Johnson’s fate now likely rests in the hands of Ms Gray, who was drafted in to investigate alleged lockdown-breaking Downing Street parties after Britain’s top mandarin Simon Case was forced to stand down from the probe.

The mood in No10 has been described as ‘bleak’ as Mr Johnson’s inner circle struggled to decide on a strategy to counter the claims.

Anxious aides have been asking friends how they think the situation will play out. 

It is unclear what Mr Johnson can do to reassure his fractious MPs, with the threat of a police probe hanging over Downing Street.

The latest ‘partygate row’ exploded on Monday night when an email invite to the party from Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, was leaked. 

The invite told staff that ‘it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather’ and to have ‘some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden’.

The event was held on May 20, 2020 – a time when the UK was still covered by stringent restrictions and people were banned from meeting up outside in groups of more than two.

Ministers and aides insisted they could not say whether Mr Johnson attended the event while the inquiry by Miss Gray was still ongoing. 

But their bid to ignore questions failed to quell sulphurous anger within the Conservative Party and from the wider public.

Even members of Mr Johnson’s frontbench team privately plunged the knife, with one senior minister telling the Mail the Prime Minister should resign. The minister suggested Mr Johnson should avoid a ‘slow, painful exit’.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross yesterday said Mr Johnson would have to quit if he was found to have broken lockdown rules and warned that Conservative backbenchers were already discussing a no confidence vote.

He demanded that the PM ‘just answer the question’ about whether he was at the ‘bring your own booze’ event. 

He called on Mr Johnson to ‘settle this right now’. ‘If there’s nothing to hide here, if there’s no issue, then just answer the question,’ added the Tory MP.

‘If the Prime Minister and others within No 10 breached that guidance while earlier that afternoon a Cabinet minister had told people what they were expected to do, but out the back in No 10 people were enjoying the sunshine in the garden, I think that is utterly despicable.’

In the Commons, Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis insisted the Prime Minister was ‘going nowhere’ in response to opposition calls for him to resign.

But a senior Tory said it was a ‘serious problem’ that ‘there wasn’t a single Government minister on the frontbench’ next to Mr Ellis as he responded to the urgent question. 

‘If the Government cannot even get ministers to defend the indefensible, how can they expect us to?’ the source told the Mail.

One Tory minister said Mr Johnson needed to execute a new strategy at PMQs today. 

‘His leadership will be put on life support unless he starts being upfront,’ they told the Mail. ‘It is critical that we get honesty.’

A backbench Conservative MP said of the PM’s position: ‘It’s a matter of when not if. It’s all that’s being discussed in the tearooms. I think the die is cast. I put in my letter weeks ago.

A teacher whose mother died alone five days before the No 10 drinks party branded Mr Johnson a ‘coward’ over his response to the scandal.

Valerie French, 68, was allowed just ten minutes with Marjorie Bourke, 98, before she was left to die from pneumonia and heart failure. 

Meanwhile Phones4U founder John Caudwell, one of the Conservatives’ biggest individual donors at the previous election with £500,000, has joined in on the criticism, issuing an ultimatum to Johnson.

He told BBC News: ‘Sort it out, Boris, or step aside and let someone else sort it out so that the Tories aren’t wiped out at the next election.

‘While the rest of us were striving to follow the ever-changing rules – including myself, even when I deemed them to be excessive at best, nonsensical at worst – those who were setting those rules were, apparently freely and frequently, disregarding them.

‘Each one of these new revelations gives greater force to the accusation that areas of the government think it’s one rule for them, one rule for the rest of us. This is disastrous.’  

Mr Johnson was branded a ‘serial liar’ by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, while Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said it would be ‘utterly despicable’ if he flouted rules. saying: ‘The Prime Minister can settle this right now, he can tell people: was he at the party or not?’

Last night former minister Johnny Mercer – now a vocal critic of Mr Johnson – issued a Twitter apology to constituents who had followed the rules, branding the situation ‘humiliating’.

The premier stood accused of going into ‘hiding’ after sending a junior minister to field an urgent question in the Commons this afternoon. 

In highly-charged scenes, MPs including the DUP’s Jim Shannon and Labour’s Afzal Khan spoke emotionally about their own bereavements during the pandemic and called for clarity on what had happened in No10. 

