British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to resign after admitting to attending a garden party at his Downing Street residence in May 2020, in violation of his government’s coronavirus lock-in rules.
Johnson’s access and apology Wednesday was the latest and most high-profile scandal to date in a series of controversies over alleged rule-breaking rallies involving the Conservative Party leader, his staff and other senior figures since the pandemic began.
Several such events were allegedly held throughout 2020 as the UK struggled to confront a rising viral load that caused tens of thousands of deaths and caused a historic economic downturn as well as widespread gloom amid the severe curbs on Britain’s daily lives. was imposed.
The alleged parties, all taking place in various locations in the capital, London, have only recently come to light amid a spate of coverage of them from the start of last month from British media.
They are now being investigated by senior government official Sue Gray, who has been tasked by Johnson’s government to lead an investigation into whether rallies were held in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.
Here is a timeline of the parties that allegedly took place:
15 May 2020
A photo apparently Johnson, his wife Carrie, then-chief adviser Dominic Cummings and chief private secretary Martin Reynolds sat around a table in the Downing Street garden sharing cheese and wine.
The photo, which appeared last month, also shows four other people gathered around a nearby table and drinking, and a separate, larger group standing some distance away.
Johnson dismissed speculation that the image was documentation of an event held in violation of COVID-19 restrictions, insisting that those gathered in it “are people at work talking about work”.
At the time, the UK was still under its first nationwide restriction. Schools were closed to most pupils, pubs and restaurants were closed, and there was strict control over social mixing.
Two people from different households were allowed to meet outside, but only if they maintained a distance of two meters (6.5 feet). Guidance issued for workplaces said personal meetings should involve only “absolutely essential participants”.
20 May 2020
About 40 people, including Johnson and his wife, are apparently attending a “bring your own drink” party in the Downing Street Garden.
As revealed earlier this week, an invitation to the event was previously emailed to about 100 members of the prime minister’s staff by Reynolds.
Johnson told the British parliament on Wednesday that he was present at the rally, which he claimed he thought was a job opportunity at the time.
The prime minister said he entered the Downing Street garden to thank members of staff for their work during the pandemic before returning to his office 25 minutes later.
He said he should have prevented the event from continuing afterward.
The same restriction rules were in place at the time as those that applied five days earlier, on 15 May.
13 November 2020
Johnson reportedly gave a speech to a departing member of staff at an event attended by a small number of people and allegedly attended a party at his private Downing Street home in London.
Anonymous sources told the BBC that several staff members had attended the event in his flat, along with Johnson’s wife. The broadcaster quoted a spokesman for the latter as denying that the party had taken place.
25 November 2020
About two dozen government officials are holding an impromptu liquor party in the Treasury, weeks after a second national coronavirus lock-in came into effect, according to media reports with reference to unnamed government sources.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who delivered his autumn budget and spending review earlier in the day, was apparently not among the participants and was allegedly unaware of the event before it took place.
A spokesperson for the department later maintained that it was a “small number”Of staff who attended the event.
People at that time were forbidden to socialize indoors with members of another household. Bars, restaurants and shops were closed and people were told to stay at home unless there was a specific reason to leave, such as for work or education.
27 November 2020
Johnson is reportedly delivering another farewell speech for an assistant leaving Downing Street at a packed departure party.
British newspaper The Guardian reported that the Prime Minister mentioned how busy the event was while delivering his remarks, citing an unnamed source.
The same restriction rules were in place at the time as those that applied two days earlier, on 25 November.
10 December 2020
The Department of Education is reportedly holding an office meeting in London to thank staff for their work during the pandemic.
About two dozen people to be heard attended the event, which was held in the department’s canteen, with drinks and snacks.
A senior government official later said the party was incited by then-Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
Although the second national coronavirus restriction was officially lifted by the time of the event, which came to an end on 2 December, social mixing indoors between members of different households was still banned in London and many other parts of England, as Johnson s government has pursued a regionalized. approach to ongoing virus restrictions.
14 December 2020
A high-profile figure from the Conservative Party is holding a rally at the party’s headquarters in Westminster, London.
The event was organized by campaign staff of the Conservatives’ then London mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, who was pictured at the party with more than 20 other people.
Bailey, who lost further in his attempt to take over from Sadiq Khan, the current London mayor, later resigned from two committees of the London Assembly after news of the rally surfaced.
The event took place on the same day as it was announced that stricter restrictions on socialization would be introduced in London from 17 December, as it moved from level 2 to level 3 under the government’s regionalised approach to virus measures. Indoor social mixing between members of different households was still prohibited.
15 December 2020
Johnson is allegedly taking part in an online Christmas quiz organized for his staff in Downing Street, which apparently violates social distance rules while doing so.
A picture published by the British newspaper the Sunday Mirror showed last month that the prime minister was taking part in the event while sitting in the Downing Street library, surrounded by two members of his team. Johnson subsequently denied any wrongdoing.
Virus restrictions that were in place for London at the time meant that social mixing indoors between members of different households was banned.
16 December 2020
Staff at the Department of Transport are holding a party in its London offices, on the same day that the capital enters Level 3 restrictions.
British newspaper the Daily Mirror reported last month that nearly a dozen people attended the event and that participants drank and danced.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps was not among those present, and later said he had “no idea” of the party until after it took place.
18 December 2020
A Christmas party is taking place in Downing Street, which apparently includes between 40 and 50 people.
Officials and political staff allegedly ate cheese, drank wine and exchanged gifts at the event, which continued late into the evening.
Johnson’s office initially denied that the party took place, but a video obtained by British broadcaster ITV News later showed the then prime minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton making jokes about reports of an event.
“This fictitious party was a business meeting and it was not socially distant,” said Stratton, who has since resigned.
The Christmas party took place when London was still under level 3 restrictions, meaning indoor gatherings of two or more people from different households were banned. Work parties were also banned at the time.