Six worst Downing Street 'parties' – and how lawyer claims they broke Covid laws

Chris Daw QC goes through some of the Downing Street gatherings, explaining why he things they were against the law. At the time, Covid restrictions prevented the mingling of different households

Boris Johnson pictured during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons this week
Boris Johnson pictured during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons this week

Boris Johnson’s political fate hangs in the balance as he anxiously awaits Sue Gray’s report on lockdown parties across Downing Street and Whitehall.

More than 16 parties have been uncovered across Downing Street, Whitehall and Tory HQ while millions suffered under lockdown rules and the Prime Minister is accused of attending at least five of the events.

The Mirror led the way in revealing the first parties and we also revealed No10 staff had “wine time Fridays” scheduled every week and would dash to the local Tesco Express with a wheelie suitcase to stock up their £142 wine fridge.

As Boris Johnson faces mounting pressure to resign, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick confirmed that her officers will look into “a number of events” where Covid lockdown rules were allegedly broken in No 10 and Whitehall.

Now Chris Daw QC looks into six of the parties and how he thinks they broke coronavirus rules.

Cressida Dick confirmed the Metropolitan Police will investigate a number of parties at Downing Street


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“All of the No 10 gatherings below took place at a time when legal regulations, imposed on the nation by Boris Johnson and his Government, prevented the mingling of individuals and households, save in truly exceptional and essential circumstances.

“Let me take you through why each one of them was against the law.

May 20, 2020

“BYOB party in No 10 garden attended by Boris Johnson, who claimed he stayed for 25 minutes and thought it was a “work event”.

“May 2020 was a dark time. We were not allowed to travel, let alone socialise, save in the most limited circumstances, as Oliver Dowden explained in the press conference on the day that Partygate really got started. What he did not say was: “If you are at work you can invite as many people you like for a massive p*** up after you finish for the day.”

“The reason he did not say that is simple – nobody in his right mind could have argued that an outdoor party/drinking session for dozens of people in the boss’s garden was taking place under the “work” exemption in the Covid regulations.

“I have no doubt that this event, at least as reported, amounted to a flagrant breach of the rules at the precise point in time when the Government was threatening the public with fines and prosecution if they organised or attended any social gathering at all.”

Carrie Johnson brought a cake for the PM to the Cabinet room on his birthday


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June 19, 2020

“Boris Johnson’s surprise birthday party with cake thrown by wife Carrie in the Cabinet room.

“Carrie Johnson has no official role at Number 10. She does not work there. Even if she did work there, she was not legally permitted to organise a personal birthday function for her husband or anyone else. Why? Because nobody was allowed to have birthday parties in June 2020, whether with work colleagues as guests or not.

“Parties, make no mistake, were banned under the Covid regulations, which made it unlawful to gather indoors with members of a different household, save for the purpose of work. To make the legal analysis really simple and clear – attending a birthday party, surprise or otherwise, organised by your wife, does not come under the definition of “work”.”

November 13, 2020

“A party in the PM and Carrie’s flat – denied by No 10 – on the night Dominic Cummings quit Downing Street.

“It is hardly surprising that some in No 10 were in a celebratory mood, following the departure of Dominic Cummings, who had tied himself in knots to explain his lengthy and unlawful lockdown drive to Barnard Castle.

“But the alleged late-night “victory party” with huge quantities of booze and loud music, in a residential flat, was clearly against Covid regulations at the time.”

Dominic Cummings quit Downing Street in November 2020


Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock)

December 15, 2020

“Boris Johnson hosts “virtual” No 10 Christmas Quiz although most participants were in the office.

“It is true to say that the “official guidance” was not, strictly speaking, the law of the land. The Covid regulations simply prevented social mixing between households subject to the work purposes exemption.

“But… the official guidance did no more than stating the obvious. If you are the Prime Minister, hosting a quiz, completed unconnected to official business, in the company of staff who are drinking alcohol, is not work. It was “primarily social activity” and, as such, completely prohibited under the Tier 2 Rules.”

December 18, 2020

“The original No 10 Christmas party with a Secret Santa and nibbles and wine.

“When it suits the Government, Downing Street becomes one massive household bubble, with hundreds of people all free to intermingle to their hearts’ content. Here we are told that Boris Johnson was holed up in his office, working away on the nation’s Christmas plans, while dozens of his colleagues partied the night away.

“Either Boris Johnson really was completely oblivious to the unambiguous law-breaking on his watch, or he had no control of No 10 at all. Neither scenario showers him in glory, let alone enhances the credibility of his denials of responsibility for so many events under his own roof.”

The Queen sat alone at Prince Philip’s funeral

April 16, 2021

“‘Suitcase of wine’ party on eve of Prince Philip ’s funeral.

“Set aside the poor taste of a wine-fuelled disco in the PM’s house, on the eve of one of the Queen’s toughest days since her ascension to the throne, this event took place during yet another period of severe legal restrictions on household mixing.

“Very few of us can undertake our work duties while under the influence of alcohol – booze during work hours makes for dangerous situations and very poor decisions.

“The same applies to those running the country and especially to No 10.

“They cannot have it both ways – either they were off duty and should not have been drinking and socialising together at all or they were getting drunk at the wheel of our whole country, during a time of national crisis. The evidence points strongly to this being a purely social event.”

Chris Daw QC is a barrister, broadcaster and author of the bestselling book, Justice on Trial.

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