After the Downing Street party email emerged, No10 has refused to repeat Boris Johnson’s promise that ‘I certainly broke no rules’. Now pressure is mounting from Tory leaders and the public over his previous claims
Boris Johnson stands accused of lying about No10 parties after he denied all knowledge of them – and claimed all the rules were followed.
The Prime Minister is due to face the music at PMQs tomorrow after hiding from questions on whether he attended a ‘BYOB’ bash on 20 May 2020.
An e-mail went to around 100 No10 staff from the PM’s principal private secretary – and around 40 No10 staff, including Mr Johnson, reportedly gathered in the Downing Street garden.
It was scheduled 55 minutes after Tory minister Oliver Dowden told the nation not to meet outdoors in groups of more than two at a time.
The reason this is so damaging is because Mr Johnson has repeatedly denied all knowledge of No10 parties, and insisted that as far as he knew, all rules were followed in No10.
If he knew about or attended the 40-person gathering, that raises a big question over the Prime Minister’s claims.
Gatherings reasonably necessary for work were allowed – but his aide Martin Reynolds urged staff to “make the most of the lovely weather ” and “bring your own booze!”.
In December he said “I certainly broke no rules”. Today his spokesman refused to repeat the vow.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the Prime Minister must “settle this right now” and say whether he attended the May 20 party.
It came as a brutal Savanta/ComRes poll found 66% of Brits – including 42% of those who voted Tory in 2019 – said Mr Johnson should resign following the parties furore.
A second poll of 5,931 British adults by YouGov found 56% of respondents said the PM should resign. 27% said he should remain and 17% didn’t know.
So what are the PM’s statements that are under scrutiny? We run through them…
December 1: ‘All guidance was followed completely’
After the Mirror revealed a No10 Christmas do, Boris Johnson told Keir Starmer in the Commons: “All guidance was followed completely in No10. May I recommend that he does the same with his own Christmas party, which is advertised for 15 December?” Keir Starmer’s party was scheduled for December 2021, not 2020, and he cancelled it anyway as Omicron cases rose. The PM added Sir Keir “drivels on irrelevantly about wallpaper and parties, playing politics”.
UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Imag)
December 7: ‘All the guidelines were observed’
Asked about a Christmas party, the PM told reporters: “What I can tell you is all the guidelines were observed, continue to be observed, and we’re getting on with the job as we have been throughout of dealing with the priorities of the people.” He added: “The guidelines were followed at all times… I’ve satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times”.
December 7: ‘Covid rules have been followed at all times’
As ITV published footage of No10 staff joking about a Christmas party, a No10 spokesperson told the broadcaster: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”
December 8: ‘Party made me sickened and furious’
When video emerged of staff joking about a No10 Christmas party, Boris Johnson said he was “sickened myself and furious about that”. He added: “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. But I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible.”
December 8: ‘People can bring allegations to me, or to the police’
The PM was asked by the Mirror at a No10 press conference if he would extend an inquiry to cover “any other gatherings, events, parties – use the term that you choose”. He replied: “All the evidence I can see is that people in this building have stayed within the rules. If that turns out not to be the case, and people wish to bring allegations to my attention or to the police or whoever, then of course there will be proper sanctions.”
December 8: ‘All Covid rules have been followed’
Told by the Mirror that she hadn’t denied a 2020 Christmas party took place, and asked to deny a second party on November 27, the PM’s Press Secretary said: “I would just repeat again that all Covid rules have been followed.”
December 13: ‘I certainly broke no rules’
The PM was even more direct, speaking about his own behaviour for the first time – after the Mirror revealed he hosted a virtual Christmas quiz with two staff by his side. He said: “I can tell you once again that I certainly broke no rules. All that is being looked into. But if I may respectfully say to you… of course, all that must be properly gone into – you’ll be hearing from the Cabinet Secretary about it all.”
December 15: ‘I follow the rules’
At a No10 press conference, Boris Johnson again pointed to his own personal behaviour. Despite previously being rapped for non-party rule-breaking by Parliament’s standards watchdog, he said: “On your point about rules, I follow the rules. Everybody across politics should follow the rules.”
December 20: ‘Those were people at work, talking about work’
After an image emerged of a separate No10 garden party on 15 May 2020, with wine and cheese and more than a dozen attendees, the PM said: “Those were people at work, talking about work. I have said what I have to say about that.”