Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Boris Johnson faced a barrage of criticism on Tuesday after revelations that he was attending a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020 when such gatherings were banned.

Edward Argar, a junior health minister, was sent to defend the prime minister, but he refused to confirm witness reports that Johnson attended the event when England were still in its first Covid-19 lock-up.

Instead, Argar insisted that the party, organized by Johnson’s head of private office, Martin Reynolds, form part of an investigation into such gatherings by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

Johnson also declined to say whether he approved of the party, to which about 100 Downing Street staff were invited, or to confirm witness reports that he and his wife Carrie attended.

The Wall of Silence of Number 10 has created a furious cross-party setback and Johnson will now face intense media and political pressure to say exactly what happened at the event on 20 May 2020.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labor Party leader, wrote on Twitter: “Boris Johnson, your inferences and inferences are absurd. Not only did you know about the parties in Downing Street, you attended it. Stop lying to the British public. It’s time to finally get clean. ”

Baroness Ruth Davidson, former Tory leader in Scotland, tweeted that Johnson’s defense “will not survive 48 hours”.

“Nobody needs an official to tell them if they have been to a drink in their own garden. People are (rightly) angry. They sacrificed so much – to visit sick or grieving relatives, funerals. What did any of these people think? ”

The revelation of an email from Reynolds to Downing Street staff, obtained by ITV News, reopened the investigation into party culture in Downing Street by the Covid pandemic and raised questions about Johnson’s leadership.

In his email, Reynolds invited staff “to make the most of the glorious weather and have a few social drinks in the No. 10 garden tonight”, asking them to “bring your own drinks”.

The Metropolitan Police said on Monday that they were aware of “widespread reporting” of violations of health protection regulations at Downing Street on May 20, 2020. “The Metropolitan Police Service. . . is in contact with the Cabinet Office, ”it added.

The Met had previously said that if a Cabinet Office investigation led by Gray into Downing Street parties provided any further evidence, it would investigate.

Argar said he could fully understand why people were “angry, upset and hurt by these allegations”, but said the country would have to wait for Gray’s investigation to find out exactly what happened.

“Sue Gray, a very experienced civil servant with the highest integrity, will look at all the allegations of partying or rule-breaking without fear or favor and I think it is important that she has the space and the freedom to do so.” he said.

The revelations will further upset Tory MPs, who hoped to turn a new page in 2022; many say Johnson has until local elections on May 5 to prove he can turn things around and change his style of government.

He will deal with questions from the prime minister in the House of Commons on Wednesday, with Starmer drafting a charge sheet against Johnson over the Covid party matter.

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