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson’s decision to swerve the confrontation – emulated by most Tory MPs – ‘speaks volumes’.

She said: ‘It is incredibly disappointing, but not unsurprising, that the Prime Minister of whom I asked this question is not here today despite not having any official engagements.

‘I think his absence speaks volumes as does his smirks on the media, the public have already drawn their own conclusions. He can run but he can’t hide.’

Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis apologised for ‘upset’ caused by the allegations – but insisted that everyone should wait for the investigation to conclude.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon called for the premier to quit saying people were ‘aghast’ at his ‘serial breaches’ of the rules. 

Scotland Yard has confirmed that they are now ‘in contact with the Cabinet Office’ over reports of the drinks event. 

The force is thought to be waiting to see if Ms Gray’s inquiry identifies rule-breaking before considering whether further action is needed.

A spokesman for the Met said: ‘The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on May 20 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.’ 

Lawyers have suggested the premier being there might not have broken the law at the time, as it was technically his garden.  

The raging ‘Partygate’ row was not even mentioned at Cabinet this morning, according to No10. 

But bereaved families vented fury and accused Mr Johnson of ‘smirking’ rather than answering the allegations.

And Sir Keir said: ‘Boris Johnson, your deflections and distractions are absurd. Not only did you know about the parties in Downing Street, you attended them.

‘Stop lying to the British public. It’s time to finally come clean.’

The PM sent Paymaster General Michael Ellis to answer the urgent question from Labour yesterday – but the benches behind him were sparse


Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross (left) and Phones4U founder John Caudwell, a major Tory donor, have criticised Johnson

Behind the email: Top mandarin who runs Boris Johnson’s private office –  for now 

Martin Reynolds is the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary.

Questions had already been raised over his future after Dominic Cummings last week revealed he was behind the May 20, 2020 party.

But Downing Street denied reports he could be moved into a low profile senior diplomatic role, possibly at ambassador level.

Martin Reynolds (above), the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, is expected to be moved after the Cabinet Office concludes its investigation into whether rules were broken at a series of No 10 gatherings during Covid lockdowns

Mr Reynolds was pictured sitting with the Prime Minister and Carrie Symonds at a ‘cheese and wine’ party held in the No10 garden on May 15, 2020. 

Days later he sent the email to more than 100 people, inviting them out again for a cheeky midweek snifter.  

Mr Cummings revealed the party on Friday in a blog, and claimed he warned colleagues at the time that the gathering broke lockdown rules and should not have gone ahead.

He said he wrote the warning in an email that could be discovered by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who is investigating the allegations that parties were held.

Ms Gray – who has a fierce reputation in Whitehall – is set to deliver her findings as early as next week. 

But the problems are already spiralling, with Tory mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street among those demanding to know immediately if Mr Johnson was at the gathering. 

One Conservative aide told MailOnline they personally would not have attended any such event at the time because they are ‘not stupid’. 

Another said the situation ‘really isn’t looking good’. ‘He has to find a new scapegoat now. Reynolds alone won’t be enough.’

They also pointed to a wider problem of trust in the PM, with polls showing his personal ratings plunging. 

A Tory insider told MailOnline Ms Gray was seen as ‘evil incarnate’ by some in Whitehall but her duty would be to protect the premier.  

‘Boris is going to protect himself. And people who have been loyal to him are soon going to see how that will never be reciprocated,’ they said. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Rayner said: ‘He doesn’t need an investigation, he doesn’t need a civil servant to tell him whether he attended this party or not.’

Asked whether she had confidence in Ms Gray’s inquiry, Ms Rayner added: ‘I have every confidence in Sue Gray to do her job and diligently do that, but I think this particular allegation does not need to wait for Sue Gray’s inquiry, which is a much wider one around the culture and what was happening at the time within the Government departments.

‘This is about the Prime Minister and his integrity, and whether he broke the law or not.

‘He can answer that question very simply, he doesn’t need to hide behind a civil servant or anyone else.’

Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood called for Ms Johnson to ‘show some contrition’.

