'Furious Backlash' in UK After New COVID Commotion

PM Johnson allegedly attended Downing Street BYOB garden party in May 2020 amid lockdowns
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2022 7:45 AM CST
Boris Johnson's COVID Controversy Intensifies
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen during a coronavirus briefing at Downing Street in London on Oct. 12, 2020.   (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Newser) – Boris Johnson and his staff just can't seem to avoid lockdown controversies. Last month, accusations (and evidence) surfaced of two 2020 gatherings at 10 Downing Street—an alleged springtime social event and a Christmas party—that appeared to be in violation of the UK's strict rules at the time concerning getting together during the pandemic. Now, a new addition to Johnson's list of headaches, with witnesses now saying the prime minister's private secretary invited 100-plus people to a BYOB garden party at Downing Street during Britain's first major coronavirus lockdown, per NBC News.

"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 No10 garden this evening," reads a May 20, 2020, email from Martin Reynolds, Johnson's principal private secretary, as first reported by ITV News. "Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!" About 30 to 40 people of the 100 invitees were said to have attended the affair, with the most eyebrow-raising among them being Johnson and his wife, Carrie, who reportedly ate, drank, and mingled with the other guests.

NBC notes that in May 2020, the UK was in the midst of a rigid lockdown in which restaurants and schools were closed and police were cracking down hard on those who violated limits on social gatherings—to the point where people couldn't even say goodbye to dying family members. Last month, Johnson insisted to Parliament that no one at Downing Street had broken any COVID rules, and on Monday, when asked specifically about the supposed garden party, the 57-year-old prime minister simply noted, "All that, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation."

A senior government official is indeed carrying out a probe of at least five alleged parties held in government quarters during COVID lockdowns, and London police are also now said to be involved due to the possible violation of health laws. Meanwhile, patience is wearing thin in the UK for the growing number of reports about the alleged get-togethers. The Guardian notes that even pro-Tory newspapers have joined in the "furious backlash" against Johnson over "partygate," while Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, took to Twitter to blast the PM, per the BBC. "Boris Johnson, your deflections and distractions are absurd," Starmer tweeted Tuesday. "Stop lying to the British public. It's time to finally come clean." (Read more Boris Johnson stories.)

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