Downing Street ‘garden party’ photo leads to calls for Boris Johnson to ‘tell the truth’

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure again as he faces calls to “tell the truth” about an alleged garden party at Downing Street in May 2020, when even outdoor mixing was banned by his Government.

The Guardian has exclusively published a photo of the PM and his wife socialising with what the paper says is wine and cheese – Number 10 has previously insisted it was a work meeting.

Guidance at the time was for households not to mix, unless it was only two people outdoors and socially distanced by at least two metres.

But the photo shows groups of Downing Street staffers gathered together, as well as the PM at a table with his wife and others.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has urged Boris Johnson to come clean about the gatherings at Downing Street, after allegations earlier in December about Christmas parties in 2020 which also seemingly broke coronavirus rules.

The Guardian and The Independent previously reported that Mr Johnson was present for 15 minutes at the May 2020 garden gathering following a Covid press conference on May 15, 2020.

According to the newspapers’ sources, around 20 staff drank wine and spirits and ate pizza following the press conference at which then health secretary Matt Hancock had told the British public to stay at home “as much as is possible” and stressed the rules in force meant “you can meet one other person from outside your household in an outdoor, public place” as long as you kept two metres apart.

What does the Downing Street garden photo show?

In a photograph published by The Guardian, Mr Johnson can be seen sitting around a garden table with his then-fiancee Carrie, and two members of staff.

On the table are bottles of wine and a cheeseboard.

Four other members of staff are sat around a second table a distance away.

Nine people are then gathered on the grass, with another two sat on the floor to the right.

The Guardian published its story with the image on Sunday evening (December 19) and tweeted its exclusive.

What Downing Street said

Downing Street has insisted the gathering was within the rules, and a spokesman previously said: “On May 15 2020 the Prime Minister held a series of meetings throughout the afternoon, including briefly with the then health and care secretary and his team in the garden following a press conference.

“The Prime Minister went to his residence shortly after 7pm.

“A small number of staff required to be in work remained in the Downing Street garden for part of the afternoon and evening.”

On Sunday, a spokesperson told The Guardian: “As we said last week, work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months. On this occasion there were staff meetings after a No 10 press conference.

“Downing Street is the Prime Minister’s home as well as his workplace. The Prime Minister’s wife lives in No 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden.”

Labour and lawyers react to Downing Street allegations

But following the emergence of the photographs, Labour’s Ms Rayner tweeted: “I guess staff meetings look a bit different if you went to Eton?

“Enough is enough. Tell us the truth about what was going on in Downing Street from the very beginning immediately @BorisJohnson.”

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who examines coronavirus regulations and interprets them on Twitter for the public, said he had seen the photo and was “doubtful it was against the law”, but that it may have been against guidance.

He said on Twitter that at the time outdoor gatherings were only banned in public places.

He added that regulations at the time stated “you couldn’t be outside the place you were living without a reasonable excuse” and that working would be such a reason.

And that there was “no way of knowing from a pic that they weren’t working”.

The Prime Minister is alleged to have told one aide that they deserved a drink for “beating back” coronavirus.

Some aides reportedly carried on drinking into the evening, although there was no suggestion Mr Johnson or Mr Hancock had any alcohol or stayed late.

The alleged gathering is one of a number which have been reported across Whitehall during coronavirus restrictions.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray has been tasked with investigating the reports after Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was removed from the probe after it was revealed he had known about a quiz held in his department.



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