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Martin Reynolds: who is the No 10 principal private secretary to Boris Johnson - and what he said in email

The civil servant is at the centre of the latest Downing Street lockdown party row

Martin Reynolds - one of the most senior officials in No 10 - has largely avoided the limelight until the emergence of his email inviting colleagues to “socially-distanced drinks” during England’s first coronaviruslockdown.

Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, sent an email to more than 100 Downing Stree temployees inviting them to drinks in the garden.

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He said staff should “make the most of the lovely weather”, despite the country being under tough coronavirus restrictions banning groups from meeting socially outdoors when the message was sent.

The leaked email, obtained by ITV news, said: “Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening.

“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who is Martin Reynolds?

A British civil servant, Martin Reynolds was formerly the UK’s ambassador to Libya, and is currently serving as Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Before entering government, Reynolds worked as a lawyer in London, and became a diplomat, serving at the British High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa as Deputy High Commissioner, from 2011.

In 2014, Reynolds became the Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, for part of that time while Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary.

Reynolds was Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Libya for five months between April and September 2019.

Reynolds was recalled from his overseas posting in Africa after Peter Hill resigned from his role as Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister following Johnson’s becoming Prime Minister 2019.

He was officially instated in his new role in October 2019.

What does Reynolds do?

As Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, Reynolds plays a key role advising the Prime Minister on a wide range of issues.

Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings said the influence wielded by the principal private secretary within Downing Street was not widely appreciated.

“The PPS exercises far more influence and actual power over many issues than Cabinet ministers,” Cummings said.

“He can nudge policy, he can nudge vital appointments (real power). He can and does walk into the PM’s office and exclude all political people ‘on security grounds’.”

Boris Johnson (then Foreign Secretary) attends a meeting with Martin Reynolds (far left), US Secretary of State John Kerry, and US Ambassador to Britain Matthew Barzun in 2016 (Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP via Getty Images)

Will Reynolds resign?

Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband questioned how the Prime Minister can lead the country if it turns out he attended an alleged Downing Street drinks party during the first coronavirus lockdown.

Asked what should happen if it emerges that Boris Johnson was at the reported event, Miliband told Sky News: “I think his position is very difficult.”

But will Reynolds be the first to go?

As has been proven multiple times in the last 24 months, Johnson’s ability to weather the storm of criticism and remain Prime Minister is enviable.

It is often left to those beneath him to take the hit. For instance, Allegra Stratton, a former advisor to Boris Johnson who resigned from her post following the fallout of the Downing Street party scandal.

In footage leaked from December 2020, Stratton had been seen joking with colleagues about a party which took place inside No0 in what appeared to be a rehearsal for a televised Covid media briefing.

The damning footage caused Stratton, Johnson’s press secretary at the time of the recording and his spokeswoman, to resign from her post as Johnson’s spokeswoman and senior aide in a teary apology speech outside her North London home.

However, Reynolds “continues in his role” and has the full confidence of Boris Johnson, No 10 has said.

Will Johnson resign?

Johnson “cannot run and he cannot hide” from claims an aide organised a “bring your own booze” Downing Street drinks party during the first lockdown, Labour’s Miliband has said.

Health minister Ed Argar has said “appropriate disciplinary action” should be taken if rules are found to have been broken at an alleged Downing Street drinks party in May 2020.

Asked if the Prime Minister should go if he is found to have been at the alleged event, Argar said: “I think it’s important we wait and see what [Sue Gray] says about the facts.”

Cabinet Office official Sue Gray, the senior civil servant investigating allegations of lockdown-breaking gatherings in Government, has confirmed she is investigating the 20 May event as part of her inquiry, along with a separate 15 May gathering, which was revealed by a leaked photo showing the Prime Minister and staff sat around a table with cheese and wine.

Argar told BBC Breakfast: “I can entirely understand why people who’ve lost loved ones, or people who’ve just had their lives hugely disrupted by these restrictions, are angry and upset by these allegations.

“That’s why it’s right that [Gray] is looking into the facts and will report, and she can go with this investigation where she needs to, without fear or favour.”

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson condemned the alleged Downing Street drinks party, saying on Twitter: “This line won’t survive 48 hrs.

“Nobody needs an official to tell them if they were at a boozy shindig in their own garden. People are (rightly) furious. They sacrificed so much – visiting sick or grieving relatives, funerals. What tf were any of these people thinking?”

Asked whether the police should be involved if Gray finds wrongdoing in Government during lockdown, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “If he has clearly broken the law, then that should be referred to the police and the police should handle it.”

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