Fresh allegations have emerged that Boris Johnson attended a social gathering during the first lockdown. Unlike with previous leaks, this gathering appears to be purely social in nature, being described in an email from the Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds as “socially distanced drinks in the No. 10 garden”, inviting attendees to “bring your own booze!”. It is hard to see how this can be explained away as work-related and not a social gathering, which were banned at the time. The same day it took place, May 20th 2020, Oliver Dowden, then Culture Secretary, urged the public only to meet one other person outdoors. Witnesses say the Prime Minister and his wife were among around 40 attendees, and Boris refused to deny the allegation in an interview on Monday. The Telegraph has the story.
The email, which was obtained by 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 No. 10 garden this evening.
“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”
Unlike other leaks relating to gatherings during the pandemic, the email is particularly damaging for the Prime Minister because it appears to make clear the event was solely a social gathering.
Downing Street has insisted that other events, including the gathering Mr Johnson was photographed at in the garden on May 15th 2020, were informal and related to work.
On Monday Adam Wagner, a leading lawyer and expert on Covid regulations, said: “This looks unlikely to be legal for attendees. 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’/’BYOB’ don’t sound like work.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “It is terrible and I think many people that see the evidence now will not only think that Boris Johnson’s lies are catching up with him, but will see it as absolutely despicable that when they were actually told to follow the rules, Boris Johnson and No 10 were breaking the rules.
“It is disgraceful and he should be ashamed.”
On Monday, Liberal Democrat spokesman said the party planned to report the leaked email to the Metropolitan Police.
The force has previously said it does not typically investigate historic allegations that lockdown rules have been breached.
It is understood that the email will now form part of the official probe being carried out by [Sue] Gray.
In recent days, her team has been asking a number of officials in No 10 about the use of the garden and the consumption of alcohol.
On Friday, she officially expanded her investigation to include the two gatherings in the garden after Dominic Cummings, the former No. 10 Senior Adviser, said he had told Mr Reynolds that he believed the event breached lockdown rules and should not go ahead.
Despite raising the issue, Mr Cummings said he was “ignored”.
Worth reading in full.
I confess, these revelations are getting kind of tedious now. Plainly, Government figures played fast and loose with the rules they were imposing on the rest of us, not really believing them to be necessary. Much like Professor Pantsdown and Matt Hancock and their lockdown hanky-panky, the people driving the restrictions clearly didn’t actually think there was a virus so deadly circulating that people couldn’t risk getting close to each other. Everyone knows by now this is the kind of thing they were up to. I suppose they should resign over the rank hypocrisy of it – though Neil Ferguson did resign and that didn’t last long – but really they should resign over the absurd, draconian policies that made their behaviour hypocritical in the first place. But that’s never going to happen, and neither will anyone resign over this except perhaps Martin Reynolds. Still, if it helps to turn the public against this miserable regime then that’s probably a good thing – though with Labour only ever outflanking the Government on the side of Chairman Mao, part of me fears what might come after.
Stop Press: Boris says Martin Reynolds has his “full confidence” and will stay in post. Is this because he was only doing what Boris told him to? We’ll see how long it lasts.