Boris Johnson is waiting for an investigation to find out whether he attended an illegal BYOB party at his own back garden in May 2020. The party was organised by Johnson’s private secretary as the UK was under a strict coronavirus lockdown.
In an interview with Sky News on Monday, Johnson was asked whether he and his wife Carrie Symonds attended a Downing Street party on the 20th of May.
Faced with a question about whether he went to a party in his own garden, Johnson replied that an investigation was underway. “All that, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation by Sue Gray,” Johnson said.
When asked if he would be happy to be interviewed again by Sue Gray, the civil servant tasked with leading the inquiry into illegal gatherings in Number 10, Johnson said: “All that is subject for an investigation.”
The questioning comes following yet another allegation that Downing Street staff held illegal parties at the height of the UK’s coronavirus restrictions, when people were prevented from seeing friends and loved ones. A string of revelations in recent weeks have proved immensely damaging for Johnson’s credibility.
Previously the Daily Mirror reported that a gathering had taken place inside Number 10 on the 18th of December 2020, days after the country was told no indoor gatherings could take place. After initially denying that any such party took place, the government has said that “all guidance was followed” and more recently that, “no covid rules were broken.”
The denials became untenable after the leak of an explosive video which showed government advisor Allegra Stratton holding a mock press conference, laughing about a Christmas party. Stratton resigned in disgrace and Johnson declared himself “shocked” by the video.
It was then revealed that Johnson joined a garden party for around 20 civil servants on the 15th of May 2020. A picture showed Johnson and staff lounging and drinking wine. Johnson said, “those people were at work, talking about work”.
Then came the latest bombshell. On Sunday, the Sunday Times revealed that another party of up to 50 people took place in the Downing Street garden on the 20th of May 2020 with the Prime Minister and his fiancé allegedly in attendance.
Further reporting by ITV News revealed the email inviting staff to the party, sent by the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, which read: “After what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of this 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!”
Just hours earlier, Culture Secretary Olivier Dowden had told the public that they were only allowed to see one person outside in a socially-distanced manner. While police were stopping people sitting in parks and women were giving birth alone in hospital, the government was inviting a hundred staff to an outdoor gathering with a cheerily-toned email.
The revelation has caused outrage, with many people sharing stories of having to say goodbye to dying loved ones over video call while the Prime Minister was allegedly socialising with his colleagues. The latest revelation will increase the public perception that the government feel that there is “one rule for them” and another for everyone else. Snap polling by Savanta Comres has shown 66 percent say the prime minister should resign.
The allegations prompted an Urgent Question in the Commons on Tuesday. Johnson failed to appear despite having no other engagements, instead sending Paymaster General Michael Ellis to make a statement.
“I apologise again unreservedly for the upset that these allegations have caused,” said Ellis.
“The Prime Minister has asked for the investigation to take place. And the terms of reference for the investigations that are underway and have already been published.”
Ellis said any findings of illegal behaviour would be referred to the Metropolitan Police.
Quiet fell upon the chamber as Deputy Shadow Prime Minister Angela Rayner told of a man who found his partner dead on the floor after the pandemic has stopped her accessing essential care.
“The invitation was sent to 100 staff, many of them his own most personal senior appointees. This was organised in advance, Mr. Speaker,” said Rayner. “So did the Prime Minister know about the event beforehand? And did he give me his permission for it to go ahead? And if so did he believe this event was in keeping with the restrictions at the time and the guidelines?”
Ellis was unable to answer and it’s difficult to see what answers could be given that would satisfy the public.
Meanwhile, the investigation into whether Johnson attended a party in his own garden is ongoing.