Police are investigating a lockdown-busting party in Boris Johnson’s private Downing Street flat – as well as an alleged birthday party in the Cabinet Room.
A report produced by senior civil servant Sue Gray catalogued a series of “failures of leadership and judgment” within No 10 and the Cabinet Office while England was under coronavirus restrictions in 2020 and 2021.
But she was unable to provide meaningful findings because the police were now investigating at least 12 gatherings linked to government properties in Downing Street and Whitehall.
They include a “gathering in the No 10 Downing Street flat” on November 13 2020, the night Johnson’s former aides Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain left their roles.
In December, Johnson told MPs that no “gathering” had taken place on that date.
Questioned in the House of Commons on whether the event took place, the prime minister said: “No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”
Government denied allegations
Dominic Cummings, former top adviser to Boris Johnson, alleged a gathering took place on this date in the prime minister’s flat on the evening of his departure from government.
Asked in the House of Commons whether the event happened, Johnson said: “No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”
Daily Mirror political editor Pippa Crerar said her paper was told by No 10 at the time that the event was “categorically untrue”.
“I was told that guests in flat were ‘all getting totally plastered’ on the evening Cummings left No 10,” Crerar said, adding: “Subsequent reports suggest Abba’s ‘Winner Takes It All’ was blasting out.”
Which events are being investigated and which are being left out?
Other government gatherings under police investigation are a Bring Your Own Booze party on 20 May 2020, a Cabinet Office Party on 18 June 2020 and the prime minister’s birthday party the next day.
More gatherings are investigated for the same year: Cabinet Secretary Simon Case’s Christmas quiz, top civil servant Kate Josephs’ leaving drinks and former defence adviser Steve Higham’s leaving drinks, all on 17 December, followed by an alleged No 10 Christmas party the next day.
Under investigation there are also three events which allegedly took place last year: a No 10 civil servants leaving drinks gathering on 14 January, former Downing Street director of communications James Slack’s leaving do and a photographer’s leaving do, both on 16 April.
The now well-known photograph of drinks in the No 10 garden from 15 May 2020 is not under investigation by police. Neither are Cleo Watson’s leaving drinks on 27 November 2020 or the Department for Education’s Christmas party and No 10’s Christmas quiz on 10 and, respectively, 15 December.
Sue Gray’s report could be pivotal for the prime minister’s leadership and has been scrutinised by legal and human resources officials before publication, but parts of it are being withheld while the Metropolitan Police investigate some of the allegations covered.
Gray’s report, although limited in scope, says that “some of the behaviour surrounding [alleged parties] is difficult to justify”.