Are you all keeping up? – Owl
No 10 partying in lockdown: who enjoyed what and when
Rowena Mason www.theguardian.com
15 May 2020
Sources told the Guardian there was a “wine and pizza” party in the Downing Street garden and inside No 10 during the first lockdown when socialising was banned. It is understood to have taken place after a press conference, and was described as having had a celebratory feel with drinking late into the evening. After No 10 denied this, a photograph was obtained by the Guardian showing Boris Johnson, his wife and two officials at a table with wine and cheese, with another 15 officials in the rest of the garden with wine bottles visible. No 10 says Johnson had been having a work meeting and went up to his flat with his family just after 7pm that evening.
20 May 2020
Dominic Cummings lifted the lid on a May gathering in the Downing Street garden, with invites to a “social distanced drinks”, which is believed to have been organised by the civil servant Martin Reynolds. No 10 has not denied that Johnson and his wife attended, with reports of food on tables and drinking. Restrictions on social mixing were still in place at this point.
13 November – Boris and Carrie Johnson flat party
This is the date that Johnson’s chief adviser, Cummings, and communications director, Lee Cain, left their roles. Sources have reported loud music and sounds of a party coming from the flat occupied by Johnson and his wife on this date. Cummings has alleged there had been “other flat parties” and suggested the pair’s “bubble” policy should be investigated. Asked if a party went ahead in his flat on 13 November, Johnson said: “No.”
27 November – Downing Street leaving do
While England was still in the grip of its second national lockdown, a leaving do was organised in No 10 – said to have been for Cleo Watson, a former aide to Cummings. A source told the Guardian that Johnson had personally attended and given a speech, remarking on how full with people the room was, before leaving to continue working.
10 December – Gavin Williamson’s staff party
When London was in tier 2, which only allowed socialising in groups of six outside, the then education secretary, Gavin Williamson, threw a party in his Whitehall department. The most senior civil servant in the department, Susan Acland-Hood, attended and admitted that there had been a “work-related” gathering hosted in the canteen. She did not dispute people had been drinking wine, and appeared to blame Williamson for instigating the event. She recalled he had wanted to “say a few words” to thank staff after a difficult year.
A quiz was held for members of the private office of Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, who was originally meant to be investigating the reports of parties in No 10. Invitations were sent out titled “Christmas Party!” and about 15 people were thought to be in attendance over Zoom. Responding to the claims, a government spokesperson said it was a virtual quiz with a small number of people from the office taking part from their desks. “The cabinet secretary played no part in the event, but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office. No outside guests or other staff were invited or present. This lasted for an hour and drinks and snacks were bought by those attending. He also spoke briefly to staff in the office before leaving.”
18 December 2020 – Downing Street Christmas party
A party was held in No 10 when London was in tier 3 restrictions, which banned social events, according to multiple sources after the Daily Mirror first broke the story. Several dozen people – a mix of civil servants and political staff – reportedly attended and were told to bring “secret Santa” presents, with cheese and wine laid on. While Johnson’s spokesperson insisted no rules had been broken and then denied any party took place, a video filmed four days after the event was published by ITV. The leaked footage showed Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s then aide, rehearsing for televised press conferences and laughing and joking with aides about a party on 18 December. Stratton all but confirmed the event had taken place by laughing it off as a “business meeting” but added: “It was not socially distanced.”
15 December 2020 – a festive No 10 quiz
A Christmas quiz was also organised for No 10 staff, with invitations emailed to everyone who worked in the building. Some guests were said to have dialled in by Zoom but others apparently attended in person and sat in groups of six, some wearing Christmas jumpers. A photograph later emerged in the Mirror of the prime minister taking part.
25 December 2020 – Christmas Day socialising
The prime minister’s “bubble” has come under scrutiny before, after his spokesperson did not deny that Nimco Ali, a close friend of Carrie Johnson, stayed with them over Christmas. One of the explanations offered was that Ali was considered part of the Johnsons’ childcare bubble. However, under the rules, the arrangement was meant to be purely for a second household to look after children, with the adults not meant to be socialising.