The Commons Defence Committee chairman told Sky News: ‘I strongly urge the Prime Minister to act now, to apologise for No 10’s poor judgment, to show some contrition and to be committed to appropriately respond to Sue Gray’s findings when they come out.

‘We can’t allow things to drift, that is not an option.’

Asked whether he would consider it the ‘end of the matter’ if Mr Johnson ‘comes clean’ over the party claims, the former minister added: ‘It would probably be for the Cabinet then to judge, and then also what he says and how he says it.

‘But we need to get ahead of the story. This is distracting us, it is taking airtime away.’

Snap Savanta ComRes research last night found that 66 per cent believe Mr Johnson should quit over Partygate, including 42 per cent of Conservative supporters.

YouGov had similar results, with 56 per cent saying the premier should fall on his sword and 27 per cent saying the opposite. 

Whitehall ethics chief (and former pub landlady) who has previously ended the careers of ministers

Sue Gray, the civil servant probing all the alleged Downing Street parties, has previously ended the careers of high-flying politicians with investigations into wrongdoing. 

In her former job as director-general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office she had enormous power and long experience in Westminster scandals, and developed a fearsome reputation among ministers and officials. 

It saw her described as the most powerful civil servant you have never heard of. 

But her life has not been completely standard mandarin. In the 1980s she was a pub landlady, running the Cove Bar near Newry in Northern Ireland with her husband Bill Conlan, a country and western singer. 

Last year she told the BBC: ‘I loved it, loved it at the time, I’d never do it again.’

Whitehall heavy hitter Sue Gray is carrying out out inquiries into three alleged gatherings at No10 and the Department for Education in November and December last year, when indoor mixing was banned.

Her inquiry into the so-called Plebgate affair in 2012 led to the resignation of minister Andrew Mitchell for verbally abusing police on duty in Downing Street.

And her investigation into Damian Green led to his forced resignation in 2017 after she discovered he had lied about pornography found on his Commons computer.

Ms Gray is a career civil servant who was drafted in from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities after Cabinet Secretary Simon Case quit his role leading the inquiry.

He was forced to step down after it emerged a December 2020 quiz was held in his own department that he was aware of and spoke at. 

From 2018 to 2021 she served as the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance at the Northern Ireland Executive.

She returned to London to head up work on the Union in 2021. But she admitted last year she wuld not have come back to London if she had won the top Civil Service post in Northern Ireland.

She applied to run the service  after the retirement of previous boss David Sterling, but the powersharing executive overlooked her and two other candidates, leaving the post unfilled.

She told the BBC at the time: ‘Why didn’t I get the job? I’m not sure I’ll ever quite know but I suspect, you know, I suspect people may have thought that I perhaps was too much of a challenger, or a disrupter.

‘I am both. Perhaps I would bring about… too much change.’

As well as the 66 per cent overall who wanted Mr Johnson to quit, Savanta ComRes found 42 per cent of Tories wanted him gone.

Some 62 per cent felt the event in the No 10 garden in May 2020 was a worse breach of trust than the initial Christmas party revelations.

The survey of 1,040 UK adults carried out found the proportion of those who felt Mr Johnson should resign had risen by 12 points since December. Among Tory voters there was a nine-point rise.

And 65 per cent thought Martin Reynolds, the PM’s principal private secretary who organised the garden party, should leave his role.

Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta ComRes, said: ‘That rope for Boris Johnson just got shorter as the latest allegations of further lockdown breaches in No.10 emerge and, crucially, this time Boris Johnson may lack plausible deniability due to the rumours circling that he and his wife attended the drinks event on 20 May while the rest of the country were restricted to meeting just one other person socially outdoors.

‘A 12-point increase in those saying he should resign compared to Christmas Partygate is significant, but ultimately it’s not the court of public opinion that Johnson will be tried in; it’s his own party.’

The separate YouGov poll found 56 per cent of people thought the PM should resign, while 27 per cent said he should stay in his role and 17 per cent did not know.

When a similar question about whether Mr Johnson should remain as leader of the Conservative Party was posed by YouGov on November 22, 48 per cent said he should stand down, 31% that he should stay, while 22 per cent answered that they did not know.

On May 20, 2020, the Met had told people they could have a picnic, exercise or do sport outside providing you are ‘on your own, with people you live with, or just you and one other person’.

