Boris Johnson attended lockdown birthday party for less than 10 minutes, says No 10

·4-min read
A No 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister attended for 'less than 10 minutes' - AFP/ Mirrorpix
A No 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister attended for 'less than 10 minutes' - AFP/ Mirrorpix

Boris Johnson attended a birthday party thrown in his honour in Downing Street during the first Covid lockdown, despite social gatherings indoors being banned.

The event took place around 2pm on June 19 2020, with a birthday cake presented to the Prime Minister and attendees singing “happy birthday”, according to ITV News.

Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, and Lulu Lytle, the interior designer redecorating the Johnsons’ Downing Street flat, were both reportedly in attendance.

A Number 10 spokesman confirmed that Mr Johnson had attended the event but insisted the Prime Minister was there for less than 10 minutes and that staff gathered “briefly” for the event.

At the time, social gatherings indoors were barred under the Government's Covid rules and people were only allowed to meet outside in groups of up to six. Pubs and restaurants were shut.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said the revelation showed Mr Johnson “believes that the rules that he made don’t apply to him”.

But Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary and loyal ally of Mr Johnson, questioned whether having cake in the office for 10 minutes really amounted to a “party”.

Fuelling the political backlash was a letter Mr Johnson wrote three months earlier praising a girl called Josephine for cancelling her birthday party due to coronavirus guidance.

“Josephine sets a great example to us all by postponing her birthday party until we have sent coronavirus packing,” Mr Johnson tweeted on March 21 2020.

Boris Johnson has praised Josephine for cancelling her birthday party
Boris Johnson has praised Josephine for cancelling her birthday party

Sue Gray, the civil servant investigating lockdown-breaking party allegations, is looking into claims about the use of the Johnsons’ Downing Street flat. She was said to have already been aware of the gathering.

On Monday, ITV News published an account of the birthday party in June 2020, which happened during the first Covid lockdown when Mr Johnson turned 56.

It was reported that Mrs Johnson - then Mr Johnson’s fiance - helped organise a surprise get-together in the Cabinet Room after Mr Johnson returned from a visit to a school.

Boris Johnson had been presented with a birthday cake earlier in the day during a visit to a school - Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images
Boris Johnson had been presented with a birthday cake earlier in the day during a visit to a school - Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images

It was attended by “up to” 30 people, lasted between 20 to 30 minutes and saw people eat food from Marks and Spencer, according to ITV News.

A Number 10 spokesman said in response: “A group of staff working in No 10 that day gathered briefly in the Cabinet Room after a meeting to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday. He was there for less than 10 minutes.”

The alleged presence of Ms Lytle, who is not a Downing Street staff member, could complicate any attempt to argue the gathering was just a work event.

A spokesman for Ms Lytle did not deny she was present at the event, saying she “entered the Cabinet Room briefly as requested” while waiting to speak to Mr Johnson.

The spokesman said Ms Lytle “was not invited to any birthday celebrations”.

ITV News also claimed that family friends were later hosted in the Johnsons’ flat that evening, but Downing Street denied the allegation.

A No 10 spokesman said: “This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time, the Prime Minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.”

Ms Gray’s report is due to be published this week, though exact timings remain unclear. She has been looking into party allegations for weeks and has interviewed Mr Johnson.

Ms Dorries, who has been a vocal support of Mr Johnson as he has faced a growing Tory rebellion in recent weeks, defended the Prime Minister on Twitter on Monday.

But Sir Keir, who has called on Mr Johnson to resign over what has been dubbed the “partygate” scandal, criticised the Prime Minister in a statement published on Twitter shortly after the news broke.

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