The Tories are the government of parties at the wrong time

Molly Pollock takes a look over Downing Street’s never ending partying

BYOB – Bring your own bottle or Bring your own booze. That was the instruction given in an email headed ‘Socially Distanced Drinks’ from Martin Reynolds, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary to a number of staffers who worked in Number 10 Downling Street, and perhaps others. The email apparently invited 100 people to attend and was sent on 20th May 2020. Remember the photo?

“After what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of this lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the Number 10 garden this evening.

Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze.”

The email image is from ITV News.

The email is marked: OFFICIAL – SENSITIVE – no 10 ONLY

The image of the email has been widely Tweeted by ITV’s Paul Brand.

The party was to start just an hour after Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden gave the 20 May 2020 daily press briefing on the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of regulations. Dowden said: “Because if everyone stays alert and follows the rules, we can control coronavirus by keeping the R down and reducing the number of infections.

This is how we can continue to save lives, and livelihoods, as we begin as a nation to recover from coronavirus.”

Why now?

After eighteen further months of coronavirus a whistleblower has now decided to spill the beans on the 20th May party at Number 10. Why? Perhaps the troops are becoming restless at the bad press and the loss of the leader’s Midas touch. Perhaps as part of a campaign to replace Johnson with one of those around him. Sunak and Truss have both been mentioned as successors as have others.

The event may have been called a get-together, a working meeting, a few colleagues getting together for a relaxing drink, but in view of the email it’s hard not to use the word party. A party when others were in lockdown and grieving relatives and friends; when the rest of the country was banned from meeting more than one other person outdoors.

The party needs to be seen in this context at a time of massive restrictions, escalating deaths, and the Cummings scandal about to break. Others have questioned whether relevations about Cummings were leaked to keep news-hungry journalists and a curious public away from probing rumours of Number 10 events such as parties during lockdown.

Interestingly, the email from Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary who serves the PM and often conveys messages on his behalf, mentions “we thought it would be nice…” and “Please join us…” So who is the “we’ and ‘us’ if it isn’t Johnson and his PPS Martin Reynolds?

According to Sky News both Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson attended the Downing Street garden party in May 2020. Many reports of the party mention Carrie Johnson. Although the couple were engaged, and their son was born at the end of April 2020, the couple did not actually marry until a year later – on 29th May 2021 in a secret ceremony at Westminster Cathedral attended by thirty guests.

Media coverup?

Laura Kuenssberg, Political Editor at the BBC, tweeted about some surprise amongst staff at the event. She writes that about thirty attended. Other sources have put the figure at 40 and 49.

Kuenssberg’s email stating: “a flavour of messages shared with us from when Reynold’s email was sent…” indicates that she, and presumably many other journalists, if not invited to the party certainly appeared to know of it but decided not to report it.

The Met stirs itself

After saying some weeks ago that it did not investigate previous events, the Metropolitan Police have issued a statement:

“The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on 20 May 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.”

The SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, has also Tweeted comments including a reminder by the Met of what the regulation were.

A resignation issue?

Johnson has given many assurances that there were no parties during lockdown, merely work meetings. Last month, Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader, said Boris Johnson, if he knew about the cheese and wine party being covered in the media, should resign.

Now that there are strong indications that Boris Johnson not only knew about at least one party and attended it with his partner, perhaps Douglas Ross might like to pursue the matter of the Prime Minister’s resignation.