Words by Evie Felton, Staff Writer
Over the course of January 2022, a series of allegations have come to light implicating various members of the Government and Civil Service, including the Prime Minister himself, in continuous breaches of lockdown restrictions since the introduction of Coronavirus legislation.
On the 20th of May 2020, the then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, announced that for the first time since the instigation of the UK’s initial national lockdown, on the 23rd of March 2020, people were finally permitted to meet one person from outside their household. However, on the same day as the first tentative adjustment to Coronavirus legislation, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, attended a party in the gardens of Downing Street.
The risk COVID posed to the UK at this time remained extremely high, with COVID-related deaths on the 20th of May 2020 amounting to 363, according to Government data.
Following the publication of a leaked email sent by the Prime Minister’s very own Principal Private Secretary, Boris Johnson has since said that he did attend the party on the 20th of May under the impression that it was nothing more than a work event. However, copies of the leaked email show how it referred to the gathering as “socially distanced drinks”, with the reasoning for this event being to “make the most of the good weather” and to reward No.10 staff for their work. However, a leaked email provides written evidence revealing that It is said that out of the 100 people that were originally invited, 40 people attended the party in the private garden of No.10.
Prior to Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the 12th of January, there had been consistent pressure from the media to address the mounting evidence initially exposing that this party had taken place and that the Prime Minister had been in attendance. In the chamber, Boris Johnson finally admitted that he was at the party, whilst also stating that according to the date in which the event took place the party “could be said technically to fall within the guidance”.
Johnson’s defence was immediately shamed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, using this most recent allegation as an example of the Government empting themselves from Coronavirus laws. In his role as Leader of the Opposition, Starmer has been previously branded as holding back in his critiques of the Government’s handling of the pandemic. However, during this set of PMQs he called for Boris Johnson’s resignation and has since stated that he believes the Prime Minister has broken the law.
The Metropolitan Police have expressed their reluctance to investigate the No.10 party under the defence that they rarely take on retrospective cases when breaches of Coronavirus legislation are concerned. Therefore, for the time being, all eyes are on the inquiry by the Cabinet Office’s Senior Civil Servant, Sue Gray, commissioned to look further into the evidence and allegations surrounding the series of Downing Street lockdown parties that have taken place. It has not yet been confirmed when the findings of the inquiry will be published, however they will have the power to determine the future outcome of Boris Johnson’s career as Prime Minister.
With allegations of more lockdown parties and breaches of Coronavirus legislation being investigated, the Government risks losing further public and party support.
Editor note: Information was correct at time of writing 16/01/2022.