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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The killer email - is Johnson on borrowed time?

Even when caught red-handed, ignoring the rules he, himself, set for other people, Boris Johnson still seems annoyingly invulnerable as Prime Minister. That is because, despite all the justified public outrage, the people who will actually decide the Prime Minister's fate in the short term - backbench Tory MPs - appear to be curiously mute.

They should know that, in terms of public perception and trust, the crime attributed to Johnson is a big one, and let's suffer no delusions here, if the accusations are true, then the PM broke the law, and there is a reasonable expectation that the Metropolitan Police should be kicking down the door of 10 Downing Street to charge all the perpetrators. Instead, and true to form, Cressida Dick's force have sent an email.

The Guardian reports that Boris Johnson has been accused of an “utterly outrageous” breach of lockdown rules as a leaked email showed that of his top officials invited more than 100 Downing Street staff to a “bring your own booze” party during the first lockdown:

The prime minister is believed to have attended the No 10 garden party on 20 May 2020 along with Carrie Johnson, then his fiancee, after it was advertised by his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds.

“Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening. Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!” the email seen by ITV News said.

It invited just over 100 employees to the gathering at a time when social mixing was banned except with one other person from another household outdoors in a public place.

About 30 to 40 are said to have attended, with food and wine set out on tables, but some staff reportedly expressed reservations at the time.

“Um. Why is Martin encouraging a mass gathering in the garden?” one staffer said, according to the BBC. Another asked: “Is this for real?”

On the same day, Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, had reminded the public at a press conference: “You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart.”

The Metropolitan police had tweeted telling people they could have a picnic, exercise or do sport outside providing you are “on your own, with people you live with, or just you and one other person”.

On Monday night following news of the leaked email, the Met said it was “aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on 20 May 2020” and said it had made contact with the Cabinet Office. Senior officers are expected to discuss the situation on Tuesday morning. The force has previously said it was policy “not to investigate retrospective breaches of such regulations”.

Johnson will now come under huge pressure to explain his own role in the gathering, whether he played any part in the invitation given the phrase “we thought it would be nice” and why his office did not listen to alleged warnings from his former aide, Dominic Cummings, that it appeared to be against the rules. Cummings revealed the existence of the 20 May party in a blog on Friday.

The paper says that there have been reports of at least five other alleged gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall in winter 2020, including a Christmas party, leaving do, quiz, No 11 flat party and drinks at the Department for Education. 

All these events took place when everybody was locked down, unable to socialise with family and friends, unable to visit loved ones in care homes, and losing relatives and then unable to have a proper funeral for them. If this is not a resigning matter, then what is?

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