No 10 fears Boris Johnson was pictured drinking at Partygate events
No 10 fears Boris Johnson was pictured drinking at Partygate events and could face more fines with poor local election results and a damning Sue Gray report enough to trigger vote of no confidence as PM prepares to make ‘plea for perspective’
- PM is facing critical week in which he will face down claims he misled Parliament
- He will give statement on Tuesday asking for forgiveness and perspective
- But aides fear further boozy pictures will emerge amid a ‘low bar’ for fines
- Of particular concern is a gathering for the exit of Lee Cain in November 2020
- Mr Johnson said to have been at forefront of event with alcohol and a toast
Downing Street fears Boris Johnson was pictured drinking at Partygate events and could face further fines – with poor local election results and a damning Sue Gray report enough to trigger a vote of no-confidence.
The Prime Minister is facing a critical week in which he will face down claims he misled Parliament and the possibility of a formal House of Commons inquiry.
Mr Johnson will give a statement to the Commons on Tuesday in which he will ask for forgiveness after receiving a fine from the Metropolitan Police earlier this week, but is also expected to call for greater perspective in relation to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
After his expected apology on Tuesday it is understood he will try and regain some support from his party, by meeting Tory MPs that evening to ‘clear the air’.
But the Prime Minister’s allies fear the worst is yet to come, with the June 2020 event thought to be the least problematic of those being investigated by police – raising concerns there is a ‘low bar’ that could see him face further fines.
It comes amid further worry that Mr Johnson was pictured drinking at other events being probed, The Sunday Times reports.
Understood to be of particular concern is the gathering to send off then director of communications Lee Cain on November 13, 2020 – an occasion the Prime Minister is understood to have been at the forefront of.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured shortly after delivering a speech on immigration at Lydd Airport earlier this week
A group of police officers walk through Downing Street, in Westminster, London, during a protest outside the gates on Wednesday
A protester holds up a placard of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside Downing Street on Wednesday
From a suitcase ‘full of booze’ to ‘BYOB’ bashes and a raucous garden gathering that ended in baby Wilf’s swing being broken – the details of the parties held at No10 while the rest of the nation was in lockdown have caused widespread fury
Mr Johnson also attended a Christmas quiz night in No10 (pictured). It is not known which event the trio were censured for, but they all attended a party organised by Carrie for Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday in June 2020
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
JUNE 19 2020: ‘AMBUSHED BY CAKE’ 56th BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR BORIS
Downing Street has admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for Mr Johnson organised by his now wife Carrie. Rishi Sunak has admitted he ‘popped in’ on his way to a meeting elsewhere in Downing Street.
Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, briefly attended while undertaking work there.
It was after this gathering that Tory MP Conor Burns claimed Mr Johnson had been ‘ambushed by a cake’.
No 10 denied a report that, later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to celebrate the occasion.
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.
A source told The Times: ‘It was in Downing Street, people around the table, and there was loads of alcohol.
‘If you put that picture on the front pages, I think a lot of people, MPs, who have priced a lot of stuff in will not have priced that in, because it looks like a massive p**s-up.’
The PM is understood to have gathered staff around the press office table, which contained bottles of alcohol, before toasting Mr Cain – all captured by a photographer.
His presence at the forefront of the event would likely contradict statements made to the Commons.
Another insider said: ‘This was the usual press office Friday evening wash-up drinks. Boris came fumbling over, red box in tow, and he gathered the staff around the press office table, which did have bottles of alcohol on it.
‘He said he wanted to say a few words for Lee and started pouring drinks for people and drinking himself. He toasted him.’
Downing Street said it will not be commenting on the pictures, but denied the Prime Minister had organised the leaving drinks.
Upon returning to his No11 flat, a second gathering is said to have taken place involving Carrie and her friends – from which the notorious Abba music is claimed to have been heard.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson apologised on Tuesday after he, wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were all fined over a gathering in Downing Street’s cabinet room on June 19, 2020 – three months into the first national lockdown.
No 10 has insisted the Prime Minister was only in attendance at the gathering, for his 56th birthday in June 2020, for less than ten minutes.
But government sources have said the event lasted for half an hour.
Stout defenders of Mr Johnson have continually claimed the gathering was informal, but the Met has obtained messages from Carrie asking for senior officials to gather in the days before the event.
And the probe is also said to have obtained pictures of Mr Johnson drinking a can of Estrella and Mr Sunak a soft drink.