Oliver Dowden, then the culture secretary, used a Downing Street press conference that day to remind the public they could ‘meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart’. It is understood Mr Dowden was not at the ‘BYOB’ bash.

A total of 807 fixed penalty notices for Covid-related offences were issued in the week of May 15 – 21 2020 across all forces, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council. 

Mr Reynolds’s email, which was leaked to ITV News, said: ‘Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period 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!’

Downing Street said yesterday that the PM still has ‘full confidence’ in his PPS. 

Sir David Normington, a former Whitehall permanent secretary and former First Civil Service Commissioner, suggested there should have been an external probe into the Partygate claims. 

But he said Ms Gray was the ‘best person’ within Whitehall to look into the allegations.

‘She will be very aware that she has the reputation and possibly the careers of senior civil servants and possibly of the Prime Minister in her hands, and that is a very difficult position to be in, however fair and fearless and rigorous you are,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Calling the position Ms Gray finds herself in ‘very odd’, the former Home Office mandarin added: ‘She has in her previous role as head of propriety and ethics investigated Cabinet ministers, the behaviour of Cabinet ministers and so on, but I think it is fairly unprecedented for her to be investigating behaviour of the Prime Minister and, of course, of the Cabinet Secretary and the principal private secretary in No 10.

‘This is a step beyond, I think, anything she will have done in the past.’

Asked whether there should have been an external investigation into what went on in Downing Street, Sir David said it might have been ‘better to have someone from outside’, but added: ‘If we are going to have a civil servant doing it, Sue Gray is the best person to do it.

‘She has the confidence both of people who worked in previous governments, Labour governments and Conservative governments, so we are where we are.’

Mr Johnson’s authority has come under serious challenge among backbenchers and Cabinet colleagues in recent months, including over Partygate. 

In December, the PM insisted that a photo of a gathering in the No10 garden where staff were seen eating cheese and drinking wine from May 15, 2020 showed people ‘working’.

Another photo, obtained by the Sunday Mirror, showed Mr Johnson hosting a Christmas quiz in Downing Street in winter 2020.

The PM has also come under criticism for imposing restrictions including facemarks and Covid passes in response to the Omicron variant – an issue that sparked Lord Frost’s dramatic resignation last month.

Barrister Adam Wagner, an expert on Covid regulations, said that on the basis of what was known, the gathering on May 20, 2020 was ‘unlikely to be legal for attendees’.

He added: ‘Being outside the home was illegal at the time unless – the only potentially relevant exception – it was for the need to work. Socially distanced drinks and bring your own booze don’t sound like work.’

However, he pointed to a ‘loophole of people not themselves being liable for having parties in their back gardens’ – which was subsequently closed later in the year. He suggested that as a result the only potential legal threat to the PM would be as an accessory to other people’s breach. 


Labour MP Afzal Khan (left) told the Commons yesterdat: ‘My mum died of Covid in March 2020. She died alone in hospital while I sat in the car outside trying to be as close to her as I could. The DUP’s Jim Shannon (right) broke down as he said his mother-in-law died alone in 2020, and demanded full disclosure of what had happened in Downing Street

A snap poll found that 66 per cent of the public thought the PM should resign over the ‘Partygate’ furore

A Met Police tweet on May 20, 2020 laying down the rules that prevented more than two people from different households from meeting outside 

Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds (left) allegedly sent a ‘bring your own bottle’ email invitation

 

 

 

A previous photograph obtained by the Guardian showed an event in the Downing Street garden n May 15, 2020. Martin Reynolds is sat at the table next to the PM, bottom right  

Environment Secretary George Eustice was in Downing Street as Mr Johnson held the regular Cabinet meeting this morning, although many ministers are thought to have joined remotely 

Chief whip Mark Spencer smiled for photographers when he was spotted in Whitehall this morning

The ‘lockdown-busting parties’ that No10 is accused of holding during the pandemic  

Sue Gray is investigating four alleged parties in 2020 which the PM is accused of attending:

May 15, 2020:

A photo leaked to The Guardian shows government staff including Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie, and ex-chief aide Dominic Cummings sitting in the Downing Street garden. They can be seen drinking wine and eating cheese. More than a dozen other people can be seen in the photo. No10 denied this was a party, insisting they were all ‘working’.

