Downing Street faces calls to ensure Boris Johnson will be personally questioned by Sue Gray’s investigation into the alleged No 10 rallies during the first lockdown, after it emerged he may have been attending a bring your own booze party this month.
The probe, into allegations of social mix bans broken in No.10, was expanded over the weekend to include rallies reported from May 2020, amid reports an official sent a letter. electronic to Downing Street staff inviting them to socially distant drinks.
Number 10 did not deny on Sunday that the Prime Minister and his wife attended the May 20 event, which was allegedly hosted by a senior official in Johnson’s private office, Martin Reynolds, with food and wine on the tables.
It comes after The Guardian reported a Downing Street ‘wine and pizza’ party in the Garden and inside No.10 on May 15, with staff drinking late into the evening after a press conference that day. the. After Number 10 insisted the staff were working, the Guardian obtained a photo of the Prime Minister and his wife sitting with officials at a table with wine and cheese, with 15 other staff behind -plan and wine bottles visible.
These events are accompanied by reports of at least five other potential gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall in December 2020, including a Christmas party, quiz, quiz, No.11 Flat Party and Drinks at the Ministry of the ‘Education.
After the latest allegations of another May 2020 rally during the lockdown, Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem MP and spokesperson for constitutional reform, requested that the Prime Minister himself be interviewed by Gray.
âThe government should not be getting around the problem on this. If they are serious about restoring public confidence, the head of Christmas Party Inquiry No. 10, Sue Gray, should personally question the Prime Minister. “
Angela Rayner, the Labor deputy leader, also asked for assurances that Gray would be able to interview the Prime Minister.
“It is vital that Sue Gray has all the information and access she needs to conduct a full and fair investigation,” she said. âAs part of the mandate of the previous investigation, Simon Case was assured that he would be able to interview any politicians, party officials and staff he needed.
âWhile the terms of reference for the new investigation have not been released, it is critical that Sue Gray has the same access, including whether she needs to question the Prime Minister. No 10 must give such assurances in order to help build public confidence which has been shaken by this series of revelations. “
Downing Street has given no timeline for the completion of the Gray inquiry, which was picked up by the veteran official last month. Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, had led the investigation until it emerged that his own private office had organized a virtual quiz, in which some people in their office took part.
Johnson is under pressure from Tory backbenchers to shake up his top team over allegations that parties have been held in Downing Street, with speculation Reynolds may be moved as a result. Some MPs are also pushing for the impeachment of Dan Rosenfield, Johnson’s chief of staff, with a Sunday Times article alleging he helped some women leave No 10 after allegedly making them buy sandwiches for his lunch , pick up your dryer-clean and buy gifts. When asked if this was true, a No 10 source said she “totally rejects this”.
The lingering party fury is part of a long list of scandals plaguing No.10, after it emerged last week that Johnson had failed to deliver all text messages relating to the renovation of his No.10 apartment. 11 to Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on the interests department.
On Sunday, the Lib Dems wrote to Lady Hallett, the recently appointed chairwoman of the official Covid investigation, asking her what steps she is taking to ensure she was not misled by Johnson in the same way as Geidt. He also called for the investigation to examine reports from parties violating the No 10 lockdown, saying: “The Covid investigation must examine these allegations and the damage to public confidence in the fight against the pandemic.”
Carmichael’s letter asked Hallett, a retired judge, to outline the steps she is taking to ensure the Covid investigation has access to all relevant evidence, including SMS and WhatsApp messages, to ensure that she has “the confidence of bereaved families and the general public throughout her work.
He also asks if the investigation will have the power to request that evidence be turned in, and what penalties, if any, there will be if key witnesses like Johnson fail to do so.