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Partygate: These are the lockdown-breaking parties that could force Boris Johnson to resign

We’ve counted 17 parties (18 if you count the two that merged together) that took place on the prime minister’s watch over the pandemic.

The Met have issued fines to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak for breaking Covid lockdown laws by attending illegal gatherings at Downing Street. 

The 11-week investigation into rule-breaking at the prime minister’s residence — called Operation Hillman — has referred more than 50 cases for fixed penalty notices. 

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister and chancellor have today received notification that the Metropolitan police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices,” Sky News has reported.

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Carrie Johnson has also been fined. A spokesperson for the prime minister’s wife said: “In the interests of transparency, Mrs Johnson can confirm she has been notified that she will receive a Fixed Penalty Notice. She has not yet received any further details about the nature of the FPN,” reports the Telegraph. 

All three were reported to be present at a same gathering for the prime minister’s birthday on June 19 2020, held at Number 10 Downing Street.

“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public,” said Keir Starmer, Labour Party leader, in a statement calling for the prime minister and chancellor to resign.

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Just three days ago the prime minister told GB News listeners that a “a lot of nonsense has been talked” about the parties that took place at or around Number 10 Downing Street. Pressed further on the topic, he said: “I just think it’s much better if I wait until the conclusion of the inquiry before saying anything further… – I’ve got to let the police get on with their job.”

It is not yet clear which gatherings either of the Johnsons, or Sunak, have been fined for attending. 

What we do know is that Johnson attended: a party where cheese and wine was served on May 15 2020 in the Downing Street garden; a leaving do where he gave a speech for the departing director of communications, Lee Cain, on November 13, 2020; and a Christmas Quiz, which he hosted, flanked by bottles of wine and beer on December 15, 2020. 

Here’s the rest. 

Events reported during the first national lockdown 

The first national lockdown took place between March and June 2020, when people were ordered to “stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”. A work from home order was in place for those that could, and mixing between households was illegal.

At this time, police officers in the Peak District used drones to film people who visited the natural beauty spot to walk. They then released the footage saying that lockdown rules had been broken by the ramblers because driving to remote areas for exercise was not “essential travel.”

On June 23, four days after his birthday, Boris Johnson said the UK’s “national hibernation” was coming to an end, announcing the relaxation of restrictions and 2m social distancing rule.

1. May 15, 2020

The Guardian published a photograph showing Johnson, Carrie Symonds, and 17 staff members in the 10 Downing Street garden with cheese and wine on May 15 2020.

Asked about the photo, Boris Johnson told reporters, “Those were people at work, talking about work.” 

2. May 20, 2020

Johnson has admitted to attending a gathering of, allegedly, around 40 people in the garden of Number 10, organised to “make the most of the lovely weather.” 

A leaked email, sent by Johnson’s private secretary Martin Reynolds, revealed that an invite to the party was sent to more than 100 government employees and asked them to “bring your own booze”.

Johnson apologised at prime minister’s questions in January 2022, telling MPs he “must take full responsibility” and he “knew the rage” that people around the UK would feel. He confirmed that he attended the drinks event at just after 6pm before returning to his office 25 minutes later. He said the event was “implicitly a work event”. 

3. June 19, 2020

According to ITV News, the prime minister’s wife Carrie held a surprise birthday party for him at Downing Street on June 19 at around 2pm. Around 30 people reportedly attended the event including Lulu Lyttle – the interior designer who worked on the controversial Downing Street flat renovations.

Reports claim Johnson was presented with a cake and staff sang happy birthday to him. People reportedly stayed at the gathering for around 20 to 30 minutes and ate M&S party food.

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Partygate events reported during the second lockdown 

The second lockdown came into force on November 5 2020, lasting until December 2 when England moved into a stricter three Tier system.

London was in Tier 2 restrictions from December 2, which allowed groups of up to six to meet outdoors only. People were allowed to visit pubs and restaurants with members of their own household, and alcohol could only be served as part of a substantial meal. Mixing between households indoors was banned. 

All 32 London boroughs then moved into Tier 3 from December 16, seeing indoor food and entertainment venues closed, and no mixing between households indoors or outdoors – including private gardens. 

4. November 13, 2020

Boris Johnson gave a speech at a packed leaving do for the prime minister’s departing director of communications, Lee Cain.

Officials allegedly knocked back glasses of wine while Johnson himself read out questions in a Christmas quiz, and gifts were swapped in a Secret Santa, The Mirror alleges. Around “40 or 50” people were said to have been crammed “cheek by jowl” into a medium-sized room in Number 10 for each of the two events.

5. November 13, 2020

There are claims that Boris Johnson and his then fiancé, Carrie, hosted a small gathering at their flat above Number 11 Downing Street the night of Dominic Cummings’ resignation. The Mirror quotes an anonymous source as saying “they were all getting totally plastered”. A spokesperson for Johnson has denied there was any party, reported the BBC. 

