Angela Rayner demands the PM ‘tells the truth’ over garden party photos

Boris Johnson
Support us and go ad-free

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has urged Boris Johnson to “tell us the truth” about gatherings at Downing Street as a photo emerged of the PM and staff gathering in the No 10 garden reportedly during the first national lockdown.

The Guardian and the Independent previously reported that Johnson was present for 15 minutes at the gathering following a coronavirus (Covid-19) press conference on 15 May 2020. According to the newspapers’ sources, around 20 staff drank wine and spirits and ate pizza following the press conference at which then health secretary Matt Hancock told the British public to stay at home “as much as is possible” and stressed the rules in force meant “you can meet one other person from outside your household in an outdoor, public place” as long as you kept two metres apart.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

One rule for us. One rule for the elite.

In a photograph published by the Guardian, Johnson can be seen sitting around a garden table with his then-fiancee Carrie and two members of staff. On the table are bottles of wine and a cheeseboard. Four other members of staff are sat around a second table a distance away. Nine people are then gathered on the grass, with another two sat on the floor to the right.

Downing Street has insisted the gathering was within the rules, and a spokesperson previously said:

On May 15 2020 the Prime Minister held a series of meetings throughout the afternoon, including briefly with the then health and care secretary and his team in the garden following a press conference.

The Prime Minister went to his residence shortly after 7pm.

Coronavirus – Thu Dec 16, 2021
Prime minister Boris Johnson during a visit to a vaccination centre in Ramsgate (Leon Neal/PA)

A small number of staff required to be in work remained in the Downing Street garden for part of the afternoon and evening.

On 19 December, a spokesperson told the Guardian:

As we said last week, work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months. On this occasion there were staff meetings after a No 10 press conference.

Downing Street is the Prime Minister’s home as well as his workplace. The Prime Minister’s wife lives in No 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden.

Not impressed

Medical professionals shared what happened in the month when the PM was in the garden:

Another person described the scenes as “infuriating”:

Some social media users described the situation as “gaslighting”:

The prime minister is alleged to have told one aide that they deserved a drink for “beating back” coronavirus.

Government gatherings
Sue Gray, second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Gov.uk/PA)

Some aides reportedly carried on drinking into the evening, although there was no suggestion Johnson or Hancock had any alcohol or stayed late. The alleged gathering is one of a number that have been reported across Whitehall during coronavirus restrictions.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray has been tasked with investigating the reports after cabinet secretary Simon Case was removed from the probe after it was revealed he had known about a quiz held in his department.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us