A new controversy surrounds the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
About 100 people were reportedly invited to an event in the garden of 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence, during the first lockdown in England.
Witnesses told the BBC that Johnson and his wife, Carrie, were among 30 people who attended the meeting – to which attendees had to bring their own drink – on May 20, 2020.
But Prime Minister has declined to say if he was among the attendees.
The Metropolitan Police said it was in contact with the government for “widespread reports related to alleged infractions” of the rules imposed by the covid pandemic.
On Monday, Downing Street declined to comment because it said the meeting, like others reported that occurred under coronavirus restrictions during 2020, is being investigated as part of an ongoing independent investigation.
In another controversy last month, The Guardian newspaper published a photograph taken on May 15, 2020, showing the prime minister, his wife and 17 staff members in the garden of No. 10 Downing Street.
In this case, Johnson said that this was not a party and that those present were “people at work, talking about work.”
“Drinks with social distance”
The meeting on Wednesday, May 20, first came to light last week on a blog by the former prime minister’s adviser, Dominic Cummings.
And the ITV News channel published what appears to be the full invitation via email. sent on behalf of Johnson’s chief private secretary, Martin Reynolds.
The subject of the email read: “Cups with social distance! [OFICIAL-SENSIBLE-No 10 SOLAMENTE]”.
“After a period of hard work, we thought it would be good to take advantage of this wonderful time and have a few drinks, with due social distance, in the garden of Number 10 [de Downing Street] this afternoon, ”the email says.
“Please join me at six in the afternoon, and bring your own alcohol!”
Two witnesses told the BBC that saw Johnson and his wife Carrie at the event in the garden.
And sources added that several Downing Street staff members raised concerns about the drinks. “There were conversations that email was really reckless,” said one.
“I remember people saying, ‘What the hell?’” Added another.
Others said a long table had been set up in the garden for the event.
In a message sent by one Downing Street staff member to another at the time, accessed by the BBC, read: “Um. Why is Martin (Reynolds) encouraging a massive gathering in the garden? ” Another asked, “Is this real?”
The email was sent while the confinement restrictions were still in effect. Twelve days later On June 1, the rules in England were relaxed to allow groups of up to six people to meet outdoors.
In a Twitter post on the day of the meeting, when it was 25ºC in London, the Metropolitan Police reminded citizens that they could only relax or exercise outdoors, with their partners or with a single person from another household.
Have you been enjoying the hottest day of the year so far? 🌞
It is important that we all continue to #StayAlert
You can relax, have a picnic, exercise or play sport, as long as you are:
➡️ On your own
➡️ With people you live with
➡️ Just you and one other person pic.twitter.com/LAVe6DScQ5
– Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) May 20, 2020
On the same day of the event, the then Secretary of Culture, Oliver Dowden, gave the information session on coronavirus, in which he confirmed that 363 people in the United Kingdom had died from covid in the previous 24 hours.
“You can meet a non-living person in a public place outdoors as long as they stay two meters apart,” he reminded the public at the briefing.
What restrictions were in effect for England on May 20, 2020?
- Meetings with a single non-living person were only allowed in the open air, with the advice to stay 2m away
- Larger gatherings with non-partners were not allowed, with some exceptions such as funerals or when the meeting was essential for work purposes
- People who could work from home were still asked to do so, but people could attend workplaces if needed
- Schools, nonessential stores, hospitality venues, and hair salons were closed
Both members of Johnson’s Conservative Party and the Labor Party have reacted to the latest controversy.
Health Minister Edward Argar told BBC Breakfast that he understood the “Anger, sadness and discomfort that many will feel for these accusations”.
But he said it was “important” to allow an investigation into the Downing Street meetings before reaching any conclusions.
However, former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson tweeted: “No one needs an official to tell them if they were on a binge in their own backyard.”
He added that the public was “justly furious” after the sacrifices they made, adding: “What … were some of these people thinking?”
Conservative MP Michael Fabricant appeared to defend the meeting, tweeting that meeting outdoors “would not have increased the risk of contagion” and that the invited people “had worked incredibly hard on behalf of everyone.”
For their part, Labor said the prime minister would face “serious questions” if it is determined that you attended the event.
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband told the BBC’s Today radio show that the prime minister “cannot flee or hide” from the allegations.
“This speaks of a rotten culture at the heart of this government and the rotten culture begins with the person in charge,” he added.
Labor Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said “Boris Johnson has consistently shown that he does not consider the rules he sets for everyone else.”
“It makes me sick to think about that”
Hannah Brady, a spokeswoman for a group of families affected by COVID-19, said her father had died four days before the email was sent.
“At that time, everyone would have known that going to a party was wrong, so how can those who govern the country have thought it was right?” He asks.
“To make matters worse, in September of last year I sat in that very garden, looked the prime minister in the eye and told him how my father had died,” added Brady.
“He told me that he had done everything possible to protect my father, knowing that he had partied in that same place the same day that my father’s death certificate was signed. It makes me sick to think about that.
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