'Humiliating': Tories Turn On Boris Johnson As Allies Struggle To Defend 'BYOB' Gathering

Scottish Conservatives leader and ex-minister join the growing chorus of criticism over lockdown parties.
Boris Johnson is alleged to have attended the 'BYOB' event with his wife Carrie.
Boris Johnson is alleged to have attended the 'BYOB' event with his wife Carrie.
Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images

Senior Tories have begun to vent their fury at the latest claims that Boris Johnson may have attended a “bring your own booze” event during the first lockdown.

Several Conservative politicians have voiced their anger in the aftermath of revelations about the drinks party on May 20, 2020, which ITV News claims was attended by 40 people — including the prime minister himself and his wife Carrie Johnson.

Conservative backbencher Nigel Mills warned that any senior figure who willingly attended the event could not have a position setting Covid-19 policy.

“It is utterly untenable, we have seen people resign for far less than that,” he told BBC News.

“If the prime minister knowingly attended a party, I can’t see how he can survive having accepted resignations for far less.

“He accepted the resignation of his spokesperson (Allegra Stratton) for not attending a party but joking about it at a time of much lighter restrictions. I just think that’s untenable.”

Mills added: “I don’t think we need an inquiry to work out whether the prime minister was there. He knows whether he was there or not. Just come out and say what happened.

“If he was there he better try a hugely fulsome apology and see if the country will buy it but I’m not sure they will.”

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “If he has breached his own guidance, if he has not been truthful, then that is an extremely important issue.” He told Sky News that if Johnson had misled parliament “then he must resign”.

Conservative former minister Johnny Mercer tweeted about the drinks gathering: “It’s humiliating, and does not reflect the majority of my colleagues who ‘at least try’ and lead by example.”

Meanwhile, John Caudwell, the Phones4U founder and leading Tory donor said: “Sort it out, Boris, or step aside and let someone else sort it out so that the Tories aren’t wiped out at the next election.”

Earlier on Tuesday, former Scottish Conservative leader and Tory peer Ruth Davidson also blasted the alleged gathering.

In response to morning interviews by health minster Edward Argar — in which he said the public should wait for the outcome of an investigation by civil servant Sue Gray — Davidson said: “This line won’t survive 48 hrs.

“Nobody needs an official to tell them if they were at a boozy shindig in their own garden. People are (rightly) furious. They sacrificed so much – visiting sick or grieving relatives, funerals. What tf were any of these people thinking?”

Meanwhile, former Tory MP and Theresa May aide Gavin Barwell said in a tweet — which was also liked by Mercer — that the claims were “unbelievable...and yet, in another sense, all too believable”.

Downing Street was plunged into further crisis last night after ITV published an email from the prime minister’s private secretary, Martin Reynolds, inviting more than 100 employees to a “bring your own booze” gathering.

ITV says around 40 staff gathered in the garden that evening, including Johnson and his wife.

The leaked email read: “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!”

On the same day, the then culture secretary Oliver Dowden told the public they could only meet with one other person outside of their household in a public outdoor space, provided they kept two metres apart.

Police have since confirmed they are “in contact with the Cabinet Office” following the reports of the drinks party.

The prime minister previously refused to confirm whether he attended the event and repeatedly referred to Gray’s investigation.

In the wake of the outcry ministers have struggled to defend how Downing Street hosted a lockdown-breaking party.

Argar was sent on to the airwaves this morning to speak for the government.

He said he could understand why — as the UK marked over 150,000 deaths to covid — people were “upset and angry” about the allegations, but said it was “vitally important” Gray was able to investigate.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s vitally important, I think, that Ms Gray is able to do that job and, potentially equally, those police conversations with the Cabinet Office – I don’t know the substance of those, I don’t know what they have been about – but I think it’s important that they are able to have those conversations without ministers speculating in advance of that investigation.”

Following the email leak, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner accused Johnson of “hiding” behind Gray’s inquiry and urged him to “come clean”.

“Boris Johnson’s deflections and distractions are no longer tenable,” she said.

“Sue Gray is a highly respected civil servant who will be carrying out an investigation to the highest standard.

“But the truth is out now. Not only did Boris Johnson know about the parties, he attended them and he lied.

“It’s time for the prime minister to stop hiding behind Whitehall inquiries and finally come clean.”


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