Boris Johnson's former aide tells Covid Inquiry he is 'deeply sorry' for organising 'Bring Your Own Booze' bash at No 10

30 October 2023, 16:31

Martin Reynolds giving evidence to the Covid Inquiry
Martin Reynolds giving evidence to the Covid Inquiry. Picture: social media

By StephenRigley

Boris Johnson's top aide who arranged the bring-your-own-booze garden party during coronavirus restrictions apologised “unreservedly” during an appearance at the Covid-19 Inquiry.

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Giving evidence to the Covid inquiry Martin Reynolds "apologised unreservedly" to "all the families of all those who suffered" for the bash which earnt him his 'Party Marty' nickname.

But he also suggested that he did not believe it had a major impact on the public during the pandemic, given details of the event emerged in the media much later.

Martin Reynolds arriving at the Covid Inquiry
Martin Reynolds arriving at the Covid Inquiry. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Boris Johnson aide admits turning on 'disappearing WhatsApps' ahead of Covid inquiry launch

The statement from Boris Johnson's former principal private secretary came as he was grilled about his role organising a gathering in the No10 garden on May 20, 2020 - when leaving home without a reasonable excuse was banned.

He said: “I would first like to say how deeply sorry I am for my part in those events and for the email message which went out that day.

“And I would like to apologise unreservedly to all the families of all those who suffered during Covid for all the distress caused.”

He added: “It actually broke into the news about 15 months later.

“So while I totally accept, I was totally wrong in the way I sent the email around and for the event, I think the impact on public confidence, although obviously now in terms of public confidence, more generally it did have a serious impact, in terms of the pandemic at that time it was less, it had less impact.”

An email on behalf of Mr Reynolds was sent inviting about 200 staff to enjoy the “lovely weather” with some “socially distanced drinks in the garden this evening”.

“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!” the email said.

Dubbed “Party Marty” after reports of the invitation emerged, Mr Reynolds was subsequently forced out amid outrage over the partygate scandal.

In a day of evidence, the Covid inquiry, Boris Johnson "made it impossible to tackle pandemic effectively."

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case sent a message to Dominic Cummings saying Boris Johnson "cannot lead and we cannot support him in leading with this approach", the Covid inquiry heard.

He also said the former PM was "mad" if he did not believe his private WhatsApp messages would eventually become public as part of the inquiry.

The comments were made in WhatsApp messages between the Cabinet Secretary and then-principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, who appeared before Baroness Heather Hallett's probe.

In the messages, read by counsel to the inquiry Hugo Keith KC, Mr Case said: "I am at the end of my tether.

"He changes strategic direction every day (Monday we were all about fear of virus returning as per Europe, March etc - today we're in 'let it rip' mode cos (sic) the UK is pathetic, needs a cold shower etc.)

"He cannot lead and we cannot support him in leading with this approach.

"The team captain cannot change the call on the big plays every day. The team can't deliver anything under these circumstances.

"A weak team (as we have got - Hancock, Williamson, Dido, No10/CO, Perm Secs), definitely cannot succeed in these circs (sic). IT HAS TO STOP!

"Decide and set direction - deliver - explain. Gov't isn't actually that hard but this guy is really making it impossible."