Partygate: most shocking revelations in ITV’s podcast - from Boris Johnson party joke to staff ‘getting it on’

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ITV’s ‘The Inside Story’ includes reports of Downing Street staff destroying evidence of parties and of couples ‘getting it on’ at a gathering on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

An exclusive deep-dive into Partygate has unveiled a series of new bombshells about how the scandal unfolded.

ITV’s new podcast, ‘Partygate: The Inside Story’, offers fresh information about how much then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson knew about the notorious parties at Downing Street, as well as claims that staff at Westminster tried to cover up proof of non-socially distanced gatherings.

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It comes as Johnson faces a parliamentary investigation into whether he misled MPs over so-called Partygate, so some of the new claims are likely to place him under further pressure. But what exactly has the podcast revealed? Here are the biggest revelations from ‘Partygate: The Inside Story’, which claims to “lift the lid even further in the behind-closed-doors story of one of the biggest scandals of our era”.

‘The most unsocially distanced party in the UK’

One of the most explosive - if not entirely surprising - revelations from the podcast is that Boris Johnson allegedly joked to Downing Street staff that “this is the most unsocially distanced party in the UK right now” while attending a leaving do at Number 10.

ITV News said that when it put the direct quote to Johnson, he did not deny saying it. A spokesperson for the former Prime Minister insisted he had “worked constantly” to ensure the government did all it could to save lives and protect livelihoods during the pandemic.

This new piece of information throws into doubt Johnson’s long-held position that he was unaware rules had been broken within Downing Street during the coronavirus lockdowns. According to ITV News, the comments were made as staff toasted outgoing director of communications, Lee Cain, in November 2020.

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At the time, England was in its second national lockdown with indoor gatherings banned except for in circumstances such as for “work purposes” - although social distancing remained a rule. This particular event appeared in the report by Sue Gray, who was told that it occurred when ‘Wine Time Friday’ would have typically taken place, and that Johnson had stopped by on his way to his Downing Street residence.

Johnson previously insisted all guidance had been followed during the event.

In pictures obtained by ITV News, Boris Johnson can be seen toasting a drink at an illegal gathering, for which he was not fined by the Met Police. (Credit: ITV)In pictures obtained by ITV News, Boris Johnson can be seen toasting a drink at an illegal gathering, for which he was not fined by the Met Police. (Credit: ITV)
In pictures obtained by ITV News, Boris Johnson can be seen toasting a drink at an illegal gathering, for which he was not fined by the Met Police. (Credit: ITV) | PA

Attendees ‘getting it on’ at party on eve of Prince Philip funeral

When news first broke of a Downing Street bash on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, it caused fresh outrage - particularly when people looked back over images of the late Queen Elizabeth II mourning her husband alone as she observed lockdown rules.

But the podcast has revealed even more information about the event - which appears to have been more raucous than once thought. At least two couples were said to be “getting it on with each other” and “touching each other up”, while two other members of staff were reportedly “all over each other” in the kitchen area.

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Prince Philip’s funeral was held on 17 April 2021. Government rules dictated at the time that indoor socialising was banned with people outside of your house or bubble.

Queen Elizabeth II sat alone during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Credit: Getty ImagesQueen Elizabeth II sat alone during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Credit: Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II sat alone during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Credit: Getty Images | Getty Images

Staff destroyed evidence of parties

A Downing Street source reportedly alleged to ITV’s UK editor Paul Brand that members of staff had covered up evidence of parties prior to probes by Whitehall and the Met Police.

The whistleblower claimed government aides had shredded documents and corroborated their stories before completing police questionnaires or engaging in interviews with Ms Gray. They commented: “There was a sense, and an implication, that we should start deleting evidence before there is an investigation. [Awards from a Christmas party were] basically taken down, kept away, shredded, evidence destroyed. So there was an aspect of getting rid of evidence – just keeping yourself in the clear before an investigation would happen.”

The Cabinet Office has said that Number 10 staff were given clear guidance to retain any relevant information and cooperate fully with the internal investigation.

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A source told ITV News that Downing Street staff destroyed evidence of parties before probes by Sue Gray and the Met Police. Credit: Getty ImagesA source told ITV News that Downing Street staff destroyed evidence of parties before probes by Sue Gray and the Met Police. Credit: Getty Images
A source told ITV News that Downing Street staff destroyed evidence of parties before probes by Sue Gray and the Met Police. Credit: Getty Images | Getty Images

Only 50% of parties were investigated

ITV’s podcast also reports that only half of the parties that occurred were ever actually investigated by Ms Gray or the Met Police.

Johnson only received one fine as part of the Met Police’s investigation into the gatherings held at Downing Street. He was fined for attending his own birthday party in the Cabinet Room in June 2020, but did not receive anything for the leaving do in November 2020 which ITV’s source mentioned.

What has the reaction been?

Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said: “As the disgraced former Prime Minister plots his comeback, he reminds us all yet again why he’s totally unfit for office. While people were unable to say goodbye to loved ones or mourn with their families, he was breaking his own rules with reckless abandon and then lying to the British people.

“Conservative MPs were complicit while Rishi Sunak personally propped him up for months as he set about degrading standards in public life. This joke’s not funny anymore.”

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Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain added: “These shocking revelations confirm Boris Johnson’s total disregard for the rules he asked us all to follow. He laughed and partied while the rest of the country suffered. Conservative MPs should be ashamed that they backed Johnson for so long and that some are even considering putting him back in Number 10.”

ITV said that other figures have called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to agree “to give evidence under oath to the Partygate inquiry about everything he knows about rule-breaking in Number 10”. Sunak was serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time when the parties took place.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference in response to the publication of Sue Gray’s report Into “Partygate” at Downing Street on May 25, 2022 in London, England. Credit: Getty ImagesPrime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference in response to the publication of Sue Gray’s report Into “Partygate” at Downing Street on May 25, 2022 in London, England. Credit: Getty Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference in response to the publication of Sue Gray’s report Into “Partygate” at Downing Street on May 25, 2022 in London, England. Credit: Getty Images | Getty Images

Johnson is still due to appear before the Commons Privileges Committee over comments he made from the despatch box about Partygate, when he insisted rules had been followed. The investigation concerns whether he misled MPs.

A spokesperson for the former Prime Minister said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic Boris Johnson led our country through its most dangerous peacetime crisis in living memory. As prime minister during a 24/7 national emergency he worked constantly to ensure the government did everything possible in its power to save lives and protect livelihoods.

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“Mr Johnson pays heartfelt tribute to the heroic frontline workers who battled the pandemic, many of whom lost their lives. Their service to our country will always be remembered.

“He is also incredibly grateful for the efforts of hardworking staff who were working in central government – the vast majority of them civil servants – who helped co-ordinate the UK’s national response from 10 Downing Street, across Whitehall, and throughout the wider UK Government. Their work was crucial as they helped marshal the UK Government’s response during a national emergency.”

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