PM’s adviser boasted ‘we seem to have got away with’ BYOB party

Then-principal private secretary Martin Reynolds arranged a gathering in the No 10 garden on May 20 2020.

Sam Blewett
Wednesday 25 May 2022 14:58 BST
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his then-principal private secretary Martin Reynolds (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his then-principal private secretary Martin Reynolds (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA) (PA Wire)

A senior adviser to Boris Johnson boasted “we seem to have got away with” the bring your own booze garden party during coronavirus restrictions.

Then-principal private secretary Martin Reynolds arranged a gathering in the No 10 garden on May 20 2020 when leaving home without a reasonable excuse was banned.

Sue Gray’s partygate inquiry found some individuals expressed concern over whether it was right to hold the event but it went ahead all the same.

An email on behalf of Mr Reynolds was sent inviting around 200 staff to enjoy the “lovely weather” with some “socially distanced drinks in the garden this evening”.

“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!” the email said.

Then-No 10 communications director Lee Cain emailed Mr Reynolds saying “I’m sure it will be fine – and I applaud the gesture”.

But he acknowledged it represented “somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment”.

An excerpt from the Sue Gray report that has been issued by the Cabinet Office showing an email invitation to Downing Street staff to attend a garden party on Wednesday May 20, 2020 (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office/PA)
An excerpt from the Sue Gray report that has been issued by the Cabinet Office showing an email invitation to Downing Street staff to attend a garden party on Wednesday May 20, 2020 (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office/PA) (PA Media)

Ms Gray struggled to ascertain how many people attended but estimated it was around 30 to 40 people, including for around 30 minutes the Prime Minister.

“Drinks and pizza” provided and paid for by staff were enjoyed, the senior civil servant’s report said, with a number of staff leaving between 10pm and 11pm.

The following day, a No 10 special adviser thanked Mr Reynolds for “providing the wine”, saying it was “a very kind thing to do and I know everyone really appreciated it”.

In another WhatsApp on an unknown date to a special adviser, Mr Reynolds wrote: “Best of luck – a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”

Dubbed “Party Marty” after reports of the invite emerged, Mr Reynolds was subsequently forced out amid outrage over the partygate scandal.

He is reportedly being lined up to become the UK’s next ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

On the afternoon of the event, one No 10 special adviser wrote to Mr Reynolds saying drinks were “a lovely idea” but warned a coronavirus press conference would be finishing around then.

They advised it would be “helpful if people can be mindful of that as speakers and cameras are leaving, not walking around waving bottles of wine etc”.

“Will do my best!” Mr Reynolds responded.

In the Commons, Labour MP Lyn Brown asked the Prime Minister what Mr Reynolds had meant by having “got away with” it, if they thought no rules had been broken.

“I can’t give an exegesis of what’s in the report, she can read the report for herself,” Mr Johnson said.

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