Lawyers Bulldoze Boris Johnson On Partygate Telling Him ‘Work Event’ Is Not An Excuse

“I thought that I was attending a work event," the prime minister said.
Legal experts have poured cold water on Boris Johnson's defence of party-gate.
Legal experts have poured cold water on Boris Johnson's defence of party-gate.
IAN VOGLER via Getty Images

Boris Johnson made another grovelling apology today in which he repeatedly claimed he thought a garden party at Downing Street was a “work event”.

However, legal experts poured cold water on his defence, saying there was no such exemption for work gatherings when the event took place on May 20, 2020.

The prime minister told broadcasters on Tuesday: “When I went out into that garden I thought that I was attending a work event.”

Johnson said he could not imagine “why on Earth” the event would have been allowed to go ahead if he had been told it was anything but a “work event”.

The PM last week admitted to the commons that he attended a “bring your own booze” party at Downing Street during the height of the first coronavirus lockdown.

Around 40 people are said to have gathered for the event, with tables laid out with bottles of gin and wine.

However, the law at the time stated: “During the emergency period, no person may leave [or be outside of] the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”

According to the law, reasonable excuses included: “To work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living.”

Adam Wagner, a barrister and expert in Covid law, tweeted: “Obvious that PM either didn’t and still doesn’t understand the coronavirus regulations which require an activity to be necessary for work, not a ‘work event’. Different test.

“Alternative is he well understands the test but is avoiding it. I would have thought almost two years after the first set of coronavirus regulations were brought into law, he well understands the test and knows that the fact that something was ‘work related’ didn’t mean it was necessarily within the law.

“The idea that he didn’t know what the rules were, doesn’t know what they are now, if only he had been warned...when he was the one setting and explaining the rules for close to two years is quite absurd.”

The same day the garden party was held in Downing Street, the then culture secretary Oliver Dowden told the public: “You can meet one person outside your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart.”

But alone, or with your household, “you can now spend time outdoors and exercise as often as you like”.

And according to the PM’s major statement on March 23, 2020, the public were told to only leave their home for limited purposes, including: “Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.”

“I thought that I was attending a work event.”

- Boris Johnson 18/01/22

Labour’s Angela Eagle tweeted in response to the PM’s claims with: “What a joke.”

It comes after Johnson’s former senior advisor Dominic Cummings claimed he lied to parliament about the garden party and alleged that he directly warned him it should not go ahead.

In a blog post, Cummings said he discussed the drinks party with the PM and told him: “You’ve got to get a grip of this madhouse.”

But the PM hit back today, saying: “Categorically nobody told me and nobody said that this was something that was against the rules.”

Downing Street said they had nothing further to add beyond what the prime minister said today and in his statement last week.

The PM told the commons last week he believed the “socially distanced drinks” were a work event and that he had gone into the garden to thank his staff.

He said: “When I went into that garden just after 6pm on May 20, 2020, to thank groups of staff, before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.

“But Mr Speaker, with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside.”


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