Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine and cheese in Downing Street garden during first lockdown

No 10 insists the picture ‘shows colleagues meeting in a place of work’

Ella Glover
Monday 20 December 2021 00:47 GMT
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A picture has emerged of Boris Johnson enjoying wine and cheese with his wife and colleagues in the garden of No 10 during the first Covid-19 lockdown — an event described by Downing Street as a work meeting.

At least a dozen staff are seen relaxing with drinks at the event, which took place on 15 May, 2020 after a live televised press conference.

At that time, members of different households were restricted to one-on-one meetings outdoors, with gatherings indoors strictly forbidden.

The event, attended by civil servants and advisers, was revealed last week in a joint investigation by The Independent and The Guardian.

A No 10 spokeperson insisted it was a work meeting and that the prime minister had “held a series of meetings throughout the afternoon” in the garden.

However, the picture — shared first with The Guardian — appears to cast the event in a different light, including the presence of Mr Johnson’s young baby and a cheeseboard.

A source decribed drinks poured at desks as participants huddled chatting just after the news conference finished at around 6pm that evening. It is understood that some staffers carried their alcohol into the garden, making the most of the day’s good weather.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner demanded the “truth” about what happened in Downing Street during the lockdown.

She said “I guess staff meetings look a bit different if you went to Eton? Enough is enough.

“Tell us the truth about what was going on in Downing Street from the very beginning immediately.”

Last night No 10 repeated its stance, saying: “The picture shows colleagues meeting in a place of work.”

A spokesperson added: “As we said last week, work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months. On this occasion there were staff meetings after a No 10 press conference.

“Downing Street is the prime minister’s home as well as his workplace. The prime minister’s wife lives in No 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden.”

At the 50-minute TV news conference held immediately before the 15 May 2020 gathering, health secretary Matt Hancock had described the “shared sacrifice” people across the country had made in observing the stringent measures imposed in the months up to May in order to curb the impact of the virus.

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