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HomePoliticsPartygate: A timeline of the lockdown parties

Partygate: A timeline of the lockdown parties


Boris and Carrie JohnsonImage source, PA Media

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to be questioned by MPs over allegations he may have misled Parliament about Covid rule-breaking parties – claims he denies.

Investigations carried out by senior civil servant Sue Gray and the Metropolitan Police last year found rules had been broken and a number of fines were issued, including to Mr Johnson and his then chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

15 May 2020: Cheese and wine at Downing Street

A photo from May 2020 showed the prime minister and his staff with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard in the Downing Street garden. When asked about it, Boris Johnson said “those people were at work talking about work”.

Image source, Guardian/Eyevine

Legal restrictions at the time said you could not leave your house without a reasonable excuse. Government guidance was that you could meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor setting while exercising.

This event was not investigated by the police.

20 May 2020: Drinks in the garden

About 100 people were invited by email to “socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening”. Witnesses told the BBC the prime minister and his wife were among about 30 people who attended.

Mr Johnson apologised to MPs for attending the event, saying he spent 25 minutes thanking staff, before returning to his office.

The police investigation determined that this event did breach the rules in place at the time.

18 June 2020: Farewell gathering

A gathering took place in the Cabinet Office to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary.

The police investigation determined that this event did breach the rules in place at the time.

We know at least one fine was issued after the government’s former head of ethics admitted receiving one and apologised for attending the event.

19 June 2020: PM’s birthday

On Boris Johnson’s birthday, up to 30 people gathered in the Cabinet Room at No 10 to present the prime minister with a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday, according to a report by ITV News.

No 10 said staff had “gathered briefly” to “wish the prime minister a happy birthday”, adding that he had been there “for less than 10 minutes”.

Image source, Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office

Restrictions at the time banned most indoor gatherings involving more than two people.

The police investigation determined that this event did breach the rules in place at the time.

We know at least three attendees have received fines from the police, with the prime minister, his wife Carrie Symonds and Rishi Sunak all confirming they paid fixed penalty notices.

13 November 2020: Farewell Cummings

Two gatherings are understood to have taken place in Downing Street on this date: one to mark the departure of a special adviser and one in the Downing Street flat.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, the gathering in the flat where Mr Johnson and his wife lived was to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former senior adviser. A spokesman for Mrs Johnson denies the party took place.

Image source, Sue Gray report/Cabinet Office/PA

Eight days earlier Mr Johnson had announced a new lockdown in England. Indoor gatherings with other households were banned, unless they were for work purposes.

The police investigation determined that an event on this date did breach the rules in place at the time but did not confirm whether it was one or both of the events.

27 November 2020: Aide’s leaving drinks

A leaving event was held for No 10 aide Cleo Watson where people were drinking and Mr Johnson made a speech, according to sources.

This event was not investigated by the police.

10 December 2020: Thank-you drinks

The Department for Education confirmed it had an office gathering on this date to thank staff for their work during the pandemic. It said drinks and snacks were brought by those who attended and no outside guests or support staff were invited.

Eight days earlier, London had been placed in restrictions which banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless “reasonably necessary” for work purposes.

This event was not investigated by the police.

14 December 2020: Conservative Party HQ

The Conservative Party admitted that an “unauthorised gathering” took place at its headquarters in Westminster. It was held by the team of the party’s London-mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, who later stepped down as chair of the London Assembly police and crime committee.

Image source, Daily Mirror

In November 2022, police said they had found insufficient evidence that any rules were broken.

This event was not included in Sue Gray’s report.

15 December 2020: Christmas quiz

Multiple sources told the BBC there was a Christmas quiz for No 10 staff. A photo – published by the Sunday Mirror – showed Boris Johnson taking part and sitting between two colleagues in No 10. Mr Johnson denied any wrongdoing.

Image source, The Sunday Mirror

At this time, the rules in London banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless “reasonably necessary” for work purposes.

This event was not investigated by the police.

16 December 2020: Transport party

The Department for Transport apologised after confirming reports of a party in its offices, calling it “inappropriate” and an “error of judgment” by staff.

This event was not included in Sue Gray’s report.

17 December 2020: Leaving drinks

A leaving party was held at the Cabinet Office for the outgoing head of the civil service Covid taskforce – the team responsible for drawing up coronavirus restrictions.

Kate Josephs, now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, apologised for the event, saying she was “truly sorry that I did this and for the anger that people will feel as a result”.

A second gathering was held in the Cabinet Office for an online Christmas quiz for the Cabinet Secretary’s private office.

A third gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of a Downing Street official

The police investigation determined that an event on this date did breach the rules in place at the time but they did not confirm whether it was one or all of the events.

18 December 2020: Stratton caught on video

Downing Street originally denied a report by the Daily Mirror that a party took place in Downing Street on this date.

However, a video obtained by ITV News showed the prime minister’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton joking about reports of the event, saying: “This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.”

Ms Stratton resigned following an angry backlash, saying she would “regret the remarks for the rest of my days”.

The police investigation determined that the event on this date did breach the rules in place at the time.

14 January 2021: Farewell drinks

A gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of two private secretaries.

The police investigation determined that this event did breach the rules in place at the time.

16 April 2021: Parties on eve of funeral

Two parties were held by Downing Street staff at No 10, the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.

One of the events was a leaving party for the PM’s then director of communications James Slack, who apologised for the event and acknowledged it “should not have happened at the time that it did”.

Downing Street also apologised to Buckingham Palace for the two parties.

Mr Johnson was not at either party.

The rules had been eased in England on 12 April, but working from home continued to be recommended and socialising indoors with people from other households was not allowed. Meeting others outdoors was limited to groups of six people or two households.

The police investigation determined that an event on this date did breach the rules in place at the time but they did not confirm whether it was one or both of the events.

We know fines were issued to some people who attended Mr Slack’s leaving party, but we do not know the identities of all the people they were issued to.



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