Boris Johnson visited staff enjoying a No10 lockdown 'party', new report claims

16 December 2021, 16:38 | Updated: 16 December 2021, 19:16

Boris Johnson is said to have briefly joined staff in the No10 garden
Boris Johnson is said to have briefly joined staff in the No10 garden. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson risks drawing more public fury after it was alleged he joined a drinks gathering of Downing Street staff during the first lockdown last year.

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The Prime Minister is said to have spent about 15 minutes with them on 15 May 2020, shortly after then-health secretary Matt Hancock pleaded with people to "stick with the rules" in a televised press conference.

At the time, Covid rules restricted social meetings to two people from separate households, outdoors and at a distance of two metres.

The Guardian reports that about 20 members of staff drank wine and spirits and ate pizza after the briefing, some drinking into the evening on a day of good weather in an alleged "party".

The newspaper said there is no suggestion Mr Johnson drank but said sources claim he was present when staff were drinking. It was claimed he told one person present that they deserved a drink for combatting Covid.

Read more: PM's spokeswoman Allegra Stratton tearfully quits over Xmas party video leak

Read more: Shaun Bailey quits police role after pic shows him grinning at Tory HQ Xmas bash

Downing Street said he attended "briefly" a "meeting" with Mr Hancock in the garden, who is also said not to have drank, before returning to his residence.

A No10 spokesperson told The Guardian: "In the summer months Downing Street staff regularly use the garden for some meetings.

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"On 15 May 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."

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said the sources' claims were "not true" and added that he finished the press conference, debriefed his team, and then "went to the Downing Street garden to debrief the prime minister".

They added that he left Downing Street just over half an hour after the press conference finished and returned to the Department for Health and Social Care.

Mr Johnson is under fire for a series of allegations about staff breaking Covid rules with parties.

He has insisted he is under the impression rules were abided by, but an investigation has been launched into an alleged Christmas do at No10 last December, and a virtual appearance by the PM at a quiz for Downing Street staff.

Starmer asks why people should follow Covid rules if No10 aren't

His Cop26 spokesperson, Allegra Stratton, tearfully quit after she was seen joking with aides about a Christmas Party in leaked footage taken last year.

This week, the former Tory candidate for Mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, stepped down from his role as chairman of the London Assembly's police and crime committee after a photo emerged of him and Conservative campaign staff crowded in a room at a Christmas bash.

A campaign spokesperson apologised for it.