The PM’s top aide emailed more than 100 Downing Street staff inviting them to “make the most of the lovely weather” with an evening do on May 20 2020
Image: Tolga Akmen/Lnp/REX/Shutterstock)
Boris Johnson is embroiled in a fresh scandal over claims he attended a “BYOB” drinks party in the Downing Street garden during the first Covid lockdown.
The Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, emailed more than 100 Downing Street staff inviting them to “make the most of the lovely weather ” with an evening do on May 20 2020.
The bombshell 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!”
Reports had been circulating for days of an alleged Downing Street bash after the PM’s former aide Dominic Cummings claimed there had been an event in a blog post last week.
AFP via Getty Images)
Downing Street has refused to comment while top civil servant Sue Gray conducts an inquiry into allegations of a string of rule-breaking parties in 2020.
The latest revelations have dashed the Prime Minister’s hopes of putting the controversy behind him after a torrid few weeks in the run-up to Christmas.
The May 20 bash is potentially the most serious yet for the PM – as it is alleged that he was among the 40 attendees, along with his wife Carrie.
Here’s what the rules were at the time – and what the public was being told while No10 partied.
What were the Covid rules on May 20 2020?
Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown on March 23, with everyone ordered to stay in their house unless they had a “reasonable excuse”, such as work.
The “stay at home” order was eased in England on May 13, allowing people to take “unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise”.
But social gatherings were still off limits.
People were allowed to exercise, play sport or sit in the park but only with members of their own household.
You could meet up with one other person in an outdoor public place – as long as the two metre social distancing rules was followed.
Meeting up in private gardens was not allowed and different households could not mix indoors.
On June 1, the rules changed to allow people to meet outside in groups of up to six people – but this was not allowed on the day of the No10 bash.
What were the Tories saying?
Only 55 minutes before the party was due to begin, Tory Minister Oliver Dowden gave a press conference where he warned people not to meet up over the sunny weekend.
He urged the public to “limit contact with other people”, and said: “You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place – provided that you stay two metres apart”.
The Cabinet minister warned “staying alert for the vast majority of people still means staying at home as much as possible.”
Mr Dowden added: “If everyone stays alert and follows the rules, we can control coronavirus.
“This is how we can continue to save lives and livelihoods as we begin as a nation to recover from coronavirus.”
Five days after the No10 drinks, Boris Johnson said police should intervene to stop outdoor gatherings.
He was asked by a member of the public at a press conference: “There are large groups gathering in local parks, ignoring social distancing rules. When many of us are being so vigilant and staying alert, what can be done to discourage this disregard for the rules?”
The PM replied: “Feel free to speak to people yourself if you feel that they are not obeying the rules.
“But the police will step in if necessary and encourage people to obey the law.”
What did the police say?
On May 20, 2020, the Met Police tweeted: “Have you been enjoying the hottest day of the year so far?
“It is important that we all continue to #StayAlert You can relax, have a picnic, exercise or play sport, as long as you are:
– On your own
– With people you live with
– Just you and one other person”
Between 27 March and 11 May, 14,244 fines for lockdown breaches were issued across England and Wales, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.