Few Tories criticised Mr Johnson publicly after he was fined by police, with a number of high-profile MPs saying it was not the right time to switch leaders, praising his response to Ukraine and playing down the fine.
But that stance could change as their leader faces a three-pronged assault.
Insiders say that a combination of further Covid fines, a poor showing at the next month’s local elections and a damning Sue Gray report could trigger a flurry of no confidence letters.
A Cabinet Minister told The Mail on Sunday last night that Tory MPs might not ‘hold the line’ if Mr Johnson was fined again, adding: ‘If he gets two, three or four fines, people can lose their nerve quickly.’
MPs are expected to vote on Thursday on whether a parliamentary committee should look into claims that he misled Parliament over Partygate.
Sources say Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is likely to allow two requests from opposition MPs for a so-called contempt motion into Mr Johnson’s conduct.
It comes as Sue Gray has been told she cannot publish her highly-anticipated report until all the related fines have been handed out – meaning it will likely not be released before next month’s local elections.
The former ethics chief wants to publish the potentially explosive dossier as soon as possible after April 26, when the House of Lords returns from its Easter break.
But she is now locked in a row with the Metropolitan Police, who have said all the fines must be handed out first, in a process which could take weeks.
Today an exclusive poll for the MoS has Labour 11 points ahead of the Tories – the highest lead Deltapoll has recorded since the 2019 Election.
The Prime Minister will be in India on Thursday and Friday to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ongoing free trade agreement talks and to discuss security co-operation.
He also addressed Ukrainians in his Easter message today, remarking that ‘Christ’s message of hope the triumph of life over death and good over evil will resonate this year perhaps more than any other’.
The Prime Minister, who is now banned from entering Russia following the Kremlin’s sanctions on a dozen other British government members and politicians, told Christians around the world to ‘be strong and have courage in your heart’.
He added: ‘Easter tells us that there is light beyond the darkness, that beyond the suffering lies redemption.’
How Boris Johnson’s line on Partygate has changed
Here is what the Prime Minister has said in response to the claims which have been made.
May 15, 2020: Garden party at Downing Street (cheese and wine)
In December 2021, a photo emerged showing Boris and Carrie Johnson, former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, and Mr Johnson’s then principal private secretary Martin Reynolds sitting around a table in the No 10 garden during the first national lockdown.
Mr Johnson said in an interview on December 20 2021: ‘Those were meetings of people at work. This is where I live and it’s where I work. Those were meetings of people at work, talking about work.’
May 20, 2020: Garden party at Downing Street (BYOB)
An email, leaked to ITV, from Mr Reynolds to more than 100 Downing Street employees, asked them to ‘bring your own booze’ to an evening gathering.
The Prime Minister admitted attending for 25 minutes but insisted he thought the gathering was a work event, while No 10 said Mr Johnson did not know about the event beforehand.
But his former chief aide Dominic Cummings said this was not true, and he had warned it was against the rules.
Mr Johnson said during a visit to the Finchley Memorial Hospital in north London: ‘I want to begin by repeating my apologies to everybody for the misjudgments that I’ve made, that we may have made in No 10 and beyond, whether in Downing Street or throughout the pandemic.
‘Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that… was not a work event, and as I said in the House of Commons, when I went out into that garden I thought that I was attending a work event.’
On February 20 2022 he told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: ‘You’re just going to have to wait until the process (police investigation) is complete – there is literally not a bean I can tell you about that, as much as I would like to.’
November 13, 2020: Leaving party for senior aide and the Johnsons’ flat party
According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and close ally of Mr Cummings.
There were also allegations the Prime Minister’s then fiancee, now wife, hosted parties in the couple’s flat at No 11, with one such event said to have taken place on November 13 2020, the night Mr Cummings departed No 10.
Mr Johnson told the Commons on December 8 2021: ‘I’m sure that, whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.’
It was then reported in February 2022 that PM had been seen heading up to his flat on the night in question. The Prime Minister repeatedly refused to say if he was there.
December 15, 2020: Downing Street quiz
The Sunday Mirror published an image in December 2021 showing the Prime Minister flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in No 10 the previous year.
Downing Street admitted Mr Johnson ‘briefly’ attended the quiz after photographic evidence emerged, but insisted it was a virtual event.
In an interview on December 13 2021, the Prime Minister said: ‘I can tell you that I certainly broke no rules – the whole thing will be looked into by the Cabinet Secretary, and what I’m focused on, frankly, is the vaccine rollout.’
On February 9 2022, at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Mr Johnson was challenged by Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who said the image appeared to show ‘one of the Christmas parties he told us never happened’.
