Dominic Cummings Ready to ‘Swear Under Oath’ BoJo 'Lied' About No 10 Lockdown-Busting 'Boozy Party'
05:26 GMT 18.01.2022 (Updated: 15:17 GMT 28.05.2023)
Senior civil servant Sue Gray is currently leading a probe into a series of alleged parties that took place on Downing Street and at other government departments at a time when the UK was under strict COVID-19 restrictions, with the event on 20 May 2020 the most contentious of them, implicating Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Dominic Cummings has accused Boris Johnson of lying to parliament about the “bring your own booze” party organised by his principal private secretary (PPS), Martin Reynolds, on 20 May 2020 at No 10 during the first lockdown.
"PM was told about the invite, he knew it was a drinks party," he wrote on Twitter, posting a link to his blog on his Substack page.
Johnson had admitted in the House of Commons during PMQs last week that he went into the Downing Street garden "to thank groups of staff" before going back into his office "25 minutes later". He offered his "heartfelt apologies", claiming that he had “believed implicitly” that the gathering attended reportedly by around 40 people was a “work event”.
No 10 has denied that the UK Prime Minister saw the emailed invitation to about 100 staff sent by Reynolds, dismissing allegations that two senior staffers warned Johnson against attending the gathering as “not true”.
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However, Cummings, Downing Street’s former aide, challenged that account of events in his new blog post on Monday.
According to him, he personally told Reynolds that the invitation to “have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden” broke the rules. According to the one-time Downing Street guru, Reynolds replied:
“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.”
Dominic Cummings wrote in his blog post:
“Not only me but other eyewitnesses who discussed this at the time would swear under oath this is what happened.”
Cummings claimed that he had proceeded to tell Boris Johnson something along the lines of:
“Martin’s invited the building to a drinks party, this is what I’m talking about, you’ve got to grip this madhouse.”
However, according to the ex-adviser, the PM “waved it aside”.
“I had told him repeatedly the PPS should be replaced, as had other competent officials who knew the whole structure needed a huge upgrade in personnel and management. ‘He’s MY guy, I don’t want you replacing him with YOUR person.’ (Yes, this says a lot.) I went home to bed at 3ish, still very ill from Covid,” continued Dominic Cummings in his blog post.
The ex-adviser who was ousted from No 10 after purportedly losing a power struggle in November 2020 also claimed Reynolds had checked with Johnson whether the party should go ahead. According to him, the PM had given the green light for the drinks party to take place.
Another ex-Downing Street staffer was cited by The Guardian as saying:
“It is inconceivable: there is no way Martin would go ahead without checking with Boris. There is no way any PPS would. If two senior people come to you and say, ‘this shouldn’t happen’, you don’t then proceed with it without speaking to the principal.”
Cummings warned the PM that there could be more scandalous revelations to come.
“There are many other photos of parties after I left yet to appear. I'll say more when SG's report is published.”
'Serious Damage' to Public Trust
Boris Johnson has been fending off a barrage of accusations over what has been dubbed the “partygate” row, with irate Tory MPs and the opposition Labour Party slamming him for “hypocrisy” and calling his position “untenable”. A growing chorus of voices, including from some Conservative MPs, has urged the PM to resign.
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Varying reports have suggested from 20 to 35 of the 54 letters required to trigger a vote of no confidence have already been submitted to the 1922 Committee.
If it were to be established that Johnson knew in advance about the BYOB party while having told parliament he believed it was a "work event", he might be in greater danger of being forced out of office.
More recently, two of Boris Johnson's ministers have openly slammed No10 over “partygate”, warning the fallout from the row has caused “serious damage” to public trust in the government.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman, claimed he was left “shocked and flabbergasted” by the string of damning revelations. He questioned why staff had been allowed to purportedly enjoy such gatherings while his constituents “couldn't see dying loved ones,” according to the Times.
Maria Caulfield, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for pateint Safety and primary Care, said that whether the rules were “technically” breached or not by the alleged parties, “the spirit of the rules” had been violated. She added that once Gray’s report came out she would “consider what action is needed.”
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Senior civil servant Sue Gray is currently leading an investigation into more than 15 separate, allegedly illicit parties at Downing Street and other government departments held when strict coronavirus restrictions were in place in the country.
The inquiry is expected to outline when each alleged party occurred, how many people were present and who was involved in organising them, while also outlining the regulations in place at the specific time.
It is within the remit of Gray’s probe to make a formal request to interview Cummings, according to cited Whitehall sources, if his evidence is deemed as relevant. While the original hope had been that the inquiry would complete its report this week, constant new developments have led officials to believe the report may drop no sooner than next week. The report is not expected to recommend a criminal investigation.
15 January 2022, 06:04 GMT
When asked about the latest claims made by Dominic Cummings, a No 10 spokesperson said:
“It is untrue that the prime minister was warned about the [20 May] event in advance. As he said … he believed implicitly that this was a work event. He has apologised to the house and is committed to making a further statement once the investigation concludes.”