May 20, 2020:

A second garden party at No10 is alleged to have taken place. A bombshell email sent by the PM’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, appears to confirm this. ITV News reported that more than 100 government staff were invited to the outdoor party, and that around 40 people — including Mr and Mrs Johnson — attended. Crucially, Mr Reynolds told people to bring their own drinks. No10 has insisted it will not comment as an inquiry is ongoing

November 13, 2020

According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and close ally of Dominic Cummings.

There are also allegations that the Prime Minister’s then-fiancee hosted parties in their flat, with one such event said to have taken place on November 13 2020, the night Mr Cummings departed No 10.

Mr Johnson was asked in the House of Commons on December 8 2021: ‘Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether there was a party in Downing Street on November 13?’

He replied: ‘No, but I’m sure that whatever happened the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.’

November 27, 2020:

The PM is accused of making a speech at a leaving do in Downing Street for Mr Cummings’s former aide Cleo Watson. Mr Johnson is said to have given a speech at a packed leaving do for Ms Watson, who left No10 to write an erotic political thriller about salacious goings-on in Westminster. At the time, Britain was in the grip of the second lockdown, with all indoor social gatherings banned unless they involved a single household bubble. The PM’s official spokesman did not deny the gathering had taken place but he said: ‘At all stages the rules have been followed.’ The PM’s press secretary added: ‘We don’t recognise this account, as we’ve said Covid rules have been followed at all times.’

December 15, 2020:

Pictures obtained by the Sunday Mirror show Mr Johnson on a TV screen flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in the No10 library. A source claimed many staff were huddled by computers in their Downing Street offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol while the quiz was taking place. The Mirror said a message sent by No10’s head of HR on the night of the quiz advised that those who had stayed behind to take part ‘go out the back’ when they left. The paper also unearthed the team names used that night, including ‘Professor Quiz Whitty’, ‘Rebels without a Claus’, and ‘Hands, Face, First Place’. 

December 18, 2020

At the end of November 2021, claims emerged that Downing Street officials and advisers made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts – although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.

Footage emerged of the PM’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton giggling about the event with other advisers.  

Mr Johnson said in an interview on December 7 2021: ‘I have satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.’ 

However, he also apologised for the ‘impression’ given by the footage. 

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey thundered: ‘This is yet more evidence that while the vast majority of people were sticking to the rules, those in No 10 were breaking them. To add insult to injury, on the very same day that the Culture Secretary said people could only meet in pairs outdoors, it seems Boris Johnson’s staff were holding a boozy party in Downing Street.’

Sir Ed added that Ms Gray’s inquiry ‘must interview Boris Johnson personally’ to get to the bottom of claims of Downing Street parties.

And Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, accused the PM of ‘sleaze and corruption’, and demanded he ‘come clean’.     

Mr Blackford said the PM ‘has no moral authority left’ and urged Tory MPs to ‘remove him from power’.

‘Boris Johnson must come clean and admit whether he attended, or was aware of, this Covid rule-breaking party in his own back garden,’ the SNP’s Westminster leader said.

‘People will find it utterly outrageous that while the rest of us were banned from public gatherings, the most powerful people in the Tory Government were boozing up at No 10 Downing Street, proving yet again that it’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us.

‘Boris Johnson’s Tory Government is the most corrupt in decades. If the Prime Minister had a shred of integrity or an ounce of shame, he would have resigned many months ago. He has no moral authority left, and as he won’t go his Tory MPs have a duty to remove him from power.

‘Sleaze and corruption are endemic at Westminster. The only lasting solution is for Scotland to become an independent country and escape the broken Westminster system for good.’

Speaking on his Moggcast podcast, Jacob Rees-Mogg said ‘you wouldn’t expect the name of extremely junior people to be put into public highlights’.

He said: ‘I don’t know what’s happened, I have no idea what will be concluded. But if there is somebody on work experience, who happened to be there for a week, it would seem unfair that that person should be named publicly.

‘If, on the other hand, the Pope had popped in briefly, somebody of that seniority, you would expect that His Holiness would be named.’ 

