Boris Johnson is facing fresh accusations of lying after two members of staff reportedly warned him to cancel the No 10 garden party.
The Prime Minister defended his attendance at the ‘bring your own bottle’ party on Wednesday (12 January) after saying he believed it was “a work event”.
Mr Johnson admitted he was at the garden party on 20 May 2020 during England’s first lockdown for 25 minutes, despite Covid-19 restrictions being in place.
However, his defence has been branded as lies after a former No 10 worker told The Sunday Times that “at least two people” told him it was “a party” and that it “should be immediately cancelled”.
Columnist Dominic Lawson, who aired the claims, wrote: “Last week I spoke to a former Downing Street official who said at least two people had told the PM, after seeing the emailed invitation from his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, that this was “a party” and should be immediately cancelled.
“I was told that Johnson’s dismissive response was to say they were “overreacting” and to praise Reynolds as “my loyal Labrador”.
“I then asked someone who has known the PM for decades what could have made him take such an approach (other than natural hospitality and affability).
“His immediate answer was: “It’s because deep down he obviously thought the regulations were ridiculous — so why should he observe them?”
The claims correspond with the account given to MPs in May by Mr Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings, who first revealed the garden party drinks on his blog.
He wrote: “I and at least one other spad (in writing so Sue Gray can dig up the original email and the warning) said that this [the party] seemed to be against the rules and should not happen.”
It is unclear if Mr Cummings and the other aide are the two people referred to by Mr Lawson.
‘A pattern of lying’
A No10 source stood by a briefing to journalists on Wednesday, in which the Prime Minister's Press Secretary said he had not been sent an email from Mr Reynolds' email and did not see the drinks invitation.
However, the Press Secretary refused to clarify how the Prime Minister found out about the party to go into the garden in the first place.
She said: "I think all I will say is repeat what he said, which is ‘I believed implicitly that this was a work event’."
The PM said that he went into the garden to thank groups of staff before heading back to his office 25 minutes later, but he believed the event was for work.
He admitted that with hindsight, he “should have sent everyone back inside” and “found some other way to thank them.”
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has said the latest revelations show a “pattern of lying and holding the British public in contempt”.
Ms Rayner has called on Mr Johnson to resign, saying “he’s not fit to be Prime Minister”.
She said: “This blows the Prime Minister's final defence out of the water.
"First he told the British public that all guidance was followed in Number 10.
“Then the Prime Minister was dragged to Parliament kicking and screaming to tell us he had drinks in the garden with staff - but did not know he was at a party.
“Now we find out he was warned these events were breaking the rules but dismissed staff as overreacting.”
Boris Johnson is now understood to be preparing to oust members of his top team as he looks to survive the partygate affair, according to The Sunday Times.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: “There is an ongoing investigation to establish the facts around the nature of gatherings, including attendance, setting and the purpose with reference to adherence to the guidance at the time.
“The findings will be made public in due course.”