7 Burning Questions About The Alleged No.10 Drinks Party

The government has a lot to answer for over these new claims.
Boris Johnson has dodged questions about whether he attended the supposed drinks party himself
Boris Johnson has dodged questions about whether he attended the supposed drinks party himself
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An email leaked on Monday suggested that there was a “bring your own booze” party in Downing Street’s garden at a time when the rest of the country was in lockdown.

Dating back to May 20, 2020, it appears prime minister Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary invited more than 100 people to the gathering, even though the general public could only see one person at a time outdoors then.

Downing Street has not yet denied the allegations.

Here are seven particularly pressing questions raised by these new claims which need to be answered.

1. Why did the 100 people invited not come forward sooner?

According to the leaked email obtained by ITV News, more than 100 people were invited to the drinks in the garden of Number 10 back in May 2020.

Only 30 to 40 people attended, but that still means more than 100 people knew it was going ahead.

Many who received the email alleged responded in disbelief. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said she saw emails which asked: “Is this for real?”

Yet, this story has only broken this week, more than 18 months after the alleged drinks happened.

2. Will the police actually investigate it this time?

The Metropolitan Police decided not to investigate the previous allegations that there were parties in Downing Street leading up to Christmas 2020, claiming there was not enough evidence.

Now, people are calling for the force to act in light on this email, seemingly confirmed a planned social event in May 2020.

The Met is in contact with the Cabinet Office but has not confirmed that it will be launching an investigation.

3. How come this party could go ahead – but Eid couldn’t?

There was widespread frustration that the Eid al-Fitr festival (May 23-24 in 2020) was cancelled at the time. This Muslim holiday usually brings families together to celebrate to mark the end of a month of fasting for Ramadan.

Then health secretary Matt Hancock cancelled the event the day after the alleged party (May 21, 2020).

When asked about the decision at the time, Hancock said: “The clear answer for all faiths is people will have to adapt the celebrations around the current social distancing rules, and everybody knows what those rules are and they remain the same for every community.”

4. Does this explain why ministers backed Dominic Cummings’ breach of the rules?

The prime minister’s most senior aide (who stepped down in November 2020) made headlines on May 24, 2020 when it was revealed he had driven more than 200 miles to Barnard Castle, Durham, during lockdown.

The former chief of staff at No.10 claimed it was a child care emergency and even had a press briefing to explain what happened and claiming he had not broken any rules.

The prime minister – and other senior ministers – stood by Cummings, with Johnson saying his adviser had his “full support”.

5. What will Sue Gray’s investigation reveal?

The government has so far used the civil servant’s inquiry into the alleged parties at No.10 as a defence, to deflect questions about whether it actually happened.

Housing secretary Michael Gove told Sky News on Monday that he “can’t remember” what he was doing on that date, and instead said: “I think it’s important to say that all of these matters are being investigated by Sue Gray, someone who will investigate without fear or favour.”

Johnson then told Sky News: “All that, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation by Sue Gray.”

Ed Argar, health minister, also said that “appropriate disciplinary action” must be taken if there has been “wrongdoing”.

While trying to defend the prime minister, he said: “I look forward to seeing the results of that investigation and I hope that Ms Gray will report as swiftly as she can.”

Gray is investigating all of the allegations that parties took place in No.10 throughout 2020, although her inquiry may be delayed if the police confirm they are launching an investigation too.

6. Could this be the end of the road for Johnson?

The email clearly shows evidence that there was a social event being planned in advance.

This counters Downing Street’s previous defences that there were no parties held during the repeated lockdowns.

Eyewitnesses have also told the media that Johnson attended himself, making it quite tricky for another official to take the fall – as seen with Allegra Stratton after a video emerged of her talking about cheese and wine in No.10 in December 2020.

The Conservative Party is known to be furious too, meaning a vote of no confidence could be on the horizon.

7. When will Johnson answer for himself?

Johnson refused to answer directly when pressed by journalists over the alleged party, and has instead deferred to Sue Gray’s investigation.

He also put Michael Ellis, the paymaster general, forward to answer Labour’s urgent question on Tuesday rather than appearing himself.

As Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “He can run but he can’t hide.”


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