Labour calls for investigating 2nd event at No 10: Partygate
Reports suggest the gathering was on the PM's birthday but was left out of the Sue Gray report.
Leaked text messages drove the Labour party to request looking into what could be a second gathering in Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat during lockdown, hosted by his wife on his birthday.
New evidence of an event held on 19 June 2020 that was not mentioned in Sue Gray's Partygate investigation spurred suspicions of a cover-up and calls for No 10 to "come clean." The event was not denied, but Gray was made aware of the texts "as part of her extensive investigation into possible breaches" of Covid standards, according to Carrie Johnson's spokesman.
They added: “Staff were given ample opportunity to present evidence including these messages, and all relevant information was passed to the Metropolitan Police for investigation."
"The lunchtime gathering in the cabinet room on 19 June 2020 was subsequently found to be in breach and a fixed-penalty notice was issued to Johnson's wife among others, for which she apologized unreservedly and promptly paid the fine.”
What did the text read?
A Downing Street staffer allegedly received a text from Johnson's wife confirming that she was in the flat with two male acquaintances, where the prime minister subsequently joined them.
At the time, strict lockdown rules meant indoor socializing was banned, but people could meet up in groups of six outdoors. An exemption to meet was made where the gathering was “reasonably necessary … for work purposes”.
The gathering was a "blast"
The gathering came hours after the birthday celebration held in the cabinet room, for which both Johnsons were fined by police. It is thought to be separate from the third event on Johnson’s birthday with his relatives, which took place in the Downing Street garden and is thought to have adhered to the rules at the time.
It was previously reported that a gathering was held in the flat on 13 November 2020, with food and alcohol available and loud Abba music being played. Gray admitted she stopped investigating that particular event when the Met started their investigations and chose not to pursue her inquiry afterward. Tory MPs have expressed anger at the revelation.
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Angela Rayner, Labor’s deputy leader, said the text messages had been suppressed and that the public “deserve the truth about why the holding of a lockdown party in the prime minister’s flat on his own birthday has not been made public until now”. She added that the revelation “raises new questions about potential misconduct in public office, which must now be subject to proper and genuinely independent scrutiny” and that “this looks like yet another cover-up”.
Rayner called for the messages to be given to MPs on the privileges committee, who are expected to begin their investigation into whether the prime minister misled parliament by initially denying any Covid rules had been broken.
Gathering was not mentioned
In the letter, Rayner also said Downing Street had previously denied that such a gathering took place, and asked whether any other senior civil servants attended it.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson defended the integrity of Gray’s report, saying it was “impartially conducted and its contents represent the findings and conclusions of the investigation team alone”.
Gray made reference to the cabinet room gathering in her report, saying it lasted for 20 minutes and that those who attended ate food and drank alcohol. Photos were published of Johnson, the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak. Her long-awaited findings, published on Wednesday, made no reference to any other gathering that day and only once mentioned the prime minister’s wife in relation to a different event.