Report: British PM had large birthday bash during 1st lockdown
London, Jan 24 (EFE).- Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly celebrated his birthday with a group of 30 people on June 19, 2020, when the United Kingdom was still under its first Covid-19 lockdown and large indoor gatherings were expressly prohibited.
The then-fiancee of the head of government, Carrie Symonds, allegedly helped organize a surprise party that was held in the Cabinet Room of the prime minister’s official residence and executive office, located at 10 Downing Street in London, ITV News reported Monday.
The new report heaps additional pressure on Johnson, who was already under fire over allegations of more than a dozen parties and social gatherings held both at No. 10 and other government departments after the onset of the pandemic.
Most of those other gatherings also took place in 2020 when the UK’s strictest social distancing rules were still in place.
A Downing Street spokesperson responded to the latest scandal on Monday by trying to downplay the birthday party, which was held at a time when most indoor gatherings of more than two people were off-limits.
“A group of staff working in No 10 that day gathered briefly in the Cabinet Room after a meeting to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday. He was there for less than ten minutes.”
ITV News, however, said it was told that Lulu Lytle, who was renovating Johnson’s Downing Street apartment at the time but was not a government employee, also was present at the event.
In its description of the gathering, the channel said those in attendance were understood to have eaten “picnic food” purchased at a supermarket and were together for between 20 and 30 minutes.
ITV News added that it “also understands that on the evening of June 19, 2020, family friends were hosted upstairs in the prime minister’s residence in an apparent further breach of the rules.”
Downing Street, however, said that latter allegation was “totally untrue.”
“In line with the rules at the time the prime minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening,” the spokesperson said.
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, responded to ITV News’ report by reiterating his call for Johnson to resign.
“The Prime Minister is a national distraction. Millions of people are struggling to pay the bills, but Boris Johnson and his government are spending the whole time mopping up their own rule-breaking, sleaze and deceit. He’s got to go,” Starmer wrote on Twitter.
This latest round of partygate allegations comes ahead of the release of a report on Downing Street parties that is expected to be published this week.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray is conducting the inquiry, which was commissioned by the prime minister’s office and includes written evidence provided by Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser who quit in November 2020 and has become a fierce critic of his former boss.
Cummings himself became embroiled in scandal for driving from London to his parents’ home in Durham – 420 kilometers (260 miles) away – in May 2020, when such trips were prohibited due to coronavirus rules.
Cummings last week accused Johnson of lying to Parliament when he told MPs he believed a May 20, 2020, Downing Street drinks party was a “work event.”
Johnson’s chief adviser said he had warned his boss that the party violated pandemic restrictions but that the prime minister agreed that it could go ahead. EFE