Public ‘angry and upset’ over Downing Street party claims, minister accepts

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A minister has acknowledged public anger over a lockdown-busting Downing Street drinks party allegedly attended by Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie.

Police are in contact with the Cabinet Office over claims that a senior aide to the Prime Minister organised a “bring your own booze” party in the garden behind No 10 during England’s first lockdown in May 2020.

Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, sent an email to more than 100 Downing Street employees inviting them to “make the most of the lovely weather” in the garden.

A Government minister will be summoned to the Commons to answer an urgent question from Labour on the row at 12.30pm.

The leaked email, obtained by ITV news, said: “Hi all, 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 No 10 garden this evening.

“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”

But he refused to be drawn on details of the May 20 2020 “socially distanced drinks”, insisting that it is a matter for the investigation into Whitehall parties being carried out by senior official Sue Gray.

He said “appropriate disciplinary action” should be taken if rules were broken – something that could prove incredibly awkward for the Prime Minister if he is found to have attended, as has been claimed by sources including former aide Dominic Cummings.

  • People in England were allowed to meet only one person from another household, providing they were at least two metres apart and outside.
  • People were not permitted to visit the homes of friends and family – unless it was for care and medical reasons, or to take a child to another household with whom parental responsibilities were shared.
  • Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants remained closed.

Mr Argar said Ms Gray “can go with this investigation where she needs to, without fear or favour”, and said he hoped her findings would be published “swiftly”.

“People are (rightly) furious. They sacrificed so much – visiting sick or grieving relatives, funerals. What tf were any of these people thinking?”

A spokesman for Scotland Yard 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.”

The latest row over Whitehall parties and Mr Johnson’s alleged attendance was seized on by Labour.

Sir Keir Starmer said: “Boris Johnson, your deflections and distractions are absurd.

“Not only did you know about the parties in Downing Street, you attended them.

A Cabinet Office minister is expected to respond in the Commons but deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, who was granted the urgent question, said Mr Johnson should turn up to answer it in person.

“We all sacrificed so much. We have a right to know,” she said.

The Liberal Democrats said if rules are found to have been broken then “those responsible should face the full force of the law”.

The Metropolitan Police had tweeted on the day of the alleged “bring your own booze” event, telling 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”.

Then-culture secretary Oliver Dowden 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”.

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