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UK's Johnson accused of hosting party during lockdown

January 11, 2022

According to a leaked email, more than 40 people attended a Downing Street garden party amid the UK's restrictions on gatherings. Johnson is already under pressure for a number of other events held amid lockdowns.

Boris Johnson and his wife at Downing Street
Johnson's government is under investigation for at least five parties held during the UK's lockdowns of 2020Image: Jon Nguyen/The Daily Telegraph/PA Wire/empics/picture alliance

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson face renewed criticism on Tuesday of his government's conduct during the first nationwide coronavirus lockdown in 2020.

According to a leaked email as seen by broadcaster ITV on Monday, a "bring your own" alcohol garden party took place at Downing Street on May 20, 2020, amid restrictions that limited social interactions to two people from separate households, while pubs and restaurants remained closed.

Johnson dodged questions from lawmakers in Parliament on Tuesday, sending a junior minister to face MPs in his stead.

More than 100 invited to 'bring your own booze'

An email was sent by the PM's Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds to over 100 employees.

"After what has been an incredibly busy period it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening," Reynolds said in the email. "Please join us from 6 p.m. and bring your own booze!"

Around 40 staff eventually gathered in the garden for the party, including Johnson and his wife Carrie, according to ITV.

Alleged lockdown breaches leave Johnson on the ropes

On Tuesday, lawmakers in Parliament demanded that Johnson answer questions about the latest revelations, but the government sent a junior minister, Michael Ellis, instead.

Ellis faced a grilling from lawmakers across the political spectrum, but maintained that judgement must be withheld until an investigation into the issue is over.

He apologized repeatedly for the upset caused by the allegations of lockdown breaches.

National Covid Memorial Wall, London
The National COVID Memorial Wall in London remembers the more than 150,000 people who have died from the virus in the UKImage: Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/ZUMA Press/picture alliance

Johnson's premiership has been tarnished by several accusations of lockdown breaches that occurred during 2020, including other gatherings in the garden at his Downing Street residence and a Christmas party, as well as the social event highlighted by ITV on Monday.

An investigation, conducted by a senior government official, is already underway for at least five parties that were held in governmental departments last year during lockdowns.

"I can understand the hurt that these reports, these allegations, will have caused, particularly for those who've lost loved ones," deputy Health Minister Edward Argar told broadcaster Sky News. "[But] We've got to give a space to conclude that investigation."

'Utterly outrageous'

The Deputy Leader of the opposition Labour Party, Angela Rayner, said that Johnson's absence in Parliament "speaks volumes."

"Many people will be disgusted" in the wake of the latest revelations, she'd tweeted earlier.

The Scottish National Party described the email as "utterly outrageous."

When Boris Johnson was asked earlier on Monday if he and his wife Carrie had attended the party at Downing Street in May 2020, he declined to answer.

Over the weekend, the UK surpassed the grim milestone of 150,000 deaths from the coronavirus, becoming the seventh country to do so after the US, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru.

jsi/aw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)