Bombshell email  invitation PROVES Downing Street held a boozy party during lockdown


‘It would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather’: Bombshell email invitation PROVES Downing Street held a boozy party during lockdown as Boris Johnson ducks questions over whether he attended with Carrie

  • Email invite from Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds told staff to bring their own drinks 
  • Urged them to attend secluded lavish grounds in the heart of London ‘to make the most of the lovely weather’
  • At the time England was in the middle of the first lockdown, with such gatherings banned, even outside

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A damning email tonight appeared to confirm Downing Street staff were invited to a boozy garden party at the height of lockdown – as Boris Johnson refused to say whether he attended with his wife.

The invitation from Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited staff to bring their own drinks to the lavish grounds in the heart of London on May 20, 2020 ‘to make the most of the lovely weather’. 

At the time England was in the middle of the first lockdown, with such gatherings banned, even outside. 

Released by ITV News tonight, it came after the Prime Minister today ducked questions about whether he and Carrie were among the attendees.

His former consigliere Dominic Cummings last week alleged they were both there – as he revealed the existence of the event. He repeated the claim tonight.

Grilled on a visit to his constituency today Mr Johnson insisted it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into reports of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall.

Downing Street later denied claims that Mr Reynolds was facing being removed from his job in the wake of the revelation. 

His email to staff almost two years ago read: ‘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!’

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘Boris Johnson has consistently shown that he has no regard for the rules he puts in place for the rest of us. 

‘He is trying to get officials to take the fall for his own mistakes, but he sets the tone for the way Downing Street and the rest of government operates.

‘At the time this party took place, key workers on the frontline were working round the clock to keep us all safe, people suffered loneliness and loss in unimaginably tough circumstances and for the majority of the country our freedom was limited to a daily walk.’ 

In other developments today:

  • Data shows Covid infections in London have ticked up in under-30s since New Year’s Eve, but have started to fall in over-60s;
  • More NHS cancer patients will be treated in private hospitals under a deal struck with the sector to ‘safeguard’ against the staff absence crisis and rising Covid admissions; 
  • Clive Watson, chairman of the City Pub Group, questioned the continuing work-from-home guidance and said the review of measures due by January 26 is a ‘very good opportunity’ to change them; 
  • Mr Johnson has insisted he and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are looking at ways of easing the cost of living crisis as the economy struggles to recover from Covid. 
The invitation from Mr Johnson's principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited staff to bring their own drinks to the lavish grounds in the heart of London on May 20, 2020 'to make the most of the lovely weather'.

The invitation from Mr Johnson's principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited staff to bring their own drinks to the lavish grounds in the heart of London on May 20, 2020 'to make the most of the lovely weather'.

The invitation from Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited staff to bring their own drinks to the lavish grounds in the heart of London on May 20, 2020 ‘to make the most of the lovely weather’.

Mr Johnson insisted it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into reports of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall.

Mr Johnson insisted it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into reports of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall.

Mr Johnson insisted it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into reports of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall.

Boris Johnson allegedly attended a drinks party in the garden of No 10 during the first lockdown with his wife Carrie (pictured together at the Conservative Party Conference at the end of last year)

Boris Johnson allegedly attended a drinks party in the garden of No 10 during the first lockdown with his wife Carrie (pictured together at the Conservative Party Conference at the end of last year)

Boris Johnson allegedly attended a drinks party in the garden of No 10 during the first lockdown with his wife Carrie (pictured together at the Conservative Party Conference at the end of last year)

Mr Johnson's is principal private secretary Martin Reynolds (left) allegedly sent a 'bring your own bottle' email invitation The Prime Minister is said to have attended with his wife Carrie

Mr Johnson's is principal private secretary Martin Reynolds (left) allegedly sent a 'bring your own bottle' email invitation The Prime Minister is said to have attended with his wife Carrie

Mr Johnson’s is principal private secretary Martin Reynolds (left) allegedly sent a ‘bring your own bottle’ email invitation

Rishi Sunak ‘is holding talks with Tory rebels’ on the cost of living crisis  

Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure to tackle the cost of living crisis after Boris Johnson said he is ‘constantly’ meeting with the Chancellor to discuss rising energy bills.

Mr Sunak is due to hold talks with Tory MPs this evening and in the coming days, according to the BBC, as he tries to dampen Conservative anger on the issue.

