Boris Johnson met with the editors of four national newspapers and senior BBC executives before reportedly attending a lockdown Downing Street party for a departing aide.
Data released by Downing Street reveals that the prime minister invited editors from the Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Sun to Downing Street on 27 November 2020 – as well as the BBC’s Chief Executive and its Director of News.
That is the same day Johnson reportedly attended a leaving party inside No 10 for Cleo Watson, a former aide to Dominic Cummings, in a breach of Covid rules.
According to The Guardian, Johnson “came in and made a speech, mentioning how crowded it was in the room before leaving”.
Burying the story?
It comes after Cummings claimed that a number of political journalists had attended similar parties in Downing Street throughout lockdown, and suggested they were now seeking to “bury” the story.
There is no suggestion that any of those editors or executives, whose names were revealed by Byline Times, attended the parties.
A Downing Street spokesperson told the publication that they were “working meetings” held separately inside No 10, and that all Covid regulations were followed.
Johnson on Wednesday ordered an investigation into claims Downing Street staff broke lockdown rules by holding a Christmas party last year – and told MPs he was “furious” about footage apparently showing aides joking about it.
The prime minister apologised “unreservedly” for the offence caused by the footage of his then-spokeswoman Allegra Stratton at a mock press conference.
But he insisted he had been repeatedly assured “there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken”.
Johnson said he had asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case “to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible – and it goes without saying that if those rules were broken then there will be disciplinary action for all those involved”.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson said: “I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing No 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures, and I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules because I was also furious to see that clip.
“I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.
“But I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken, and that is what I have been repeatedly assured.”