Boris Johnson seen at ‘cheese and wine Downing Street garden party’ in lockdown
Boris Johnson and staff have been pictured enjoying glasses of wine and cheese at an alleged Downing Street garden party from May 2020 that has emerged online.
A photo, showing people sitting at tables together with booze and food, and a group of others in close proximity on the grass in the garden, is believed to be during the May lockdown earlier this year.
The Prime Minister is seen sitting alongside his wife, who it seems is holding their newborn baby, and up to 17 staff in the Downing Street garden, reports The Guardian.
It comes after No10 denied last week there was a social event on May 15, 2020, including wine, spirits, and pizza inside and outside the building.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said Downing Street staff were working in the garden in the afternoon and evening.
However, the picture raises questions over whether the gathering was a work meeting.
Bottles of wine and cheese on the tables, as well as an apparent lack of social distancing between the 19 people, cast doubts on No10's explanation it was work-related.
The photo shows people gathered in groups on the terrace and lawn at Downing Street, including members sitting on the grass near each other.
It was taken during a time social mixing between households was limited to two people, who were only allowed to meet outdoors in and at a distance of at least two metres. The easing of lockdown restrictions in allowing mixing between others came into force after May 17.
Workplace guidance at the time said in-person meetings should only take place if they were "absolutely necessary".
Deputy leader of the Labour party, Angela Rayner, described the photo as a "slap in the face of the British public".
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She told the paper: "The prime minister consistently shows us he has no regard for the rules he puts in place for the rest of us. Alleged drinking and partying late into the evening [at No 10] when the rest of us were only recently getting one daily walk."
In the new image, Boris and wife Carrie, who appears to be holding their newborn baby, are sitting around a table with cheeseboard and wine, along with two people believed to be an aide and civil servant.
Last week, a spokesperson said the Prime Minister was working in the garden before returning to his flat at 7pm on the day in question.
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On that day, the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared in a press conference on TV urging Brits to stick to the rules and not take advantage of the good weather over the weekend and to socialise in groups.
He said for the "vast majority of people, staying alert still means staying home as much as possible".
Schools, pubs, and restaurants were still closed amid strict rules over social mixing.
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In light of the new picture, a Downing Street spokesperson said on Sunday: "As we said last week, work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months. On this occasion, there were staff meetings after a No 10 press conference.
"Downing Street is the prime minister’s home as well as his workplace. The prime minister’s wife lives in No 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden."
The Prime Minister and members of his staff have faced a string of allegations of breaching lockdown rules while Covid rules were in place. It includes accusations of a Christmas party at No10 where a civil service inquiry has been opened.
Simon Case – the cabinet secretary and head of the inquiry – has stepped down from his role investigating the alleged lockdown-breaking parties after claims emerged he had hosted an event himself during the same period.
He will be replaced by veteran civil servant Sue Gray, second permanent secretary at the communities and levelling up department.
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