Furious Brits share images of how they spent May 2020 after PM 'garden party' photo

20 December 2021, 12:50 | Updated: 20 December 2021, 14:33

People have been sharing how they spent May 2020 in outrage after a picture of a No10 garden party emerged
People have been sharing how they spent May 2020 in outrage after a picture of a No10 garden party emerged. Picture: Social Media

By Asher McShane

Furious Brits have been sharing pictures of how they spent May 2020 in lockdown as fury grows over the picture of a so-called 'work gathering' at No10.

Boris Johnson, his wife and up to 17 staff were seen in the Downing Street garden during the first lockdown enjoying cheese and wine in glorious sunshine in a photograph obtained by the Guardian.

Deputy PM Dominic Raab today attempted to defend the picture, saying it was a drink "after a busy set of work meetings."

Mr Raab told LBC this morning "the reality is Number 10 is a place of work, including the garden."

Read more: Cabinet to meet as ministers 'push back' against Xmas Covid curbs suggested by scientists

Read more: 'No rules were broken': Raab defends No 10 'cheese and wine' garden gathering

He said the image was taken after a Covid press conference and having "something to drink" in the garden was "consistent with the rules."

Mr Raab said the picture showed "people after a series of work meetings having something to drink which was consistent with the rules at the time."

But the photo, and No10s attempts to defend it, have sparked an angry response among voters.

Stephen Laughton posted online: "On the left is the last photo I have of my mum alive in May 2020.

"Living alone with serious illness, she faced the pandemic with stoicism.

"We went for a walk around her local park. When she suggested sitting 2m apart in her garden, I said: better not, it’s against the rules."

A woman who lost her daughter to cancer on May 15 last year said today she was ‘insulted’ by the picture.

Emma Jones lost her 18-year-old daughter Ruby Fuller to cancer in 2020.

Ms Jones said she is "insulted" and feels like the group are "trying to get off on a technicality" after Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the photographs showed "staff having a drink after a busy set of work meetings and the pressures of the day".

Just three weeks before, Ruby was told there was nothing doctors could do to treat the blood cancer she had been fighting against for 18 months.

She was forced to say goodbye to family and friends over Zoom and died on May 15.

Her family did not hold a funeral for her as restrictions meant only 10 people would be allowed to join.

Ms Jones, from south London, said: "At the time, it was so hard and so desperately sad but that's what we had to do. It's so insulting to see those pictures. We were supposed to be in it together, and it was very hard. I know other families that it was harder for. We were lucky Ruby was at home."

She added that her daughter stayed home instead of having life-prolonging treatment in case she was taken to hospital where visiting was restricted, but not everyone had those options.

Ms Jones said: "I just want Boris Johnson and his Cabinet and the people in those pictures to acknowledge it and apologise. They're trying to get away with it on a technicality. This in particular hit home as it was the day she died, when I desperately wanted to see my sister and my parents and give them a big hug and I wasn't able to.

"How dare they act so nonchalant about it? It's insulting. The impression they give is that they know what they're doing but they don't care and will lie through their teeth."

Dr Ajay M Verma wrote: "On Friday 15th May 2020 at 1 pm we held a minute’s silence on our ward (and throughout our hospital) in memory of those who died from Covid - little did we know that the PM & friends were enjoying a garden party that same afternoon."

One woman, Leanne, posted a moving picture of her son trying to hug his nanny through a window and wrote: "May the 14th 2020. My Son seeing his nanny through a window, whilst before he saw her for cuddles every day. Broke my heart. Heart is angry now."

Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of government advisory body the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), said he thinks the photos of the No 10 wine and cheese gathering during lockdown are "very damaging in some ways, but not others".

According to the Guardian and Independent's sources, around 20 staff drank wine and spirits and ate pizza following a press conference at which Mr Hancock had told the British public to stay at home "as much as is possible" and stressed the rules in force meant "you can meet one other person from outside your household in an outdoor, public place" as long as you kept two metres apart.

The Prime Minister is alleged to have told one aide that they deserved a drink for "beating back" coronavirus.

Some aides reportedly carried on drinking into the evening, although there was no suggestion Mr Johnson or Mr Hancock had any alcohol or stayed late.

A No 10 spokesman said: "In the summer months Downing Street staff regularly use the garden for some meetings.

"On May 15 2020 the Prime Minister held a series of meetings throughout the afternoon, including briefly with the then health and care secretary and his team in the garden following a press conference.

"The Prime Minister went to his residence shortly after 7pm.

"A small number of staff required to be in work remained in the Downing Street garden for part of the afternoon and evening."

Hannah Brady, a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice whose father died from the virus the day after the alleged event, said the reports made her sick.

She said that she met the PM some months later, when she showed him a photo of her father in hospital, taken on the day of the reported gathering.

"The Prime Minister looked me in the eye and told me he'd 'done everything he could' to protect my Dad. It's disgusting," she said.

Labour's Fleur Anderson, the shadow paymaster general, said: "It seems that from the very beginning of this awful pandemic the Prime Minister was setting a culture of disregarding the laws he was applying to the rest of us.

"People have made immense sacrifice during this crisis. It is starting to look like the Prime Minister has only dithered, partied and eroded public trust.

"As is always the case with Boris Johnson, it's one rule for him, and one rule for the rest of us."

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: "There needs to be an official and independent inquest into how many times Downing Street officials, and the Prime Minister himself, may have broken lockdown rules.

"The public will not stomach a political stitch-up. Those who think they are above the law must be held to account."

The claims about May 15 are the latest in a series of allegations about events in Westminster while restrictions on social contact were in force.