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Carrie Johnson was accused of breaching social distancing rules when celebrated a friend’s engagement just days after the public were warned to keep their distance from people they don’t live with.
Mrs Johnson, 33, the wife of Prime Minister Boris, had been at an engagement celebration for her friend Anna Pinder on September 17, 2020 at The Conduit, a private members’ club in Covent Garden, London.
Mrs Johnson, whose arm is wrapped around Ms Pinder a picture that circulated online, appears to laugh with her friend as they pose for the snap on a sofa on the club’s outdoor terrace.
At the time, Brits had been warned that the country was on the cusp of a second wave of Covid infections.
Two metre social distancing guidance and the rule of six, meaning groups of more than half a dozen were restricted from meeting for anything other than work, education or weddings and funerals, were also still in place in September 2020.
Days before the happy friends were pictured smiling together on their night out, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosted a press conference in which he reminded the British public they ‘should keep your distance from anyone you don’t live with’.
A spokesperson for Mrs Johnson told the Telegraph she ‘regrets the momentary lapse’ of judgement that saw her openly hug her friend despite one-metre social distancing rules being in place at the time.
The news comes as the Prime Minister awaits the results of civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry into the alleged string of forbidden parties that have rocked the Conservative party in recent months.
Mrs Johnson, 33, was accused of breaching social distancing guidelines when she posed for a picture while in a warm embrace with a close friend on September 17, 2020, when Brits were warned they were facing the prospect of a second lockdown. Carrie is pictured above with friend Anna Pinder in 2015 and at an unknown location
Both PM Boris Johnson and wife Carrie have faced allegations of attending lockdown-breaching parties that will be investigated by civil servant Sue Gray. Above: Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie, with their daughter Romy and dog Dilyn at Chequers in December
Mrs Johnson and Ms Pinder, who became friends after studying at West London private school Godolphin and Latymer, were pictured together at a swanky private members’ club in Covent Garden in the midst of a fresh surge of Covid infections.
On September 17, 2020, Britain recorded 4,000 new Covid cases in what was described as the highest daily total in more than four months.
A spokesman for Mrs Johnson said: ‘Mrs Johnson was one of a group of six seated outside celebrating a friend’s engagement. Mrs Johnson regrets the momentary lapse in judgment in briefly hugging her friend for a photograph.’
A week prior to the photograph being posted online, Boris Johnson launched new rules to respond to rising rates of Covid-19 across the country.
On September 9, the Government advised further limiting of social contact and reiterated the importance of social distancing guidelines as the key to slowing transmission of the virus and avoiding a second lockdown.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on September 9, Mr Johnson said: ‘If we are to beat the virus then everyone, at all times, should limit social contact as much as possible and minimise interactions with other households.
‘It is safer to meet outdoors and you should keep your distance from anyone you don’t live with, even if they are close friends or family.
‘By bearing down on social contact and improving enforcement, we can keep schools and businesses open.’
And a separate statement issued by the Government that day read: ‘This is not the time for complacency; we have seen big increases in the spread of the virus in Europe and other countries.’
It comes after leaked photographs appeared to show the Prime Minister and Carrie Johnson attending a ‘cheese and wine’ party held in the No10 garden on May 15, 2020
A Downing Street official called the Palace to apologise for the latest revelations about a party on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, but aides refused to say whether Mr Johnson – who was not at the booze-fuelled event – would be speaking to the monarch personally about the issue. Pictured, one of the PM’s weekly audiences with the Queen in June last year
It comes after leaked photographs appeared to show the Prime Minister and Carrie Symonds attending a ‘cheese and wine’ party held in the No10 garden on May 15, 2020.
Sources have reportedly claimed that Mrs Johnson was drinking with Henry Newman, a personal friend and close aide to the Prime Minister. The May 15 party is one that will be examined during Sue Gray’s enquiry.
More than a dozen other people can be seen in the implicating photo. But No10 has denied that it was a party, insisting they were all ‘working’.
Public fury has mounted over the alleged parties held in Downing Street throughout lockdowns and periods of uncertainty for families across Britain.
The PM imposed England’s first Covid lockdown 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 PM 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 former Downing Street adviser 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’.
‘We were ignored. I was ill and went home to bed early that afternoon but am told this event definitely happened,’ he continued.
Just yesterday, it was revealed that Downing Street held ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week throughout the pandemic which Boris Johnson attended, with staff even investing in a £142 drinks fridge to keep their beer, prosecco and wine cold.
Government aides were encouraged by the prime minister, who regularly oversaw the gatherings, to ‘let off steam’ at the regular drinks which would often continue until the early hours, at a time when Britons were banned from socialising indoors, sources told The Mirror.