6. November 25, 2020

More than 20 people attended a drinks event held in Treasury offices, according to the Times, which was held to celebrate Chancellor Rishi Sunak‘s spending review. A spokesperson for the department confirmed that a “small number” of staff celebrated around their desks, insisting it was an “impromptu” event.

“In line with the guidance at the time, a number of staff came into the office to work on the Spending Review 2020. We have been made aware that a small number of those staff had impromptu drinks around their desks after the event,” a Treasury spokesperson told the Times. 

7. November 27, 2020

As an ex-aide to Dominic Cummings, Cleo Watson’s departure from Downing Street was marked by a drinks event. The BBC reported that this was not formally organised, but Boris Johnson made a speech. 

8. December 10 2020

The Department for Education has confirmed that staff had a gathering in the department’s offices on December 10, 2020. A spokesperson for the department has said “a gathering of colleagues who were already present at the office” had taken place. The BBC reports that attendees brought drinks and snacks. 

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9. December 14, 2020

Shaun Bailey, who was then the Conservative candidate for the 2021 London mayor elections, held a Christmas party for his campaign team, organised by staff. Bailey has admitted to the party and resigned from his roles as chair of the London Assembly economy committee and chair of the assembly’s police and crime committee. 

10. December 15, 2020

In what is one of the most explosive allegations, Boris Johnson is personally accused of breaking lockdown restrictions by hosting a Christmas quiz with his aides. While the prime minister was pictured attending virtually, staff inside Number 10 gathered around computers to confer on questions and share bottles of wine and beer. 

At this time London was under Tier 2 regulations which banned social mixing between households. Johnson can be seen on the screen with aides, one wearing a Santa hat and the other draped in tinsel. 

“I can tell you guidelines were followed at all times. I’ve satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times,” Johnson has said, answering questions as the Partygate storm built.

11. December 16, 2020

The Mirror reported in December 2021 that a Christmas party was held at the Department for Transport the previous winter, where drinking and dancing reportedly took place. A spokesperson for Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he had “absolutely no idea” the gathering took place.

This was the day that London moved into Tier 3 restrictions. 

12. December 17, 2020

The team of staff working for Home Office’s then-cabinet secretary, Simon Case, was reported in The Times to have held drinks described by those in attendance as a “Christmas party” and involved a quiz. Six members of staff who were already in the office attended with six more joining virtually. Case did not join in the event but walked through the room, Sky News has reported. 

13. December 17, 2020

Kate Joseph, then-director general of the Covid Taskforce, has apologised for a drinks gathering with colleagues who were at work on December 17 to mark her departure from the civil service. 

14. December 18, 2020

Invitations to a No.10 Christmas party were circulated at the end of November, claims The Times. The invites asked people to attend the press office’s “secret Santa” gathering with an exchange of gifts, where there would be food and wine.

Events reported during the third lockdown 

From March to July, lockdown restrictions were gradually phased out in England. In March, the country was yet to come out of the January 2021 lockdown, and indoor mixing between households was still banned. Recreation in outdoor spaces was limited to two people.

Outdoor hospitality reopened on April 12 however pubs and restaurants serving customers indoors remained closed. 

13. March 24 2021

Home Office staff “mingled” and drank prosecco in their office during lockdown last year, The Big Issue revealed. 

The gathering has been described as around a dozen of the department’s press and events team “mingling” while enjoying “prosecco at desks” to celebrate a Home Office immigration policy leading the six o’clock news.

The drinks, confirmed by a Home Office spokesperson, were held on March 24 2021 – just days after a man in Warwickshire was fined £100 for sitting in his garden with three friends.

16. April 16 2021

Two separate leaving parties were held for former director of communications James Slack, and Johnson’s personal photographer. These two parties joined together later in the evening, fueled by a suitcase of wine taken down to the Co-op on the Strand to bring back bottles, according to one person who attended the gathering. Accusations from The Daily Telegraph alleged that Downing Street staff drank alcohol into the early hours. 

The double Downing Street leaving parties were reportedly held on the evening of April 16 2021 – the night before Prince Philip’s socially distanced funeral.

In an interview with Sky News, a downcast Johnson reiterated that he believed the April 16 party was a “work event. He said: “I can’t believe that we would have gone ahead with an event that people were saying was against the rules… Nobody warned me that it was against the rules. I can absolutely categorically say that because I would remember that.

17. Wine-time Fridays

‘Wine-time Fridays’ were scheduled into the electronic diaries of around 50 Number 10 staff on Friday afternoons throughout the pandemic, alleges The Mirror, with Boris Johnson regularly witnessing the gatherings. The weekly drinks were encouraged by the prime minister to allow staff to “let off steam,” and a drinks fridge was installed to chill the various alcoholic beverages.

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