Pressure grows on mandarin who sent ‘BYOB’ partygate email to QUIT


Ex-ambassador mandarin who sent ‘BYOB’ partygate email fights for his job as it emerges No10 staffers asked ‘is this for real’ when invitation to break Covid rules dropped into their inboxes

  • No10 staff were ‘gobsmacked’ by mandarin’s decision to invite people to party  
  • Martin Reynolds, the PM’s principal private secretary, is under renewed pressure
  • He sent email on May 20, 2020 inviting 100 people to ‘BYOB’ garden party 
  • Downing Street staff questioned the wisdom of organising such an event 


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Downing Street staff were ‘gobsmacked’ by a senior mandarin’s decision to invite 100 people to a boozy garden party during the first Covid lockdown and thought it was a ‘bad idea’ at the time, it emerged last night.

Martin Reynolds, Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, has come under renewed pressure after an email he sent on May 20, 2020 inviting dozens of No10 staff to bring drinks to an outdoor party was leaked to ITV News.

The PM’s aide, a former British ambassador to Libya and City lawyer, said they should ‘make the most of the lovely weather’, at a time when the general public were only allowed to see one other person. 

Questions had already been raised over Mr Reynolds’s future after Dominic Cummings last week revealed he was behind the party.

But No10 denied reports he could be moved into a low profile senior diplomatic role, possibly at ambassador level.

One government source told The Times: ‘The more this drags on, the more speculation there is about who will be the fall guy… it’s alighting on Martin because he’s the senior official, he was in that photo [of a separate gathering on May 15, 2020]’. 

Mr Johnson yesterday ducked questions during a constituency visit about whether he attended the gathering allegedly organised by Mr Reynolds.

However, multiple reports have suggested that the PM attended the party with his wife, Carrie Johnson. According to the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, two eyewitnesses saw the couple at the event, where a ‘long table had been laid out in the garden for snacks and drinks’.

It has now emerged that No10 staff who received Mr Reynolds’s email questioned the wisdom of organising a large social gathering during lockdown.

In messages sent to officials at the time seen by the BBC, one ‘gobsmacked’ government worker said: ‘Is this for real?’. Another said: ‘Um. Why is Martin encouraging a mass gathering in the garden?’.

Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, has come under renewed pressure after an email he sent on May 20, 2020 inviting dozens of No10 staff to bring drinks to an outdoor party was leaked to ITV News

Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, has come under renewed pressure after an email he sent on May 20, 2020 inviting dozens of No10 staff to bring drinks to an outdoor party was leaked to ITV News

Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, has come under renewed pressure after an email he sent on May 20, 2020 inviting dozens of No10 staff to bring drinks to an outdoor party was leaked to ITV News

Boris Johnson’s aide said they should ‘make the most of the lovely weather’, at a time when the general public were only allowed to see one other person

Boris Johnson’s aide said they should ‘make the most of the lovely weather’, at a time when the general public were only allowed to see one other person

Boris Johnson’s aide said they should ‘make the most of the lovely weather’, at a time when the general public were only allowed to see one other person

Mr Johnson yesterday ducked questions during a constituency visit about whether he attended the gathering allegedly organised by Mr Reynolds

Mr Johnson yesterday ducked questions during a constituency visit about whether he attended the gathering allegedly organised by Mr Reynolds

Mr Johnson yesterday ducked questions during a constituency visit about whether he attended the gathering allegedly organised by Mr Reynolds 

Behind the email: Top mandarin who runs Boris Johnson’s private office –  for now 

Martin Reynolds is the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary.

Questions had already been raised over his future after Dominic Cummings last week revealed he was behind the May 20, 2020 party.

But Downing Street denied reports he could be moved into a low profile senior diplomatic role, possibly at ambassador level.

Mr Reynolds was pictured sitting with the Prime Minister and Carrie Symonds at a ‘cheese and wine’ party held in the No10 garden on May 15, 2020. 

Days later he sent the email to more that 100 people, inviting them out again for a cheeky midweek snifter.  

Mr Cummings 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.

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The Liberal Democrats said if rules were found to be broken then ‘those responsible should face the full force of the law’.

The Metropolitan Police last night confirmed that it had been in contact with the Cabinet Office following reports of the party.

On the day — May 20 — it had told people they could have a picnic, exercise or do sport outside providing you are ‘on your own, with people you live with, or just you and one other person’.

Oliver Dowden, then the culture secretary, used a Downing Street press conference that day to remind the public they could ‘meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart’.

