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Downing Street parties: Dominic Cummings claims Boris Johnson lied to parliament about knowledge of gathering

The Prime Minister’s former senior aide has claimed Boris Johnson was told a garden party held at Number 10 during lockdown ‘broke the rules’ but let it go ahead

Boris Johnson’s former senior aide Dominic Cummings has said the Prime Minister misled parliament after he claimed that he was under the impression a gathering held in the garden of Number 10 was a “work event”.

Mr Cummings made the claim that Mr Johnson and his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, who sent an email invite to around 100 guests to attend a “bring your own booze” gathering on 20 May 2020, were not only told that the gathering was against the rules by a “very senior official” but approved the gathering to go ahead after being warned.

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The accusations from Mr Cummings comes as Mr Johnson continues to fight calls for his resignation amid a scandal about multiple gathering which took place while Covid restrictions were in place.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • Mr Johnson’s former senior aide has claimed the Prime Minister lied to parliament about his knowledge of a lockdown gathering which took place in the garden of Number 10 on 20 May 2020
  • Dominic Cumming has alleged Mr Johnson and his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds were warned by a “very senior official” that a gathering, which around 100 members of staff were invited to, was against the rules, but allowed the party to go ahead regardless
  • Mr Johnson told the House of Commons last week he was not aware the gathering broke the rules and he thought it was a “work event”
  • Mr Cummings also says himself and several other eyewitnesses “would swear under oath this is what happened”
  • The claims are a blow for the Prime Minister, who is under immense pressure to resign from the post as a result of the scandal

What has Dominic Cummings said?

Mr Cummings, who left his position as Mr Johnson’s senior aid in November 2020, made the claims on his blog.

He said: “On 20 May, after the PPS [principal private secretary] sent the invitation to the drinks party, a very senior official replied by email saying the invite broke the rules.

“The PPS went to the official’s office where they discussed it. The PPS declined to withdraw the invite.

“I told the PPS the invite broke the rules.

“He said: so long as it’s socially distanced I think it’s OK, I’ll check with the PM if he’s happy for it to go ahead.”

Mr Cummings said despite the alarm being raised by himself and others, Mr Johnson and Mr Reynolds agreed the event should still go ahead.

He continued: “Is the PM going to claim that a) his PPS told him ‘PM this is a work meeting’ and b) after he walked around the garden talking to people standing around drinking, ‘Sue, honestly, I swear to you I thought it was a work meeting’?!”

The former aide then claimed the Prime Minister had misled parliament and MPs by telling them he was under the impression the gathering in question was a “work event”.

He said: “The events of 20 May alone, never mind the string of other events, mean the PM lied to Parliament about parties.

“Not only me but other eyewitnesses who discussed this at the time would swear under oath this is what happened.”

The claims comes after Number 10 denied Mr Johnson had been “warned about” the gathering or told aides who voiced concerns about the “bring your own booze” event they were “overreacting”.

How has Downing Street responded to what Dominic Cummings said?

A No 10 spokesman said Mr Johnson had apologised to the House and that he “believed implicitly” that he had been attending a work event.

“It is untrue that the Prime Minister was warned about the event in advance,” the spokesman said, adding Mr Johnson would be making a further statement when Sue Gray, the senior civil servant investigating partying in Whitehall during lockdown, has completed her inquiry.

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