Senior Downing Street officials, who invited more than 100 employees to a “bring your own wine” party during the COVID restrictions, have retained the prime minister’s confidence.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman confirmed Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s principal private secretary, is “continuing in his role” after ITV News revealed he had invited staff to the gathering during England’s first lockdown in May 2020.
Asked whether Mr Johnson still had full confidence in one of his most senior aides, the spokesman said he did.
The leaked email, which came to light on Monday, said: “Hello, after an incredibly busy period we thought it would be the best weather ever and some socially distancing drinks in the No.10 garden. this evening.
“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own wine!”
Mr Johnson will avoid an investigation into the allegations on Tuesday, as Paymaster General Michael Ellis was sent to the Commons to face an urgent question.
Asked what the Prime Minister was doing rather than answering himself, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “I don’t have the full diary at the moment, but it is not unusual, obviously, for government ministers to ask such questions. It’s not unusual to respond.”
The prime minister declined to say whether he had attended the gathering with his now-wife, Carey, although it has been widely reported that he was there.
Downing Street officials have also declined to draw on the details of the allegations as they are being investigated by senior officer Sue Gray as part of an investigation into the claims of lockdown-busting parties in Whitehall and Downing Street.
Mr Ellis told MPs: “This will establish the facts and if wrongdoing is established necessary disciplinary action will be taken.
“As with all internal investigations, if evidence emerges of what was potentially a criminal offence, the matter will be referred to the Metropolitan Police and the Cabinet Office investigation will be halted.”
- In England people were allowed to meet only one person from another household, provided they were at least two meters apart and outside.
- People were not allowed to move to the homes of friends and family – unless it was for care and medical reasons, or to move the child to another home with which parental responsibilities were shared.
- Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants remained closed.
Scotland Yard has said it is in contact with the Cabinet Office regarding the allegations on 20 May 2020.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rainer, whose immediate question led to Mr Ellis being presented to lawmakers, said: “It is incredibly disappointing, but not surprising that the prime minister to whom I asked this question was Not here today, despite no official affiliation.
“I think his absence speaks as much as his smile on the media, the public has already drawn their own conclusions. He can run but can’t hide.”
The Tory benches were sparsely populated, offering little support for Mr Ellis, while sentiment was running high among those questioning the minister.
DUP’s Jim Shannon broke down as he remembered his mother-in-law “who died alone”, while several lawmakers took up the cases of constituents who had suffered during the pandemic and were unable to attend funerals due to restrictions.
Veteran Tory Sir Christopher Chope highlighted the “drip, drip feed” of the parties’ allegations, asking: “Why can’t all the dirty linens be washed at once?”
The Commons Exchange came after Health Minister Edward Arger admitted that the public was angry and hurt by the allegations.
England was under strict coronavirus restrictions, which prohibited groups from meeting outside socially, after Mr Reynolds sent invitations to aides.
Mr Argar told the BBC: “I can completely understand that people who have lost loved ones, or those who have been deeply affected by these restrictions, are outraged and upset by these allegations.”
Hannah Brady, whose father’s death certificate was signed on the day of “socially distancing drinking”, the campaign group for the justice of the COVID-19 bereaved families wrote to the prime minister asking whether she would like to participate in the event. had attended.
He demanded an apology from him for treating the questions about it as “a big joke”, adding: “It is not only for us or the British people, but for your position as Prime Minister of United with general decency and respect.” It’s a matter of. Kingdom, to let us know if you have participated in this blatant violation of the government’s own rules.”
Two separate opinion polls suggested the public is turning against Mr Johnson – a study by Sawant Comeres found that 66% of British adults thought he should step down as prime minister, with 24% saying that They should stay, while a YouGov poll for Sky News found that 56% believed. He should go, 27% said he should stay.
The line has raised further questions within Tory ranks over the conduct of the prime minister and his inner circle.
Former Scottish Tory leader Baroness Davidson tweeted: “No one needs an official to tell them if they were having a drink in their garden.
“People are (rightfully) angry. They sacrificed so much – visiting sick or bereaved relatives, funerals. What were these people thinking?”
Human rights lawyer Adam Wagner, who explains the coronavirus rules to the public on Twitter, said the alleged incident “is unlikely to be legal for those in attendance”.
The Metropolitan Police tweeted the day of the alleged “bring your own wine” incident, telling people they can picnic, exercise or play outside, provided you’re “on your own, with people who You live with, or just you and another person”.
The then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden used the Downing Street press conference that day to remind the public that they “may meet a person outside your home in an outdoor, public place, provided that you stay two meters apart”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Downing Street Gardens was “used fairly regularly, especially in the summer months, by Number 10 Downing Street employees”.