No10 said it would not be commenting on the allegations while Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, carries out her inquiry into numerous allegations of rule-breaking events being held in Downing Street during the coronavirus pandemic.

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

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he was staying in his current role.

‘The Prime Minister has full confidence in his team. There is no change in that post,’ he told reporters on Monday morning, before the email was leaked.

The spokesman also refused to be drawn on reports that Mr Johnson had attended the event.

Ms Gray, a Cabinet Office official, as well as looking into the May 20 2020 claims, has also expanded her investigation to look into a garden gathering that took place five days earlier, which was revealed by a leaked photo showing the PM and staff sat around a table with cheese and wine.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner urged Ms Gray to confirm that Mr Reynolds’s leaked email should form part of her probe.

Ms Rayner told ITV News: ‘It is terrible and I think many people that see the evidence now will not only think that Boris Johnson’s lies are catching up with him, but will see it as absolutely despicable that when they were actually told to follow the rules, Boris Johnson and No 10 were breaking the rules. It is disgraceful and he should be ashamed.’

She said that police should step in to investigate if Ms Gray’s inquiry finds Covid rules were broken by ministers or Government staff.

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

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

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

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson are photographed walking out of Oswald's in Mayfair last Thursday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson are photographed walking out of Oswald's in Mayfair last Thursday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson are photographed walking out of Oswald’s in Mayfair last Thursday

Mr Reynolds’s email said: ‘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!’. 

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey thundered: ‘This is yet more evidence that while the vast majority of people were sticking to the rules, those in No 10 were breaking them. To add insult to injury, on the very same day that the Culture Secretary said people could only meet in pairs outdoors, it seems Boris Johnson’s staff were holding a boozy party in Downing Street.’

Sir Ed added that Ms Gray’s inquiry ‘must interview Boris Johnson personally’ to get to the bottom of claims of Downing Street parties.

And Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, accused the PM of ‘sleaze and corruption’, and demanded he ‘come clean’. 

Boris Johnson sits in a Range Rover after leaving Oswald's private members' club with his wife last Thursday evening

Boris Johnson sits in a Range Rover after leaving Oswald's private members' club with his wife last Thursday evening

Boris Johnson sits in a Range Rover after leaving Oswald’s private members’ club with his wife last Thursday evening

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: ‘The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on May 20 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.’

Mr Johnson’s authority has come under serious challenge among backbenchers and Cabinet colleagues in recent months.

His government is fighting allegations that staff broke lockdown rules during the pandemic. In December, the PM insisted that a photo of a gathering in the No10 garden where staff were seen eating cheese and drinking wine from May 15, 2020 showed people ‘working’.

Another photo, obtained by the Sunday Mirror, showed Mr Johnson hosting a Christmas quiz in Downing Street in winter 2020.

The PM has also come under criticism for imposing restrictions including facemarks and Covid passes in response to the Omicron variant. It is understood that the issue sparked Lord Frost’s dramatic resignation last month.

The ‘lockdown-busting parties’ that No10 is accused of holding during the pandemic  

Sue Gray is investigating four alleged parties in 2020 which the PM is accused of attending:

May 15, 2020:

A photo leaked to The Guardian shows government staff including Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie, and ex-chief aide Dominic Cummings sitting in the Downing Street garden. They can be seen drinking wine and eating cheese. More than a dozen other people can be seen in the photo. No10 denied this was a party, insisting they were all ‘working’.

May 20, 2020:

A second garden party at No10 is alleged to have taken place. A bombshell email sent by the PM’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, appears to confirm this. ITV News reported that more than 100 government staff were invited to the outdoor party, and that around 40 people — including Mr and Mrs Johnson — attended. Crucially, Mr Reynolds told people to bring their own drinks. No10 has not yet responded to the email.

November 27, 2020:

The PM is accused of making a speech at a leaving do in Downing Street for Mr Cummings’s former aide Cleo Watson. Mr Johnson is said to have given a speech at a packed leaving do for Miss Watson, who left No10 to write an erotic political thriller about salacious goings-on in Westminster. At the time, Britain was in the grip of the second lockdown, with all indoor social gatherings banned unless they involved a single household bubble. The PM’s official spokesman did not deny the gathering had taken place but he said: ‘At all stages the rules have been followed.’ 

December 15, 2020:

Pictures obtained by the Sunday Mirror show Mr Johnson on a TV screen flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in the No10 library. A source claimed many staff were huddled by computers in their Downing Street offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol while the quiz was taking place. The Mirror said a message sent by No10’s head of HR on the night of the quiz advised that those who had stayed behind to take part ‘go out the back’ when they left.  

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