He added: ‘Will the Prime Minister be referring this party to the police as it is not one of the ones currently being investigated?’
Mr Johnson responded: ‘In what he has just said, I’m afraid he is completely in error.’
Challenged again during PMQs, Mr Johnson added: ‘That event already has been submitted for investigation.’
December 18, 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street
According to reports which first emerged at the end of November 2021, officials and advisers made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged secret Santa gifts – although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.
Mr Johnson said in an interview on December 7 2021: ‘I have satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.’
He said in the House of Commons the next day: ‘I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken. That is what I have been repeatedly assured.’
The Prime Minister added: ‘I apologise for the impression that has been given that staff in Downing Street take this less than seriously. I am sickened myself and furious about that, but I repeat what I have said to him: I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken.’
April 16, 2021: Leaving parties on the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral
The Telegraph reported that advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events on April 16 2021, as the country was in mourning after the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.
One was for former Downing Street director of communications James Slack and the second for a photographer, and they were later reported to have merged.
The newspaper said No 10 staff partied until the early hours of the morning in a seven-hour drinking session.
Wine and spirits with mixers were said to have been served in disposable plastic cups, and at one point alcohol was reportedly spilled on an office printer.
Takeaway pizzas were reported to have been ordered in and some of the revellers were said to have used a slide belonging to Mr and Mrs Johnson’s son, Wilfred.
The following day the Queen sat alone, socially distanced from her family, as she said goodbye to her husband.
No 10 previously said an apology had been extended to Buckingham Palace.
Mr Johnson said: ‘I deeply and bitterly regret that that happened.’
He added: ‘I can only renew my apologies both to Her Majesty and to the country for misjudgments that were made, and for which I take full responsibility.’
Here is what the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said on four occasions about partygate:
December 7, 2021:
Speaking during a session of questions to the Treasury in the House of Commons, Mr Sunak denied attending parties when asked if he was at reported Christmas gatherings in December 2020.
Labour MP Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) had asked: ‘The Chancellor was evasive when interviewed by the media last week but we need a clear answer on this very important point because many people across the country made great personal sacrifice during the lockdown.
‘So will the Chancellor categorically deny in the House that he or any of his officials or spads (special advisers) attended any of the Downing Street Christmas parties on November 27 or December 18 last year?’
Mr Sunak replied: ‘No, I did not attend any parties.’
January 18, 2022:
The Chancellor abruptly ended an interview when pressed if he would give his full support to the Prime Minister. At the time six Conservative MPs had publicly called for Mr Johnson to go.
In his first interview since Mr Johnson’s apology to MPs over the scandal, the Chancellor said he accepted Mr Johnson’s explanation that he was not warned in advance about a No 10 drinks party during lockdown in May 2020.
‘Of course I do. The Prime Minister set out his understanding of this matter last week in Parliament. I refer you to his words,’ he told broadcasters.
‘Sue Gray is conducting an inquiry into this matter and I fully support the Prime Minister’s requests for patience while that concludes.’
Asked if the Prime Minister should resign if he lied to Parliament, Mr Sunak said: ‘I am not going to get into hypotheticals, the ministerial code is clear on these matters.’
Pressed on whether Mr Johnson had his unequivocal support, Mr Sunak swiftly broke off the interview, walking off with a microphone still attached.
February 3, 2022:
The Chancellor acknowledged he was in the Cabinet Room when No 10 staff held a birthday gathering for Boris Johnson on June 19 2020.
Mr Sunak told the BBC he had been there for a meeting to discuss the Covid-19 situation.
‘I am in the Cabinet Room for a Covid meeting much like the other 100, 200, God knows how many other Covid meetings,’ he said.
‘You’re asking me about something that happened almost two years ago. I went to that Cabinet Room, as I did many other times for Covid meetings. And it’s right that we allow this police investigation.’
The Chancellor also acknowledged that the Government needed to rebuild public confidence following the disclosures over parties during lockdown.
‘I can appreciate people’s frustration. And I think it’s now the job of all of us in government, all politicians, to restore people’s trust,’ he said.
February 11, 2022:
Mr Sunak told Sky News he had not received a questionnaire from the Met Police at that time and, asked whether he expected to receive a form to complete, he replied: ‘No… well, I don’t know.’
He also replied ‘no’ when asked if he believed he had broken lockdown rules.
Pressed about whether he still had confidence in Mr Johnson, the Chancellor added: ‘The Prime Minister has my total support.’
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