Allegations of that gathering, said to have been attended by 40 people, emerged this week when Mr Cummings said he had warned at the time the ‘socially distanced drinks’ would likely be against the rules and ‘should not happen”

The PM imposed England’s first Covid lockdown in March 2020, and it was not until June 1 that groups of up to six people were allowed to meet outdoors.

Ms Gray, a senior Cabinet Office official, also expanded her investigation to the May 15, 2020 garden gathering revealed by a leaked photo showing the PM and staff sitting around cheese and wine.

Mr Cummings, who was present in the picture, insisted in a blog post on Friday that there was nothing ‘illegal or unethical’ about that day, which he insisted was a staff meeting.

But the former Downing Street adviser wrote: ‘On Wednesday 20 May, the week after this photo, a senior No 10 official invited people to ‘socially distanced drinks’ in the garden.’

Mr Cummings said he and at least one other special adviser ‘said that this seemed to be against the rules and should not happen’, adding that he issued the warning ‘in writing so Sue Gray can dig up the original email’.

‘We were ignored. I was ill and went home to bed early that afternoon but am told this event definitely happened,’ he continued. 

It came as Covid infections in the UK fell again and hospitalisations stayed flat as pressure grew on the PM to release plans on how the country can safely live with the virus.

UK Health Security Agency bosses logged 142,224 positive tests, marking a week-on-week drop for the fifth day in a row. Infections in London — the first region to be battered by Omicron — plunged to their lowest levels in nearly a month, with rates now dropping in over-60s.

Another 77 deaths were registered within 28 days of testing positive, marking a 83 per cent rise on the figure last Monday. But that figure only covered fatalities in England due to the holiday, and the overall trend has barely risen ever since the ultra-transmissible variant took off.

Meanwhile, hospitalisations rose by just three per cent in a week, with the trend having finally flattened off after three weeks of steep increases. Rates in London fell again.

Both the government and NHS leaders are increasingly confident that Omicron will not overwhelm services, and even experts claimed that there was light at the end of the tunnel as ministers admitted Britain is on a path to ‘living with’ the virus.

MailOnline analysis shows daily Covid deaths are currently running at less than half the rate expected in a bad flu year, in another sign the UK is finally on the brink of beating the pandemic.

Dr David Nabarro, of the World Health Organisation, said coronavirus would pose a very difficult situation for the next three months ‘at least’ but insisted ‘we can see the end in sight’. 

Meanwhile, Professor Graham Medley, No10’s chief modeller, warned Covid ‘can’t be an emergency forever’ as he said ‘Government decisions’ would need to be made about scrapping mass testing and vaccinations.

They are the latest scientists to suggest that Britain is moving into a new phase of the coronavirus crisis now that it appears increasingly likely the NHS will cope without restrictions. 

Dr Clive Dix, the former chief of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, yesterday called for a return to a ‘new normality’ and for Covid to be treated like the flu. 

Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie, with their daughter Romy and dog Dilyn at Chequers in December

Furious Tories plunge in knife: Senior Conservatives deliver slam to Boris Johnson over ‘infuriating and humiliating’ party scandal and warn he may have to resign if found to have broken Covid rules  

A string of senior Tories broke ranks last night to deliver an extraordinary chorus of public and private criticism of Boris Johnson over the ‘Partygate’ scandal.

In a clear threat to his leadership, at least 13 Conservative MPs – many from the 2019 intake when Mr Johnson led the Party to victory – went public to condemn him over the claims.

They described the allegations as ‘infuriating’, ‘humiliating’ and warned that the Prime Minister would have to resign if he was found to have broken lockdown rules.

Sir Charles Walker, vice chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee, suggested the Prime Minister had about ‘six months’ to restore trust in his Government.


Johnny Mercer (left), MP for Plymouth, replied to a constituent who had missed his dad’s 80th birthday by saying: ‘I’m sorry. It’s humiliating, and does not reflect the majority of my colleagues who at least try and lead by example’. Sir Charles Walker (right) vice chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee, suggested the Prime Minister had about ‘six months’ to restore trust in his Government

But many MPs and even serving ministers went further, suggesting that his position could quickly be put on ‘life support’.

