Downing Street’s refusal to say whether or not Boris Johnson attended an alleged lockdown-breaking party in the Number 10 garden has been ridiculed by prominent Tories.
Government ministers and the Prime Minister’s press team have not said whether claims Mr Johnson attended the drinks gathering on May 20 2020 are correct.
Instead any questions about the controversial event have been deflected on grounds that a probe into all such claims is ongoing and should conclude before comments are made.
At a daily Lobby briefing to journalists on Tuesday, Mr Johnson’s spokesman declined to comment on reports of a “bring your own booze” party in the garden of his Downing Street office and residence during the first coronavirus lockdown in May 2020.
The spokesman said an existing inquiry into Downing Street gatherings needed to be completed first.
“It is simply the case that we wouldn’t want to be seen to be prejudging that ongoing work,” the spokesman said. “Given the claims and speculation that’s been reported on, what’s right is that the independent inquiry is allowed to carry out its work.”
The spokesman said Mr Johnson had full confidence in the senior official, Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds, who was reported by ITV to have sent an email invitation to the event, signing it off “bring your own booze!”
If the Government’s internal inquiry – which covers a range of gatherings that reportedly broke lockdown rules – establishes wrongdoing, then those involved should be punished, the spokesman said.
Mr Johnson is not expected to answer questions to reporters on Tuesday for a short TV clip, as he often does when on a visit. A Number 10 source said he was not on a visit today.
The Prime Minister also did not speak in the House of Commons after an urgent question on the row was granted. Instead Michael Ellis, the Paymaster General, stepped in.
The leaked email obtained by ITV News from Martin Reynolds invited people to “socially distanced drinks” on May 20 2020.
It was reportedly sent to around 100 people. On the same day the public were told they could only socialise outside with one other person outside their household.