Some Tory backbenchers are adamant the Chancellor and the Prime Minister must act now to address soaring energy bills and spiking inflation.

Mr Johnson revealed during a visit to a vaccination centre in Uxbridge this morning that he met with Mr Sunak last night to discuss the energy issue.

The PM said he knows that rising fuel costs are ‘making life very tough’ and he understands ‘how difficult it is’ for people.

The premier said ‘we’re certainly looking at what we can do’ as he hinted action will be taken before April when the energy price cap is due to be reviewed and a National Insurance hike will go ahead.

One of the options being considered by ministers is to offer energy firms billions of pounds in loans so they can spread the current higher-than-normal cost of gas over a longer period.

This would enable them to avoid having to hit consumers with a massive bill increase in April.

Mr Johnson’s comments came after Michael Gove said Government support on energy bills should be targeted at ‘those most in need’.

The Communities Secretary said it is ‘important that we look at a range of options’ for helping struggling families but stressed ‘we should be concentrating our support most on those with the least income’.

A new poll has revealed one third of Britons fear they will be unable to pay their energy bills this year.

 

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 The Sunday Times yesterday alleging that the Prime Minister and his wife attended the event after Mr Reynolds emailed officials with an invite adding ‘BYOB’, meaning bring your own bottle, or booze. 

But speaking on a visit to his Uxbridge constituency today, Mr Johnson told reporters: ‘All that, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation by Sue Gray.’

Pressed on whether he had been interviewed by Ms Gray, he said: ‘All that is a subject for investigation by Sue Gray.’

Downing Street denied reports that Mr Reynolds is to be moved to another post following the claims.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said he was staying in his current role, saying: ‘The Prime Minister has full confidence in his team. There is no change in that post.’ 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister would have ‘very serious questions to answer’ if Ms Gray found he had attended one of the parties under investigation.  

Asked whether Mr Johnson would have to resign, Sir Keir said: ‘We need to let the inquiry take its course, see what the findings are.

‘The Prime Minister has insisted he broke no rules, so if the finding is that he did then he will obviously have very serious questions to answer.’

Allegations of that gathering, said to have been attended by 40 people, emerged this week when Dominic Cummings said he had warned at the time the ‘socially distanced drinks’ would likely be against the rules and ‘should not happen’.

But the front page report suggesting Mr Johnson himself was present will add to the seriousness of the claims.

The Prime Minister imposed England’s first lockdown to combat Covid-19 in March 2020 and it was not until June 1 that groups of up to six people were allowed to meet outdoors. 

Ms Gray, a senior Cabinet Office official, also expanded her investigation to the May 15 2020 garden gathering revealed by a leaked photo showing the Prime Minister and staff sitting around cheese and wine.

Mr Cummings, who was present in the picture, insisted in a blog post on Friday that there was nothing ‘illegal or unethical’ about that day, which he insisted was a staff meeting.

But the Vote Leave veteran, who departed as the chief adviser in Downing Street in November 2020, wrote: ‘On Wednesday 20 May, the week after this photo, a senior No 10 official invited people to ‘socially distanced drinks’ in the garden.’

Mr Cummings said he and at least one other special adviser ‘said that this seemed to be against the rules and should not happen’, adding that he issued the warning ‘in writing so Sue Gray can dig up the original email’.

Government sends out 100,000 lateral flow tests to ease staffing crisis

Around 100,000 critical workers will receive bundles of lateral flow tests from today to use every 24 hours in a Government bid to protect key services amid deafening calls for a five-day isolation policy, now backed by the majority of the cabinet.

Food processing staff, border force officers, energy workers and air traffic controllers will be among those to receive the swabs, which had run out for members of the public online this morning.

One person tweeted this morning: ‘LFTs are like hens teeth. None available at my workplace, local pharmacy, any of the supermarket pharmacies, or online. What exactly are we supposed to do?’

Boris Johnson said last week the Government was ‘acting to protect critical national services, keep supply chains open and fortify our NHS to withstand the pressures ahead’.

Ministers hope the tests will ensure critical workers are not self-isolating unnecessarily and prevent outbreaks in workplaces.

The 100,000 tests came amid reports that free lateral flow tests could be axed in the coming months.

But Lateral flow tests will be free for ‘as long as we need’, Michael Gove has insisted.

The Levelling Up Secretary told Sky News it was ‘impossible to predict’ how long that would be.

