Police 'in contact' with Cabinet about possible probe into lockdown party

11 January 2022, 06:23 | Updated: 11 January 2022, 07:53

The Metropolitan Police is considering the new accusations
The Metropolitan Police is considering the new accusations. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The Metropolitan Police has contacted the Cabinet Office over more allegations of an illegal lockdown gathering.

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It follows reports that the Prime Minister's private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 Downing Street employees to a "bring your own booze" party in the No 10 garden in spring 2020.

Outdoor social gatherings were banned in England at the time.

The party took place five days after another event where the Prime Minister and his wife Carrie Johnson were pictured with Downing Street officials having wine and cheese in the garden.

The Met previously said it would not investigate the alleged breaches because of an "absence of evidence" and a policy "not to investigate retrospective breaches" of Covid regulations.

Read more: Met Police will not investigate No10 'Christmas party' due to 'absence of evidence'

But on Monday night a spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on May 20 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office."

The email, obtained by ITV News, invited staff to "make the most of the lovely weather" and "bring your own booze".

Whilst it noted the drinks would be "socially distanced", the party was a breach of Covid regulations at the time if it was a social gathering - which the email suggests it was.

ITV reported that over 40 members of staff attended, including Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie.

Read more: No10 staff invited to lockdown-busting boozy party on 20 May 2020, leaked email reveals

Read more: Calls for PM to be personally questioned by inquiry into No10 parties

At around the same time, then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told everyone in England at a daily press conference that they must only meet in pairs outdoors to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Mere days later - on the day of the alleged gathering - the Met police tweeted: “Have you been enjoying the hottest day of the year so far?

"It is important that we all continue to #StayAlert

"You can relax, have a picnic, exercise or play sport, as long as you are:

  • On your own
  • With people you live with
  • Just you and one other person."

The prime minister refused to comment over the May 20 party when asked on Monday, except to say an inquiry is under way.

Politicians from opposition parties have hit out at the Prime Minister after the fresh allegations came to light.

Labour accused Boris Johnson of having "no regard for the rules he puts in place for the rest of us".

"He is trying to get officials to take the fall for his own mistakes, but he sets the tone for the way Downing Street and the rest of Government operates," said deputy leader Angela Rayner.

"At the time this party took place, key workers on the frontline were working round the clock to keep us all safe, people suffered loneliness and loss in unimaginably tough circumstances and for the majority of the country our freedom was limited to a daily walk."

She called on the inquiry, led by Sue Gray, to confirm the latest revelation would be considered.

Read more: Boris Johnson accused of attending mid-lockdown 'BYOB' party in No10 garden

Watch: Downing St drinks: Rule-breaking 'rife' at heart of No10, Labour MP fumes

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the event was a "kick in the teeth for everyone who has sacrificed so much during the pandemic".

"This is yet more evidence that while the vast majority of people were sticking to the rules, those in No 10 were breaking them," he said.

"It is a kick in the teeth for everyone who has sacrificed so much during the pandemic, from those who weren't able to visit loved ones in hospital to nurses left wearing binbags as PPE.

"To add insult to injury, on the very same day that the Culture Secretary said people could only meet in pairs outdoors, it seems Boris Johnson's staff were holding a boozy party in Downing Street.

"Millions of people are rightly furious and fed up of a Prime Minister who not only allowed his colleagues to flagrantly break the rules, but has repeatedly lied to the public about it."

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in the House of Commons, said the Prime Minister needed to "come clean" and admit whether he attended, or was aware of, the party "in his own back garden".