A 34-bottle drinks fridge (pictured right) was delivered by a delivery driver (left) through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020, while indoor socialising was banned. He is not a government worker
One Downing Street staffer was despatched to the Co-op on The Strand, next to Trafalgar Square, to fill a suitcase with more booze
Kate Josephs, who headed the Cabinet Office unit drawing up Covid restrictions and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council, apologised for her own leaving do on December 17
Staff took turns to stock up on drinks at the local Tesco Metro with a wheely suitcase to fill up the 34-bottle fridge which was delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020, extraordinary pictures have revealed.
At the time, households were not allowed to mix indoors or in most outdoor places with exemptions for people in support bubbles, and a maximum of six people were allowed to meet in some outdoor public spaces like parks and public gardens.
Despite the harsh rules, Downing Street scheduled ‘wine-time Fridays’ into the electronic calendars of 50 No 10 staff every week between 4pm and 7pm.
Earlier, the PM’s spokesman admitted an apology had been made to Buckingham Palace over ‘regrettable’ behaviour in Downing Street on April 16 last year – when two other leaving dos took place, including for departing director of communications James Slack. The lockdown rules at that point banned indoor social mixing.
Dissent is now growing even within Tory party ranks, with up dozens of MPs now understood to have considered submitting letters of no-confidence in the PM.
On Saturday, Tory MP Nigel Mills, who backed the PM during the Tory leadership contest, expressed his confusion over how ‘so many stupid things could have happened’.
And Peter Bone, the MP for Wellingborough since 2005, said anyone who partied in No10 ahead of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral ‘needs to be sacked’.
Lee Anderson, a new Red Wall MP for Ashfield, even created a poll on Facebook asking voters if Johnson should stay as Prime Minister.
Amid the party’s internal fallout, one ex-minister warned that Johnson is ‘toast’, while another said the crisis now feels ‘terminal’.
One senior backbencher revealed they had received more than 200 angry emails from infuriated constituents over the parties, alongside only five supporting the PM.
The latest comments follow five Tory MPs calling for the embattled premier to step down over his handling of the lockdown party scandal.
Andrew Bridgen submitted a letter of no-confidence in Johnson, joining Douglas Ross, Sir Roger Gale, William Wragg and Caroline Nokes in urging him to quit.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer repeated Mr Bridgen’s assertion that the Prime Minister had lost his moral authority, and called for the Tory party to topple him.
It is understood that up to 30 letters of no-confidence have been submitted to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory MPs. If more than 15 per cent of the party’s MPs submit letters, there has to be a vote on the leadership.
Downing Street’s pandemic parties
May 15, 2020: THE GARDEN PARTY
A leaked photo showed Boris and Carrie Johnson with 17 senior Downing Street staff, sitting around cheese and wine. This took place during the first Covid lockdown at a time when only two people from different households could mix outdoors, socially distanced
May 20, 2020: BYOB BASH
A bombshell email from Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 staff to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’. He told guests to bring their own alcohol
November 13, 2020: LEE CAIN’S LEAVING DO
The PM allegedly made a leaving speech for his director of communications Lee Cain with a number of people gathered. The party is believed to have carried on upstairs that evening after Dominic Cummings unceremoniously walked out of Downing Street carrying a cardboard box.
November 27, 2020: CLEO WATSON’S LEAVING DO
Mr Johnson reportedly gives a speech at a packed leaving do for a ‘senior aide’. ’40 or 50 people’ were present. The aide was named as one newspaper as Cleo Watson, Dominic Cummings’ protégé.
December 15, 2020: CHRISTMAS QUIZ
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. The paper also unearthed the team names used that night, including ‘Professor Quiz Whitty’, ‘Rebels without a Claus’, and ‘Hands, Face, First Place’.
December 17, 2020: Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, charged with probing Partygate, hosted a party after sending an email out to around 15 people in his Private Office titled ‘Christmas Quiz’.
December 18, 2020: ANOTHER CHRISTMAS PARTY Downing Street staffers allegedly hold their own festive party, with the PM not in attendance. Group size is also given as 40 to 50.
April 16, 2021: JAMES SLACK’S LEAVING DO
Advisers and civil servants drank alcohol and danced in No10’s basement and gardens to mark the departure of Boris Johnson’s press chief James Slack and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers. Witnesses claimed 30 people attended the two gatherings, which were held in different parts of the Downing Street complex before combining in the garden, on the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
May 26, 2021: A second, formal leaving event is held for James Slack inside No 10. More than a dozen allegedly attended.
Source: Daily Mail