But he said: ‘But it is the case that in this country lateral flow tests are free, unlike in many other jurisdictions, they’re a vital tool in making sure that we can curb the spread of the infection and also that people who are needed to isolate do so.’

 

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‘We were ignored. I was ill and went home to bed early that afternoon but am told this event definitely happened,’ he continued. 

It came as Covid infections in the UK fell again today and hospitalisations stayed flat as pressure grew on the Prime Minister to release plans on how the country can safely live with the virus.

UK Health Security Agency bosses logged 142,224 positive tests, marking a week-on-week drop for the fifth day in a row. Infections in London — the first region to be battered by Omicron — plunged to their lowest levels in nearly a month, with rates now dropping in over-60s.

Another 77 deaths were registered within 28 days of testing positive, marking a 83 per cent rise on the figure last Monday. But that figure only covered fatalities in England due to the holiday, and the overall trend has barely risen ever since the ultra-transmissible variant took off.

Meanwhile, hospitalisations rose by just three per cent in a week, with the trend having finally flattened off after three weeks of steep increases. Rates in London fell again.

Both the government and NHS leaders are increasingly confident that Omicron will not overwhelm services, and even experts today claimed that there was light at the end of the tunnel as ministers admitted Britain is on a path to ‘living with’ the virus.

MailOnline analysis shows daily Covid deaths are currently running at less than half the rate expected in a bad flu year, in another sign the UK is finally on the brink of beating the pandemic.

Dr David Nabarro, of the World Health Organisation, said coronavirus would pose a very difficult situation for the next three months ‘at least’ but insisted ‘we can see the end in sight’. Meanwhile, Professor Graham Medley, No10’s chief modeller, warned Covid ‘can’t be an emergency forever’ as he said ‘Government decisions’ would need to be made about scrapping mass testing and vaccinations.

They are the latest scientists to suggest that Britain is moving into a new phase of the coronavirus crisis now that it appears increasingly likely the NHS will cope without restrictions. Dr Clive Dix, the former chief of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, yesterday called for a return to a ‘new normality’ and for Covid to be treated like the flu.

There are also calls for routine testing to be scrapped to put an end to the self-isolation crisis plaguing businesses and vital services now that Omicron is causing little or no symptoms for most. Writing in the Mail today, Professor Angus Dalgleish, an oncologist at St George’s University, said mass screening amounted to ‘national self-harm’.

Boris Johnson today admitted the Government is ‘looking at’ cutting the self-isolation period again, as he hailed the country’s ‘great progress’ against the fourth wave. But he also warned that the NHS is still under significant pressure and urged people to get booster jabs.

On a visit to a vaccine clinic in Uxbridge, he poured cold water on rumours that lateral flow tests may stop being free soon, saying they will stay ‘as long as necessary’. And he tempered optimism by stressing that ministers will follow the ‘science’ on whether quarantine can be cut again from seven days without causing another deadly spike in infections.

In a round of interviews earlier, Housing Secretary Michael Gove said the UK is ‘moving to a situation’ where it is ‘possible to say we can live with Covid and that the pressure on the NHS and on vital public services is abating’. However, he stressed ‘we are not there yet’ and dismissed complaints that dire warnings about the possibility of huge numbers of deaths had been ‘scaremongering’.

Mr Johnson is rumoured to be drawing up a fresh strategy for the transition away from restrictions, which would be implemented by March. There is speculation that it could see lateral flow tests withdrawn for non-high risk situations as well as shorter isolation.

Tory MPs have already piled pressure on No10 to set out their vision for dealing with Covid, with business leaders saying the current curbs are ‘really, really tough’ on the hospitality sector. Clive Watson, chairman of the City Pub Group, said: ‘Why do people who work in hospitals or work in retail go to work, but office workers are exempted from going to work?’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson, with their daughter Romy and dog Dilyn

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson, with their daughter Romy and dog Dilyn

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson, with their daughter Romy and dog Dilyn

 

Top mandarin who runs Boris Johnson’s private office lined up to be ‘fall guy’ for Partygate

By GLEN OWEN for the Mail on Sunday 

A top civil servant who runs Boris Johnson‘s private office is being lined up to become the ‘fall guy’ for the No 10 Partygate row, senior sources have said.

Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, is expected to be moved after the Cabinet Office concludes its investigation into whether rules were broken at a series of No 10 gatherings during Covid lockdowns. 

