Downing Street parties: the lockdown rules the UK followed as Boris Johnson attended No 10 ‘birthday party’

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Indoor social gatherings were forbidden under Covid lockdown laws at the time of the alleged birthday party

Boris Johnson is facing fresh allegations of lockdown rule-breaking after Downing Street admitted a celebration was held inside No 10 for his birthday.

A total of 30 people allegedly attended the gathering and shared cake, despite social mixing indoors being banned under lockdown laws at the time.

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Boris Johnson is facing fresh allegations of lockdown rule-breaking (Photo: Getty Images)Boris Johnson is facing fresh allegations of lockdown rule-breaking (Photo: Getty Images)
Boris Johnson is facing fresh allegations of lockdown rule-breaking (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Downing Street conceded that staff “gathered briefly” inside the Cabinet Room following a meeting during the first lockdown to mark the Prime Minister’s birthday.

Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie, is understood to have organised the surprise get-together on the afternoon of 19 June 2020, where guests reportedly sang a chorus of “happy birthday” and snacked on M&S party food.

The gathering is said to have lasted for around 20 to 30 minutes.

What lockdown rules were in place?

At the time of the alleged party, the rest of the UK was living under strict Covid-19 lockdown rules, which kept families apart for months on end.

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Many were unable to see or visit their loved ones in their final hours, with social distancing rules meaning phone or video calls were the only way to keep in touch.

Listed are all of the Covid rules that were in place in the UK at the time of the Prime Minister’s alleged birthday bash.

  • Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes were still closed to the public
  • Non-essential shops reopened on 15 June, but the likes of hairdressers, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, cinemas and indoor theatres all remained closed
  • People were allowed to meet in groups of up to six people, but only outdoors. Indoor gatherings remained banned until 4 July
  • Schools in England had a phased reopening, with pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 allowed to return to classrooms for the first time in three months
  • The ‘social bubble’ scheme was introduced on 13 June, allowing single person households to meet and stay overnight with another household. However, families in separate households were still not allowed to meet indoors until 4 July
  • Outdoor seated and cultural events were banned
Downing Street said Mr Johnson attended the ‘party’ for less than 10 minutes (Photo: PA)Downing Street said Mr Johnson attended the ‘party’ for less than 10 minutes (Photo: PA)
Downing Street said Mr Johnson attended the ‘party’ for less than 10 minutes (Photo: PA) | PA

It was not until 4 July that most lockdown measures in England were eased.

From this date, social distancing rules were relaxed to “one-metre plus”, pubs, restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen, and two households of any size could meet up indoors and stay overnight.

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Hotels, caravan parks, campsites, cinemas, places of worship, libraries, theatres and concert halls, museums and galleries, hairdressers, and outdoor gyms, pools and playgrounds were also among the businesses allowed to reopen.

Who is said to have attended the party?

Officials reportedly in attendance at the party included Martin Reynolds, the most senior civil servant in the Prime Minister’s office who sent the invitation for the No 10 ‘BYOB’ garden party drinks email.

Interior designer Lulu Lytle admitted attending while carrying out the lavish and controversial work to the Johnson’s flat above No 11 Downing Street, but insisted she was only present “briefly” while waiting to talk to the Prime Minister.

Downing Street has not denied the event took place and said that Mr Johnson only attended “briefly”.

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A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “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 10 minutes.”

It has also been reported that Mr Johnson and his wife hosted family and friends in their residence upstairs in the evening to further celebrate his 56th birthday, but No 10 denied the claims.

Downing Street said: “This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time the Prime Minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the latest revelations were “yet more evidence that we have got a Prime Minister who believes that the rules that he made don’t apply to him”.

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He added: “The Prime Minister is a national distraction and he’s got to go.”

The allegations come as senior civil servant Sue Gray prepares to publish her inquiry into a series of claims of rule-breaking parties in No 10.

It is understood that Ms Gray was already aware of the birthday party allegations and so the emergence is not expected to delay the publication of her investigation, which is still expected this week.

Around 17 allegations of rule-breaking events have now been levelled across Downing Street, wider government and the Tory party.

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