Others warned that backbenchers were ‘resharpening their pencils’ to trigger a confidence vote should a report by senior civil servant Sue Gray find against him.

Meanwhile Antony Mullen, leader of the Sunderland Conservatives, articulated the grassroots anger by publicly questioning how the Prime Minister could ‘survive’.

Disquiet on the Tory backbenches reached a crescendo before Christmas following an aborted bid to save former minister Owen Paterson, who was found guilty of ‘serious breaches’ of lobbying rules, and a row over vaccine passports.

Although that anger appeared to subside last month as the Prime Minister resisted another lockdown, it resurfaced yesterday following fresh claims of lockdown-busting Downing Street parties.

Mr Johnson’s most prominent public critic was Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross who demanded Mr Johnson say ‘right now’ whether he had attended the gathering on May 20, 2020. Asked if he thought Mr Johnson had misled Parliament, Mr Ross said: ‘I’m in no doubt that any member… who deliberately misleads Parliament cannot continue.’


Mr Johnson’s most prominent public critic was Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross (left) who demanded Mr Johnson say ‘right now’ whether he had attended the gathering on May 20, 2020. Asked if he thought Mr Johnson had misled Parliament, Mr Ross said: ‘I’m in no doubt that any member… who deliberately misleads Parliament cannot continue’. Four Tory MPs elected in 2019 also broke cover to criticise the Prime Minister. They included Natalie Elphicke (right), MP for Dover, who said she was ‘shocked’ by the allegations and Robbie Moore, MP for Keighley, who said they ‘infuriated’ him

Caroline Nokes, chairman of the Women and Equalities committee, said: ‘I have no words that can adequately express how angry I am at the ‘don’t do as I do, do as I say’ attitude that appears to have prevailed in Downing Street.’

Four Tory MPs elected in 2019 also broke cover to criticise the Prime Minister. They included Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, who said she was ‘shocked’ by the allegations and Robbie Moore, MP for Keighley, who said they ‘infuriated’ him.

Meanwhile Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth, replied to a constituent who had missed his dad’s 80th birthday by saying: ‘I’m sorry. It’s humiliating, and does not reflect the majority of my colleagues who at least try and lead by example.’

Nigel Mills, MP for Amber Valley, said he didn’t think anyone involved with the party ‘can stay in any position where they’re setting Covid policy.’ And Derek Thomas, MP for St Ives, said Mr Johnson should ‘consider his position’ if Mrs Gray or the Met found he was involved in any illegal activities.

Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East, said: ‘People are rightly furious… I am clear that those who set the rules must abide by them or face the consequences.’ Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said it was ‘unacceptable’ for anyone in Government to have flouted the laws and would be a ‘bitter pill’ for the public to swallow.

A senior minister also told the Daily Mail that the Prime Minister should ‘resign’ immediately to avoid a ‘slow, painful exit’. Another said that his leadership will be ‘put on life support unless he starts being upfront’ while one senior Tory warned that the damage ‘is becoming too great’. A backbencher said: ‘I think the die is cast. I put in my letter [of no confidence] weeks ago.’

Caroline Nokes (pictured), chairman of the Women and Equalities committee, said: ‘I have no words that can adequately express how angry I am at the ‘don’t do as I do, do as I say’ attitude that appears to have prevailed in Downing Street

‘How was your May 2020? I was forced to see my mum through a window’: Furious Brits share images of tough lockdown rules they faced at same time No 10 organised BYOB party 

Furious Brits today shared pictures of their May 2020s when they had to see loved ones through windows and could only meet one person from another household outside while No10 held a ‘bring your own booze’ party.  

A bombshell email leaked last night proved that Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 staff to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’.

At the time, indoor socialising was banned and only two people were allowed to meet outside while at least two metres apart under national Covid curbs. There was no mixing indoors, non-essential shops were shut, and hospitality businesses remained closed.

Today, Twitter users shared harrowing pictures they took around the time of the party, including grandparents hugging their grandchildren through plastic sheeting.

Meanwhile, while Downing Street staffers were toasting the sunny weather, officers were patrolling London parks looking for groups of more than two people, while in Edinburgh a large group of swimmers were broken up. 

It came as Tories turned on Mr Johnson today as he faces the threat of a police probe and growing pressure to come clean. 

