Wed, 22 May 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
Press releases

Boris Johnson "Categorically" Denies He Was Told Downing Street Gathering Was Against The Rules

3 min read

The Prime Minister has denied that he was warned a drinks event held in the Downing Street garden when lockdown prohibited social gatherings could be a breach of Covid rules.

Boris Johnson insisted "categorically" that he was not warned the May 2020 gathering could break strict rules that were in place across the country. 

At the time outdoor mixing was not permitted with more than one person from outside of your household. Around 40 people are believed to have attended the Downing Street event, including Johnson, who has said he believed it was a "work event". 

Former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings said on Monday he would "swear under oath" that Johnson had given the greenlight to the drinks party after he was warned it would be against the rules. 

Cummings claimed he had spoken to the Prime Minister to warn against the event going ahead, but that Johnson had "waived it aside".

Speaking to Sky News's Beth Rigby on Tuesday, Johnson repeated his apology for the "misjudgements" but reiterated his belief that it was a "work event".

"Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that we were going to do something that wasn't a work event," he said. 

"As I said in the Commons, when I went out into that garden, I thought I was attending a work event. I think it is very important that we see what the inquiry has to say. I will be coming back to the House of Commons as soon as I can after it has reported and I will be telling people more."

Asked whether he Cummings was lying about the warning, Johnson denied "categorically" that he was told the event could be a rule breach.

"I can tell you categorically that nobody told me, that no one said this was against the rules, that it was a breach of the Covid rules, or we were doing something that wasn't a work event because frankly, I can't imagine we would have gone ahead, or why it would have been allowed to go ahead."

Johnson also denied being told about, or having seen any email from his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, in which the event was described as a "BYOB" gathering. 

"I can categorically tell you I never saw the [email] of the invitation. Clearly that was not phrased in a way that was right. I only saw it the other day," he continued. 

"I can't believe we would have gone ahead with an event that we thought was against the rules ... nobody warned me. I would remember that."

The Prime Minister also issued a personal apology to the Queen for the parties held in Downing Street on the night before Prince Philips funeral.

"I deeply and bitterly regret that that happened and I can only renew my apologies both to Her Majesty and to the country for midjudgements that were made and for which I take full responsibility."

But he continually refused to answer whether he would resign if it was found he had misled Parliament over his knowledge of the events, calling for the public to wait for the publication of Sue Gray's report into the gatherings.

"Let's see what the report says," he added. "We'll have to see what Sue Gray says. She could be given the space to get on with her inquiry."

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by John Johnston - MP Warns That Online Hate Could Lead To More Real World Attacks On Parliamentarians


Political parties