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Another scandal rocks Boris Johnson’s government

....Further PM’s lockdown birthday parties exposed ... see full list of Covid rule-busting ‘parties’

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Boris Johnson faces renewed anger from MPs and bereaved families after the disclosure his then fiancee threw him a surprise lockdown birthday party in 2020, as sources said an official inquiry had uncovered “appalling evidence of mismanagement” at the heart of Downing Street.

News.band publishes below a full list of alleged government Covid rule-busting ‘parties’. From ‘cheese and wine’ in Downing Street to ‘boozy’ leaving dos – the number of suspect events grows to 15

In the latest alleged breach of rules, No 10 admitted that Carrie Johnson held a party for the prime minister and up to 30 staff on 19 June 2020 despite Covid rules banning indoor social gatherings.

ITV reported that the prime minister attended the party in the cabinet room at No 10 at 2pm on his 56th birthday, and that the interior designer Lulu Lytle – who was not a member of No 10 staff – was there.

The room was said to have been laid out with Marks & Spencer party food and a birthday cake, with staff singing “Happy Birthday” and staying for 20-30 minutes.

No 10 said Johnson attended for less than 10 minutes and denied reports from ITV that he held a party later on 19 June in his Downing Street residence.

While the birthday do is likely to inflame public anger over the behaviour at Downing Street, Sue Gray – the senior civil servant leading the inquiry into the No 10 parties – is understood to have already been told about the allegations.

That means the latest exposé is unlikely to delay publication of her report, potentially late this week. Gray is expected to make deeply critical recommendations on overhauling No 10’s operation after hearing of repeated failures of leadership, according to a Whitehall source who spoke to the inquiry.

Boris Johnson and staff in the Downing Street garden in May 2020. Photograph: The Guardian
Boris Johnson and staff in the Downing Street garden in May 2020. Photograph: The Guardian

 

Below is a full list of the rule-busting “parties” at No 10 likely to be scrutinised.

15 May 2020: ‘cheese and wine’ in the No 10 garden
Boris Johnson, his then fiancee Carrie and up to 17 staff were pictured in the Downing Street garden during the first lockdown with wine and cheese. The event took place while people were only allowed to meet one other person from outside their household outdoors.

20 May 2020: ‘BYOB’ party in No 10 garden
A leaked email surfaced showing one of the prime minister’s top officials invited more than 100 Downing Street staff to a “bring your own booze” party just a few days later.

19 June 2020: PM’s birthday party
Despite Covid rules forbidding indoor social gatherings, ITV reported on Monday that a birthday party was thrown for Johnson, organised by his now wife and attended by up to 30 people – with a cake presented to the prime minister.

13 November 2020: alleged Downing Street flat party
This is the date that Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, and communications director, Lee Cain, left their roles. Sources have reported loud music and sounds of a party coming from the flat occupied by Johnson and his wife on this date – though Downing Street denies there was any rule-breaking.

25 November 2020: Treasury officials’ ‘impromptu drinks’
The Treasury was forced to defend officials holding an “impromptu” drinks party to celebrate Rishi Sunak’s autumn spending review during lockdown. A spokesperson said a “small number” of staff had celebrated around their desks.

27 November 2020: Johnson gives leaving speech for Cleo Watson
Johnson is known to have attended an event during England’s pre-Christmas lockdown, which sources said was an impromptu leaving do in No 10 for aide Cleo Watson. The prime minister remarked on how crowded the room was, and then made a short speech paying tribute to her before leaving to continue working.

Pre-Christmas 2020: defence minister leaving event
The Mirror alleged that the prime minister gave a speech at a leaving event for his then defence minister, Capt Steve Higham, in the run-up to Christmas. According to the report, the PM was “there for a few minutes to thank him for his service” as a “small number of No10 staff briefly said goodbye”.

10 December 2020: Department for Education staff party thrown by Gavin Williamson
Former education secretary Gavin Williamson held a Christmas party for up to two dozen staff at the Department for Education cafe. A spokesperson confirmed a report that Williamson gave a short speech and ministers enjoyed “drinks and canapes”, and admitted: “It would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time.”

11 December 2020: wine fridge allegedly delivered to No 10 for ‘wine-time Fridays’
Pictures of a £142 drinks fridge reportedly delivered to No 10 formed part of another Daily Mirror story, which said Downing Street staff continued to hold “wine-time Fridays” throughout the pandemic to “let off steam”.

14 December 2020: CCHQ Christmas party for Shaun Bailey
A picture showed that an event hosted by the campaign for the Conservatives’ London mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, was held in Tory campaign headquarters. Buffet food was even laid on, despite indoor socialising being banned by the continuing Covid restrictions.

15 December 2020: Christmas quiz attended by Johnson
A day later, Johnson hosted a Christmas quiz in Downing Street. The prime minister was pictured on a screen reading out questions flanked by staff who wore tinsel and a Santa hat. While some staff joined virtually, sources said others crowded around desks.

16 December 2020: Department for Transport ‘low-key’, ‘distanced’ gathering by fewer than 12 staff
The Mirror revealed that staff of the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, threw a Christmas party where almost a dozen staff were “boozing and dancing” in a Whitehall office the day London was put into tier 3 restrictions.

17 December 2020: Cabinet Office Christmas party
A social event is alleged to have taken place in the office of the cabinet secretary, Simon Case. The invite was billed as a “Christmas party”, but government insiders said it was a virtual quiz and Case only passed through the event on the way to his office. Kate Josephs, the former Covid taskforce head, was later forced to apologise for attending a drinks gathering to mark her leaving the civil service on the same day.

18 December 2020: Downing Street Christmas party
Dozens of staff gathered for a Christmas party, with cheese and wine passed around, a mock awards ceremony and secret Santa gifts exchanged. The event was joked about in private a few days later by Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s then press secretary, but only came to light when the video was leaked nearly a year later.

16 April 2021: ‘boozy’ leaving do held the day before Queen mourned Duke of Edinburgh alone
The Telegraph reported that No 10 held two “boozy” leaving events the night before the Queen mourned Prince Philip while socially distanced and masked. The report claimed staff returned from a local supermarket with a suitcase full of wine and drank until the early hours – with one stepping in to DJ.

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