Boris Johnson was has been accused of an “utterly outrageous” breach of lockdown rules after a leaked email showed one of his top officials invited more than 100 Downing Street staff to a “bring your own booze” party during the first lockdown.
The prime minister is believed to have attended the No 10 garden party on 20 May 2020 along with Carrie Johnson, then his fiancee, after it was advertised by his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds.The police are now investigating.
In an email seen by ITV news, it read: “Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening. Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”
It invited just over 100 employees to the gathering at a time when social mixing was banned except with one other person from another household outdoors in a public place.
About 30 to 40 are said to have attended, with food and wine set out on tables, but some staff reportedly expressed reservations at the time.
On the same day, Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, had reminded the public at a press conference: “You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart.”
The Metropolitan police had tweeted telling 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”.
Johnson will now come under huge pressure to explain his own role in the gathering and whether he played any part in the invitation given the phrase “we thought it would be nice”
He will also be questioned about why his office did not listen to alleged warnings from his former aide, Dominic Cummings, that it appeared to be against the rules. Cummings revealed the existence of the 20 May party in a blog on Friday.
The Met said it was “aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on 20 May 2020” and said it had made contact with the Cabinet Office.
Senior officers are expected to discuss the situation on Tuesday morning. The force has previously said it was policy “not to investigate retrospective breaches of such regulations”.
Johnson’s spokesperson declined to comment in light of a continuing inquiry into potential breaches of lockdown in Downing Street. No 10 did not deny this weekend that Johnson and his wife, Carrie had attended the event.
Tory MPs were furious about the leaked email on Monday night. One frontbencher said: “I think this is the worst exposed the prime minister has ever been by these leaks. There’s no explanation, there’s no way to distance himself. His only saviour is if the public has given up caring.”
The party came five days after a 15 May 2020 “wine and pizza” party in Downing Street in the garden.
There have been reports of at least five other alleged gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall in winter 2020, including a Christmas party, leaving do, quiz, No 11 flat party and drinks at the Department for Education.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “Boris Johnson has consistently shown that he has no regard for the rules he puts in place for the rest of us. 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.”
Ian Blackford, the SNP Westminster leader, said the email was “utterly outrageous” and that the prime minister needed to come clean.
“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.”