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Leaked email proves Downing Street held drinks party at height of Covid

Issue 2787
Boris Johnson sits and points in a Downing Street cabinet meeting

Boris Johnson hangs by a thread (Picture: Number 10/Flickr)

Boris Johnson is in even deeper trouble after a leaked email showed that Downing Street staff held a drinks party, which Johnson attended, at the height of lockdown.

They were invited to a drinks party in the Number 10 garden to “make the most of the lovely weather”. An email shared with ITV News provides evidence of a party on 20 May 2020, when the rest of Britain was banned from meeting more than one other person outdoors.

Relatives of those who died from Covid reacted with anger to the email. Hannah Brady, a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said, “My dad died just four days before this email was sent out, he was only 55 and was a fit and healthy key worker.

“To think that whilst it was happening, Boris Johnson was making the ‘most of the weather’ and throwing a party for 100 people is truly beyond belief.”

The email was sent by the prime minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds to over 100 employees in Number 10, including the prime minister’s advisors, speechwriters and door staff.

Reynolds is a senior Number 10 civil servant who has run Johnson’s private office since October 2019. In it, he says, “Hi all, After what has been an incredibly busy period it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening.

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

ITV News says around 40 staff gathered in the garden that evening, eating picnic food and drinking. Crucially, they included the prime minister and his wife Carrie Johnson.

The latest revelations underline that for Johnson there has always been one law for the rich and powerful—and another for everyone else. Rules don’t apply to people like him.

As Hannah Brady said, “Could there be a more disgraceful example of ‘one rule for them, and another rule for the rest of us’?

“To make matters worse, in September last year I sat in that same garden, looked the prime minister in the eyes and told him how my dad had died. He told me he had ‘done everything he could’ to protect my dad, knowing that he had partied in that same spot the very day that dad’s death certificate was signed. It makes me feel sick to think about it.”

The 20 May party was first mentioned in a blog by the prime minister’s former adviser Dominic Cummings on Friday. 

On Monday night following news of the leaked email, the Metropolitan police said it was “aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on 20 May 2020″.

It said it had made contact with the Cabinet Office.  The cops have previously said it was policy “not to investigate retrospective breaches of such regulations”.

The email follows allegations about staff gathering in the garden on a separate occasion on 15 May. 

A photograph emerged of Johnson and his wife sitting with Number 10 staff, including Martin Reynolds, on the terrace with a bottle of wine and cheese.

Downing Street has previously insisted that the photograph showed a work meeting. But the email about the drinks party on 20 May makes it clear that this was a social gathering, which is far harder to explain away.

Less than an hour before the drinks, then culture secretary Oliver Dowden reminded people at the daily press conference that they must only meet in pairs outdoors.

On 20 May he said, “You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart”.

When Johnson was asked on Monday if he and his wife attended the party on May 20, he replied, “All that, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation.”

Johnson’s lies, arrogance and contempt for ordinary people go further than his lockdown-breaking. It is the reason why tens of thousands of people have died unnecessarily from Covid and why workers face a series of brutal attacks in 2022.

This is the time to step up resistance to drive him out. Sections of the Tories now want Johnson to go because they think he is an electoral liability and a bad front for their assaults on workers.

But it matters how he is ejected. If he is removed amid protests and strikes it will lay the basis for continuing struggle against whoever comes after him. 

Emergency protest, Johnson Must GO: Tories Out! Saturday 15 January, 2pm, Downing Street, London. Details here  

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