Rayner slams “no regard for the rules” as fresh No 10 Covid party story breaks

Elliot Chappell
© Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street

Angela Rayner has criticised Boris Johnson for “consistently” showing that “he has no regard for the rules he puts in place for the rest of us” after an email emerged appearing to confirm that a party took place in No 10 at the height of lockdown.

In an email sent by Martin Reynolds and shared with ITV News this afternoon, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary is seen inviting Downing Street staff to “some socially distanced drinks” and telling them to “bring your own booze”.

According to ITV News, up to 40 staff gathered in the garden that evening in May 2020, eating food and drinking at the party first alleged in a blog by former adviser Dominic Cummings last week. Eyewitnesses say attendees included Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson.

“He is trying to get officials to take the fall for his own mistakes, but he sets the tone for the way Downing Street and the rest of government operates,” Angela Rayner said of the Prime Minister this evening.

“At the time this party took place, key workers on the frontline were working round the clock to keep us all safe, people suffered loneliness and loss in unimaginably tough circumstances and for the majority of the country our freedom was limited to a daily walk.”

On May 20th – the day of the alleged party – minister Oliver Dowden told the public during a Covid press conference: “You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart.”

The email leak follows weeks in which the Prime Minister has been accused of dishonesty after The Mirror broke the story last month that more than one party took place in Downing Street in December 2020 in breach of Covid rules.

There have been numerous allegations since. Johnson claimed, after the story first emerged, that rules were not broken but he did not deny that a party took place on that occasion. “Both of those things can’t be true,” Keir Starmer said at the time.

Footage was leaked one week after the Prime Minister’s comments, showing his then spokesperson Allegra Stratton laughing about the alleged party. Stratton subsequently resigned from her latest role as COP26 spokesperson.

The latest email leak also follows allegations of rule breaking on another occasion, May 15th 2020. A photo was shared with The Mirror showing Johnson, his wife and a number of staff including Reynolds socialising in the garden.

The Prime Minister announced in December that the Cabinet Office, led by Simon Case, would be investigating. But Case, the Cabinet Secretary, later recused himself from the inquiry after it emerged that there had been an office Christmas quiz on December 17th.

The inquiry is now being carried out by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who took over from Case. Commenting on the investigation, Rayner said: “Labour has welcomed Sue Gray’s inquiry, but we need confirmation that this latest revelation, and any other parties not yet revealed by press investigations, will be covered by her probe.”

Below is the full text of the email leaked to ITV News this afternoon.

Hi all,

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.

Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!

Martin

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