What were you doing on May 20, 2020? 

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Furious Brits today shared pictures of their May 2020s when they had to see loved ones through windows and could only meet one person from another household outside while No10 held a ‘bring your own booze’ party.  

A bombshell email leaked last night proved that Boris 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’.

At the time, only two people were allowed to socialise outside while at least two metres apart under national Covid curbs. There was no mixing indoors, non-essential shops were shut, and hospitality businesses remained closed.

Today, Twitter users shared harrowing pictures they took around the time of the party, including grandparents hugging their grandchildren through plastic sheeting.

Meanwhile, while Downing Street staffers were toasting the sunny weather, officers were patrolling London parks looking for groups of more than two people, while in Edinburgh a large group of swimmers were broken up. 

It came as Tories turned on Mr Johnson today as he faces the threat of a police probe and growing pressure to come clean. 

The email apparently cause shock among some of the recipients at the time, who reportedly exchanged comments including ‘Why is Martin encouraging a mass gathering in the garden?’ and ‘Is this for real?’ 

Today, Twitter users shared harrowing pictures they took around the time of the party, which showed grandparents having to hug their grandchildren through plastic sheeting or struggle to communicate with loved ones through windows

Two police officers speak to a group of swimmers on Portobello Beach in Edinburgh. At the time only two people from different households were allowed to meet outside

Two police officers speak to a group of swimmers on Portobello Beach in Edinburgh. At the time only two people from different households were allowed to meet outside

Two police officers speak to a group of swimmers on Portobello Beach in Edinburgh. At the time only two people from different households were allowed to meet outside 

On a visit to his constituency yesterday, Mr Johnson ducked questions about whether he attended the gathering along with wife Carrie and 30-40 staff who feasted on drinks, crisps and sausage rolls – as has been claimed. Instead he merely insisted it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into allegations of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall.

Lawyers have suggested the premier being there might not have broken the law at the time, as it was technically his garden.

But there are growing signs of disquiet among senior Tories at the hypocrisy and evasive responses from the government. It is unclear how soon Ms Gray – who has a fierce reputation in Whitehall – is set to deliver her findings.

Health minister Edward Argar said in a round of interviews this morning that he understood the public’s ‘anger’ at the allegations, and stressed that he personally had not been at any drinks bashes in May 2020 as he was ‘glued to Zoom’.

Meanwhile, Theresa May’s former chief of staff Lord Barwell swiped: ‘Let me put this politely: it is not *entirely clear* why the Prime Minister needs to wait for Sue Gray’s report to find out if he went to a party in his own garden.’

And former Scottish Tory leader Baroness Davidson said: ‘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?’

Labour’s 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.’

Scotland Yard has confirmed that they are now ‘in contact with the Cabinet Office’ over reports of the drinks event. The force is thought to be waiting to see if Ms Gray’s inquiry identifies rule-breaking before considering whether further action is needed.

The Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 staff to bring their own drinks to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20, 2020 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’, an email leaked to ITV News shows

The Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 staff to bring their own drinks to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20, 2020 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’, an email leaked to ITV News shows

The Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 staff to bring their own drinks to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20, 2020 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’, an email leaked to ITV News shows 

On a visit to his constituency, Boris Johnson ducked questions about whether he attended the May 20 garden party, merely insisting it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into allegations of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall

On a visit to his constituency, Boris Johnson ducked questions about whether he attended the May 20 garden party, merely insisting it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into allegations of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall

On a visit to his constituency, Boris Johnson ducked questions about whether he attended the May 20 garden party, merely insisting it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into allegations of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall 

Senior Tories have voiced disbelief at the latest Partygate allegations threatening to destabilise the PM  

Mr Johnson's former chief aide Dominic Cummings has alleged that the PM himself - whom he has taken to referring to as the 'trolley' in a reference to erratic decision-making - was at the gathering on May 20, 2020

Mr Johnson's former chief aide Dominic Cummings has alleged that the PM himself - whom he has taken to referring to as the 'trolley' in a reference to erratic decision-making - was at the gathering on May 20, 2020

Mr Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings has alleged that the PM himself – whom he has taken to referring to as the ‘trolley’ in a reference to erratic decision-making – was at the gathering on May 20, 2020  

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.

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 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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A spokesman for the Met 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.’

On May 20, 2020, the Met 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’.

Mr Reynolds’s email, which was leaked to ITV News, 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!’.  

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.

Barrister Adam Wagner, an expert on Covid regulations, said that on the basis of what was known, the gathering was ‘unlikely to be legal for attendees’.

He added: ‘Being outside the home was illegal at the time unless – the only potentially relevant exception – it was for the need to work. Socially distanced drinks and bring your own booze don’t sound like work.’

Several No 10 staff privately expressed shock to each other about the party at the time, according to the BBC.  

Speaking on a visit to his Uxbridge constituency yesterday, 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 has denied reports that Mr Reynolds is to be moved to another post following the claims. 

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

Carrie Johnson leaves Oswald's private members' club on Albemarle Street in Mayfair last Thursday night at about 9.30pm

Carrie Johnson leaves Oswald's private members' club on Albemarle Street in Mayfair last Thursday night at about 9.30pm

Carrie Johnson leaves Oswald’s private members’ club on Albemarle Street in Mayfair last Thursday night at about 9.30pm

The PM’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.’ 

Asked if he would have accepted an invitation to an alleged Downing Street drinks party during the first lockdown, Mr Argar said he spent last May ‘glued to my Zoom screen’.

