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'No comment' all round on alleged Downing Street 'Bring Your Own Booze' party

It's 'no comments' all round on the alleged 'Bring Your Own Booze' party which is said to have occurred at Downing Street during the first lockdown.
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is facing pressure over an alleged party (photo: PA Images)

An inquiry led by Cabinet Office official Sue Gray has been launched following allegations concerning the garden event in May 2020.

Downing Street did not respond to questions on whether Boris Johnson complied with the “bring your own booze” stipulation on the party invitation.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I’m not going to comment, ” and Mr Johnson has refused to say whether he attended the gathering.

Peterborough Matters asked our MPs three questions: If the allegations are true, should Boris Johnson and indeed anyone else who attended resign? Does this mean that those who allegedly attended never really believed in the legitimacy of the lockdowns, and perhaps other measures? And isn't this insulting to those who did follow the rules during that lockdown, and indeed the subsequent ones and the Plan B restrictions?

MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow said he had no comment until the full details of the investigation were known, while North-West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara did not provide any comment before the time of publication.

Our latest poll asks what the people of Peterborough think of the situation, and can be found here

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group said if the Prime Minister attended the alleged Downing Street drinks party in May 2020 then his position would be “untenable” and he would have “lost all moral authority to lead the country”.

Members of the group met Boris Johnson last year in the Downing Street garden where the alleged gathering is said to have taken place and said he “looked us in the eyes and told us he had ‘done all he could’ to save our loved ones”.

They said he must “come clean to the country in a way that he didn’t with us”.

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson condemned the alleged Downing Street drinks party in May 2020, saying “People are (rightly) furious.”

The Tory peer tweeted in response to health minister Ed Argar telling BBC Breakfast: “I can entirely understand why people who’ve lost loved ones, or people who’ve just had their lives hugely disrupted by these restrictions, are angry and upset by these allegations.”

Baroness Davidson said: “This line won’t survive 48 hrs. Nobody needs an official to tell them if they were at a boozy shindig in their own garden. People are (rightly) furious. They sacrificed so much – visiting sick or grieving relatives, funerals. What tf were any of these people thinking?”

The Prime Minister has started another week in hot water amid allegations that a “bring your own booze” garden party took place in Downing Street during England’s first lockdown in May 2020.

This is not the first time Boris Johnson has faced criticism over rule-busting gatherings said to have occurred during the pandemic.

On Monday, he dodged a question over his involvement in the alleged BYOB event – deferring to an ongoing investigation by senior official Sue Gray into numerous allegations of lockdown-breaking parties across Whitehall.

Here is what the PM has said in response to similar claims made in the past.

-May 15 2020: Garden party at Downing Street (cheese and wine)

In December 2021, a photo emerged showing Boris and Carrie Johnson, former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, and Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, sitting around a table in the No 10 garden during the first national lockdown.

Mr Johnson said in an interview on December 20 2021: “Those were meetings of people at work. This is where I live and it’s where I work. Those were meetings of people at work, talking about work.”

-May 20, 2020: Garden party at Downing Street (BYOB)

The latest revelation came in an email, leaked to ITV, from Mr Reynolds to more than 100 Downing Street employees asking them to “bring your own booze” for an evening gathering.

Multiple reports have suggested that the Prime Minister attended the event with his wife.

While the email emerged on Monday afternoon, the story began to unfold on Friday and over the weekend.

Asked if he and his wife attended a Downing Street party that was organised by Mr Reynolds on May 20 2020, Mr Johnson said on January 10 2022: “All that, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation by Sue Gray.”

-November 13, 2020: Leaving party for senior aide and Johnsons’ flat party

According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and close ally of Mr Cummings.

There are also allegations that the Prime Minister’s then-fiancee hosted parties in their flat, with one such event said to have taken place on November 13 2020, the night Mr Cummings departed No 10.

Mr Johnson was asked in the House of Commons on December 8 2021: “Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether there was a party in Downing Street on November 13?”

He replied: “No, but I’m sure that whatever happened the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”

-December 15, 2020: Downing Street quiz

The Sunday Mirror published an image in December 2021 showing the Prime Minister flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in No 10 the previous year.

Downing Street admitted Mr Johnson “briefly” attended the quiz after photographic evidence emerged, but insisted it was a virtual event.

In an interview on December 13 2021, the PM said: “I can tell you that I certainly broke no rules – the whole thing will be looked into by the Cabinet Secretary, and what I’m focused on, frankly, is the vaccine rollout.”

-December 18, 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street

According to reports which first emerged at the end of November 2021, officials and advisers made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts – although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.

Mr Johnson said in an interview on December 7, 2021: “I have satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.”

He said in the House of Commons on December 8, 2021: “I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken. That is what I have been repeatedly assured.

“But I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible. It goes without saying that if those rules were broken, there will be disciplinary action for all those involved.”

The PM also said in the Commons on December 8 2021: “I apologise for the impression that has been given that staff in Downing Street take this less than seriously. I am sickened myself and furious about that, but I repeat what I have said to him: I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken.”