Boris Johnson was asked if there was a party in No10 on 13 November 2020 and replied ‘no’. Yet photos now show him raising a glass of fizz at a leaving do on that date – leading to claims he lied to Parliament
Bombshell photos emerged tonight of Boris Johnson raising a glass of fizz at a No10 party – which he explicitly denied took place.
The Prime Minister is accused of lying to Parliament after four pictures, published by ITV News, showed him with aides round a table laden with booze and party food.
Sources told both ITV and the Mirror that they were taken at a leaving do for his communications chief Lee Cain on 13 November 2020.
At the time, social gatherings indoors were banned between people not from the same household. Yet images appear to show the PM making a toast next to a table with two bottles of champagne or cava, four bottles of wine and half a bottle of gin.
The Mirror revealed last week that Mr Johnson was not investigated for the event and therefore, to the surprise of many in Downing Street, did not receive a fine.
Sources previously claimed he had instigated the event, gathering staff around the table and pouring drinks.
The photos, leaked on the eve of Sue Gray’s Partygate report, emerged five months after Mr Johnson explicitly denied a party took place in No10 on 13 November 2020.
He was asked by Labour MP Catherine West on December 8: “Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether there was a party in Downing Street on the 13th of November?”
Speaking under privilege in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson replied: “No. But I’m sure that, whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”
The PM already faces an inquiry by the committee of privileges over whether he misled Parliament when he claimed no rules had been broken in No10.
Ministers who knowingly mislead the House of Commons are expected to resign.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “While the British public were making huge sacrifices, Boris Johnson was breaking the law.
“Boris Johnson said repeatedly that he knew nothing about law-breaking – there’s no doubt now, he lied. Boris Johnson made the rules, and then broke them.
“The Prime Minister has demeaned his office. The British people deserve better. While Labour has a plan for tackling the cost-of-living crisis, Tory MPs are too busy defending the indefensible actions of Boris Johnson.”
The picture shows eight people, plus the photographer, though others were believed to have been present out of shot. ITV News chose to blur the faces of other attendees.
Just eight days earlier England had been put back into strict lockdown due to soaring cases of Covid-19.
The Met Police issued fines over an event or events on 13 November 2020. Scotland Yard refused to say if they fined people at Lee Cain’s leaving do that is now pictured, a so-called ‘Abba party’ in the Downing Street flat on the same night, or both.
The photos were taken on the night Dominic Cummings walked out of Downing Street as he and Lee Cain quit in a wave of infighting in No10.
SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford said: “Boris Johnson told us firstly that no parties took place during lockdown, then he said he wasn’t at them and that he was angry about them. He is a serial liar and cannot be allowed to get away with it.”
Lib Dem Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said: “People will rightly be furious to see pictures of Johnson drinking at what is an obvious party, when he repeatedly told us that the rules were followed at all times.
“These photos show Boris Johnson has taken the British people for fools. While the public made huge sacrifices, he partied in Number 10.
“It’s becoming clearer than ever that Boris Johnson lied to the British people and to Parliament.
“Conservative MPs must do their duty and sack this law-breaking Prime Minister. Every day he remains in office will do more damage to public trust and to our democracy.”
It comes just hours after former top aide Dominic Cummings warned the PM faces the publication of Partygate photos “within the next 24-48 hours”.
The ex-Downing Street advisor claimed that the bombshell images would show that Mr Johnson “obviously lied to the Commons and possibly to the cops”.
Mr Cummings, a fierce critic of the PM since he quit No 10 last year, appeared to suggest that disgruntled junior civil servants who had been fined for lockdown breaches while the PM got off could release the pictures.
However the long-awaited report into ‘Partygate’ conducted by senior civil servant Sue Gray, which is expected to be published on Tuesday or Wednesday, could also include photographs of events.
Ms Gray handed more than 300 images to Scotland Yard from her probe. Downing Street insiders suggested the PM was “quite happy” for images to be published to dispel the public belief that Downing Street was “like Ibiza on a Saturday night”.
However, Mr Cummings, referring to photographic evidence held by officials, said: “One of the consequences is that I expect photos of the PM will emerge very quickly, within the next 24-48 hours.
“Any reasonable person looking at some of these photos will only be able to conclude that the PM obviously lied to the Commons, and possibly to the cops, and there is no reasonable story for how others were fined for event X but not him.”
Meanwhile, Downing Street refused to publish minutes of a secretive meeting between Boris Johnson and Sue Gray around the start of May.
No10 today admitted its staff contacted Ms Gray’s office suggesting a meeting – which led to direct talks between the PM and the senior civil servant.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The technical meeting request came through from Sue Gray, but it was initially suggested by officials in No10 that it may be something that she might want to consider.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson had not requested the talks personally, and indicated they were an “overview” of the timings of publication.
But No10 today refused to provide any details of what the pair discussed or a cast list of who was present.
And asked if Boris Johnson would publish the minutes of the meeting, as Lib Dem MPs were set to demand today, his spokesman said: “No, it was a private meeting – we wouldn’t publish details of a private meeting”.
Sue Gray is expecting to name Boris Johnson in her final report on parties in No10 and Whitehall when it is published, likely today or tomorrow. The PM was given until last night to respond and her officials are making final checks today.