He told Sky News: ‘I spent my May last year talking to you on various occasions, and various other media outlets, but pretty much glued to my Zoom screen and making sure that I knew what the regulations were – not least because I was a health minister who’d helped draw them up.’

Pressed on whether he would have accepted such an invitation in light of this, he said: ‘I wasn’t invited to any parties and I’m not going to get into any hypotheticals.

‘I was clear about what the rules were at the time and it’s right that Sue Gray is looking into this matter independently.’

Mr Argar said he might have had a ‘quiet word’ with neighbours if they were having a party during May 2020.

Pushed on whether he would have ‘stepped in’ if he had seen 40 people gathering in the garden of Downing Street, Mr Argar said: ‘Well, you’re citing a hypothetical there. I wasn’t in Downing Street. I don’t think I went to Downing Street at all during that period of the pandemic.

‘I spent most of it sitting, as I say, glued to a Zoom or Teams screen. But I think we all, at that time, we remember what it was like.’

He added: ‘I think you probably asked me at the time, would I, if I, for example, had people next door or in the street having a party or breaking the rules, what would we do and what would I say? I made clear that I might have a quiet word.

‘But I’m not going to extrapolate from that or be drawn on the allegations at the moment. They’re being investigated by Sue Gray. So, I’m not going to, I’m afraid, get into hypotheticals about that.’

Mr Argar insisted: ‘I want to know exactly what happened, what did or didn’t happen’. 

How flu and Covid compare to other leading causes of death: Cancer is the biggest killer, taking around 166,000 lives every year, followed by dementia and heart disease. Covid has killed More than 150,000 Britons since the pandemic took off but it is expected to settle down and become an endemic illness in the coming years

How flu and Covid compare to other leading causes of death: Cancer is the biggest killer, taking around 166,000 lives every year, followed by dementia and heart disease. Covid has killed More than 150,000 Britons since the pandemic took off but it is expected to settle down and become an endemic illness in the coming years

How flu and Covid compare to other leading causes of death: Cancer is the biggest killer, taking around 166,000 lives every year, followed by dementia and heart disease. Covid has killed More than 150,000 Britons since the pandemic took off but it is expected to settle down and become an endemic illness in the coming years

To work out flu deaths, the UK Health Security Agency — formerly Public Health England — estimates them using a statistical model, which looks at the prevalence of flu and excess winter fatalities. The cumulative number of fatalities was estimated to be in the region of 15,000 in 2016/17, with about 300 people dying every day at the peak. In 2017/18, during the Aussie flu outbreak, a total of 22,000 people were killed by influenza, with in excess of 400 dying per day at the worst of the epidemic. But in 2018/19 just 4,000 were estimated to have died to the virus, with just tens of people dying per day at the peak

To work out flu deaths, the UK Health Security Agency — formerly Public Health England — estimates them using a statistical model, which looks at the prevalence of flu and excess winter fatalities. The cumulative number of fatalities was estimated to be in the region of 15,000 in 2016/17, with about 300 people dying every day at the peak. In 2017/18, during the Aussie flu outbreak, a total of 22,000 people were killed by influenza, with in excess of 400 dying per day at the worst of the epidemic. But in 2018/19 just 4,000 were estimated to have died to the virus, with just tens of people dying per day at the peak

To work out flu deaths, the UK Health Security Agency — formerly Public Health England — estimates them using a statistical model, which looks at the prevalence of flu and excess winter fatalities. The cumulative number of fatalities was estimated to be in the region of 15,000 in 2016/17, with about 300 people dying every day at the peak. In 2017/18, during the Aussie flu outbreak, a total of 22,000 people were killed by influenza, with in excess of 400 dying per day at the worst of the epidemic. But in 2018/19 just 4,000 were estimated to have died to the virus, with just tens of people dying per day at the peak

But Ms Rayner said of the PM: ‘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.’

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’.     

Mr Blackford said the PM ‘has no moral authority left’ and urged Tory MPs to ‘remove him from power’.

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.’ The PM’s press secretary added: ‘We don’t recognise this account, as we’ve said Covid rules have been followed at all times.’

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. The paper also unearthed the team names used that night, including ‘Professor Quiz Whitty’, ‘Rebels without a Claus’, and ‘Hands, Face, First Place’.

 

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‘Boris Johnson must come clean and admit whether he attended, or was aware of, this Covid rule-breaking party in his own back garden,’ the SNP’s Westminster leader said.

‘People will find it utterly outrageous that while the rest of us were banned from public gatherings, the most powerful people in the Tory Government were boozing up at No 10 Downing Street, proving yet again that it’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us.

‘Boris Johnson’s Tory Government is the most corrupt in decades. If the Prime Minister had a shred of integrity or an ounce of shame, he would have resigned many months ago. He has no moral authority left, and as he won’t go his Tory MPs have a duty to remove him from power.

‘Sleaze and corruption are endemic at Westminster. The only lasting solution is for Scotland to become an independent country and escape the broken Westminster system for good.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the PM 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 added: ‘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 Mr Cummings said he had warned at the time the ‘socially distanced drinks’ would likely be against the rules and ‘should not happen”

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.

It came as Covid infections in the UK fell again and hospitalisations stayed flat as pressure grew on the PM 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 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. 

Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie, with their daughter Romy and dog Dilyn at Chequers in December

Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie, with their daughter Romy and dog Dilyn at Chequers in December

Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie, with their daughter Romy and dog Dilyn at Chequers in December

Source: Daily Mail

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