Labour’s Angela Rayner has demanded an investigation into text messages suggesting a second gathering took place in the No 10 flat on Boris Johnson’s birthday.
According to The Sunday Timesmessages sent by the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, appear to show that she was in the flat with several friends on the evening of June 19, 2020.
The alleged event is not mentioned in the senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into lockdown-busting events that was published on Wednesday following the conclusion of the Metropolitan Police investigation.
It is also separate to a birthday celebration held for Mr Johnson in the Cabinet Room earlier the same day — an event which the couple have both been issued with fixed penalty notices for.
Under Covid regulations, indoor socializing was banned, but exemptions were available for work purposes.
A spokesperson for Ms Johnson insisted Ms Gray was “aware of the exchanges as part of her exhaustive inquiry into alleged breaches”.
However, Ms Rayner claimed it “looks like yet another cover up and there are new questions the prime minister must answer for his involvement”.
In a letter to the cabinet secretary Simon Case — published on Sunday evening — the Labor deputy leader demanded the messages relating to the flat gathering are published and investigated.
Referring to reports in The Sunday Timesshe said a gathering in the No 10 flat on 19 June, 2020, was first reported earlier this year, but knocked back as “totally untrue” by a No 10 spokesperson.
In a series of questions, Ms Rayner asked whether Mr Case had received correspondence from No 10 staffers “indicating this third gathering took place” and whether he had provided any evidence to Ms Gray’s inquiry.
She also demanded to know whether Mr Johnson was present at the gathering on June 19, 2020, and if any other ministers or civil servants attended the alleged gathering.
She added: “It is crucial that you now advise the prime minister to come clean about his involvement in this apparently rule-breaking gathering.
“Given the public interest at stake, I request that you make public his correspondence pertaining to this event and his whereabouts on the date of Friday 19 June 2020 and publish the relevant messages you have received, as well as handing them over to the Privileges Committee to consider as part of their investigation.”
Earlier, No 10 did not deny the event took place, but said: “As per the terms of reference, the Gray investigation was able to look at other gatherings where there were credible allegations and these would be covered by the general findings in her final report.
“Downing Street staff were given clear guidance to retain any relevant further information and co-operate fully with the investigation.”
They added: “The process quite properly involved sharing information continuously with the Metropolitan Police. The Metropolitan Police have concluded their investigations and set out their findings.”
A spokesperson for Ms Johnson also told The Independent: “As The Sunday Times acknowledges, Sue Gray was aware of these exchanges as part of her exhaustive inquiry into alleged breaches.
“Staff were given ample opportunity to present evidence including these messages and all relevant information was passed to the Metropolitan Police for investigation.”
They added: “The lunchtime gathering in the Cabinet Room on 19 June 2020 was subsequently found to be in breach and a fixed penalty notice was issues to Mrs Johnson among others for which she apologized unreservedly and promptly paid the fine”.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.