One option being explored is to hand Mr Reynolds a senior diplomatic role, possibly at ambassador level.

Mr Reynolds was pictured sitting with the Prime Minister and his then fiancee, Carrie Symonds, at a ‘cheese and wine’ party held in the Downing Street garden on May 15, 2020. 

Martin Reynolds (above), the Prime Minister's principal private secretary, is expected to be moved after the Cabinet Office concludes its investigation into whether rules were broken at a series of No 10 gatherings during Covid lockdowns

Martin Reynolds (above), the Prime Minister's principal private secretary, is expected to be moved after the Cabinet Office concludes its investigation into whether rules were broken at a series of No 10 gatherings during Covid lockdowns

Martin Reynolds (above), the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, is expected to be moved after the Cabinet Office concludes its investigation into whether rules were broken at a series of No 10 gatherings during Covid lockdowns

Mr Reynolds was pictured sitting with the Prime Minister and his then fiancee, Carrie Symonds, at a 'cheese and wine' party held in the Downing Street garden on May 15, 2020. (Above, the PM and his wife last October)

Mr Reynolds was pictured sitting with the Prime Minister and his then fiancee, Carrie Symonds, at a 'cheese and wine' party held in the Downing Street garden on May 15, 2020. (Above, the PM and his wife last October)

Mr Reynolds was pictured sitting with the Prime Minister and his then fiancee, Carrie Symonds, at a ‘cheese and wine’ party held in the Downing Street garden on May 15, 2020. (Above, the PM and his wife last October)

It has also been reported that he sent an email invitation for a separate garden party five days later.

Dominic Cummings, the former No 10 senior adviser, revealed the party on Friday in a blog, and claimed he warned colleagues at the time that the gathering broke lockdown rules and should not have gone ahead.

He said he wrote the warning in an email that could be discovered by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who is investigating the allegations that parties were held.

On the day of the May 20 garden party, Oliver Dowden, then Culture Secretary, urged the public to meet only one other person outdoors and stick to social-distancing rules.

Ms Gray replaced Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in leading the Whitehall investigation after allegations emerged of staff meeting for drinks in his own office in Whitehall. 

In his blog, Dominic Cummings (above) wrote: 'On Wednesday 20 May... a senior No 10 official invited people to 'socially distanced drinks' in the garden,' adding that he had emailed 'that this seemed to be against the rules and should not happen… [it is] in writing so Sue Gray can dig up the original email'

In his blog, Dominic Cummings (above) wrote: 'On Wednesday 20 May... a senior No 10 official invited people to 'socially distanced drinks' in the garden,' adding that he had emailed 'that this seemed to be against the rules and should not happen… [it is] in writing so Sue Gray can dig up the original email'

In his blog, Dominic Cummings (above) wrote: ‘On Wednesday 20 May… a senior No 10 official invited people to ‘socially distanced drinks’ in the garden,’ adding that he had emailed ‘that this seemed to be against the rules and should not happen… [it is] in writing so Sue Gray can dig up the original email’

On the day of the May 20 garden party, Oliver Dowden (pictured), then Culture Secretary, urged the public to meet only one other person outdoors and stick to social-distancing rules

On the day of the May 20 garden party, Oliver Dowden (pictured), then Culture Secretary, urged the public to meet only one other person outdoors and stick to social-distancing rules

On the day of the May 20 garden party, Oliver Dowden (pictured), then Culture Secretary, urged the public to meet only one other person outdoors and stick to social-distancing rules

Mr Johnson has always denied knowledge of any rule-breaking. 

A source said: ‘It had already been decided to move Martin, but the plan at the moment is to wait until the Gray report – which is bound to be critical – to help distract from other people who she might criticise.’

The email allegedly sent by Mr Reynolds inviting people to a party on May 20 is believed to have been wiped from No 10’s system. 

One source said it was an invitation to a ‘knees-up’, while another said it described an ‘informal get-together’, with officials encouraged to ‘bring your own booze’.

In his blog, Mr Cummings wrote: ‘On Wednesday 20 May… a senior No 10 official invited people to ‘socially distanced drinks’ in the garden,’ adding that he had emailed ‘that this seemed to be against the rules and should not happen… [it is] in writing so Sue Gray can dig up the original email’.

Mr Cummings left Downing Street in November 2020 after a bitter power struggle with Mr Johnson’s future wife, Carrie.

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