The email apparently cause shock among some of the recipients at the time, who reportedly exchanged comments including ‘Why is Martin encouraging a mass gathering in the garden?’ and ‘Is this for real?’ 


Today, Twitter users shared harrowing pictures they took around the time of the party, which showed grandparents having to hug their grandchildren through plastic sheeting or struggle to communicate with loved ones through windows


Two police officers speak to a group of swimmers on Portobello Beach in Edinburgh. At the time only two people from different households were allowed to meet outside 



On a visit to his constituency yesterday, Mr Johnson ducked questions about whether he attended the gathering along with wife Carrie and 30-40 staff who feasted on drinks, crisps and sausage rolls – as has been claimed. Instead he merely insisted it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into allegations of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall.

Lawyers have suggested the premier being there might not have broken the law at the time, as it was technically his garden.

But there are growing signs of disquiet among senior Tories at the hypocrisy and evasive responses from the government. It is unclear how soon Ms Gray – who has a fierce reputation in Whitehall – is set to deliver her findings.

Health minister Edward Argar said in a round of interviews this morning that he understood the public’s ‘anger’ at the allegations, and stressed that he personally had not been at any drinks bashes in May 2020 as he was ‘glued to Zoom’.

Meanwhile, Theresa May’s former chief of staff Lord Barwell swiped: ‘Let me put this politely: it is not *entirely clear* why the Prime Minister needs to wait for Sue Gray’s report to find out if he went to a party in his own garden.’

And former Scottish Tory leader Baroness Davidson said: ‘Nobody needs an official to tell them if they were at a boozy shindig in their own garden. People are (rightly) furious. They sacrificed so much – visiting sick or grieving relatives, funerals. What tf were any of these people thinking?’

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘Boris Johnson has consistently shown that he has no regard for the rules he puts in place for the rest of us.’

Scotland Yard has confirmed that they are now ‘in contact with the Cabinet Office’ over reports of the drinks event. The force is thought to be waiting to see if Ms Gray’s inquiry identifies rule-breaking before considering whether further action is needed.

A spokesman for the Met said: ‘The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on May 20 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.’

On May 20, 2020, the Met had told people they could have a picnic, exercise or do sport outside providing you are ‘on your own, with people you live with, or just you and one other person’.

Oliver Dowden, then the culture secretary, used a Downing Street press conference that day to remind the public they could ‘meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart’.

Mr Reynolds’s email, which was leaked to ITV News, said: ‘Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period 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!’. 

Mr Johnson’s authority has come under serious challenge among backbenchers and Cabinet colleagues in recent months.

His government is fighting allegations that staff broke lockdown rules during the pandemic. In December, the PM insisted that a photo of a gathering in the No10 garden where staff were seen eating cheese and drinking wine from May 15, 2020 showed people ‘working’.

Another photo, obtained by the Sunday Mirror, showed Mr Johnson hosting a Christmas quiz in Downing Street in winter 2020.

The PM has also come under criticism for imposing restrictions including facemarks and Covid passes in response to the Omicron variant. It is understood that the issue sparked Lord Frost’s dramatic resignation last month. 

 

 

Social media users have flooded Twitter with hilarious memes mocking the Downing Street garden party after a bombshell email proved workers were told to bring their own drinks to the gathering at the height of lockdown.

It is understood that around 40 staff – thought to include the PM and his wife Carrie – met for drinks and food from 6pm on May 20, 2020, at a time when only two people were allowed to socialise outside while two metres apart under national Covid curbs.

A bombshell email leaked on Sunday proved that Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 staff to bring their own drinks to No10’s lavish gardens to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’. 

Scotland Yard has confirmed that they are now ‘in contact with the Cabinet Office’ over reports of the drinks party. The force is reportedly waiting to see if Sue Gray’s inquiry identifies rule-breaking before considering if further action is needed. 

Today social media users took to Twitter after the latest allegations to share hilarious memes as Mr Johnson’s government fights claims No10 staff broke lockdown rules.

Some Twitter users shared hectic scenes from musical festivals and compared them to the alleged No10 garden party, while others posted memes suggesting Scotland Yard are sweeping allegations under the carpet.


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