Five key questions for Boris Johnson about Downing St party scandal

Opposition wants British PM to publish legal advice he received after allegations came to light

Boris Johnson has been asked to publish legal advice he may have received on how to respond to the allegations of parties. Reuters
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Britain’s main opposition party has presented Prime Minister Boris Johnson with five difficult questions to answer over the “partygate” saga dominating UK politics.

Labour challenged him to explain exactly how an event in the garden of Downing Street on May 20, 2020 that he has admitted attending could have been in line with Covid-19 restrictions.

The party also wants him to publish legal advice he may have received on how to respond to the allegations of parties in a bid to improve transparency about the matter.

A week on from his apology to MPs in the House of Commons, in which he claimed he thought the garden event was a work gathering, pressure is still mounting on Mr Johnson to offer explanations.

Government ministers have repeatedly declined to answer questions about the scandal and said the public should wait for civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry to be published. The report is expected to come out next week.

Former special adviser Dominic Cummings claims Mr Johnson had advance knowledge of a garden party on May 20, 2020. Reuters

Labour is demanding to know whether the prime minister knew about a string of other gatherings in advance.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former chief adviser turned vociferous critic, has since claimed Mr Johnson knew about the “bring your own booze” party beforehand.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “It is untrue that the prime minister was warned about the event in advance.”

Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s principal private secretary and a former ambassador to Libya, sent out an email inviting 100 people to the celebrations in the garden. Downing Street insisted Mr Johnson had not been sent the email.

The opposition party, led by Sir Keir Starmer, also want the prime minister to say whether he intends to “act as his own judge and jury” over his conduct.

The findings of Ms Gray’s inquiry will be presented to the prime minister before being made public.

No 10 has said it will publish the report.

Ms Gray has been given the task of investigating allegations of a string of parties in Downing Street, including two events held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

Last week the prime minister’s office apologised to Queen Elizabeth II after a former No 10 aide admitted a celebration had been held to mark his departure while the nation was in a period of mourning for her husband.

Mr Johnson has claimed the May 20, 2020 garden event was held for work purposes and was “technically” within the guidelines. At the time, people were banned from mixing with those from other households. It was not until June 2020 that people in England were allowed to meet other households in groups of six outdoors.

In one of its questions for the prime minister, Labour asks on what grounds he thinks the gathering “followed guidance at the time”.

Mr Johnson previously said he recognised “with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside” instead of spending 25 minutes in the No 10 garden thanking staff for their work at the event.

Labour also asks if any legal advice the government has received on the matter will be published.

Labour's five key questions

1. Does the prime minister deny misleading the House of Commons when he said: “I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party”?

2. Is the prime minister categorically denying that at any stage he was told in advance of any gathering, or that he dismissed warnings against allowing such an event?

3. On what grounds does the prime minister think that the May 20, 2020 event at Downing Street followed guidance at the time? Is he seriously still claiming he believed that an event to which 100 people were invited, described as “drinks” to “make the most of this lovely weather… bring your own booze”, was a work meeting not a social gathering?

4. Will any legal advice the government has received on the matter be published? Will the prime minister investigate who has said that he was warned about the parties in advance?

5. Given that ministerial conduct is excluded from the terms of reference of the internal fact-finding exercise that he commissioned from Sue Gray, is he planning to act as his own judge and jury?

Updated: January 18, 2022, 10:00 AM
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