The Top 10: Significant Events in the Downing Street Garden

A patch of grass and some rose bushes that have served as the backdrop to history

John Rentoul
Friday 14 January 2022 10:11
<p>Dominic Cummings gave a news conference in the garden to explain his trip to Barnard Castle </p>

Dominic Cummings gave a news conference in the garden to explain his trip to Barnard Castle

In a change to the advertised programme, Damian McBride suggested this topical list. In chronological order…

1. David Lloyd George housed the secretariat to his war cabinet in temporary huts in the garden (the “garden suburb”), 1916. Nominated by Blair McDougall and James Heale.

2. John Major’s “put up or shut up” statement, 22 June 1995, which prompted John Redwood’s leadership challenge.

3. Tony Blair presented his government’s first “annual report”, 30 July 1998. Thanks to Will Cooling.

4. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness went missing in No 10 and were found skateboarding with Tony Blair’s children, May 1999. Nominated by John Fuchs and Gerry Braiden.

5. Freddie Flintoff admitted he was in a “fairly dishevelled state”, 13 September 2005, at a party to celebrate the England cricket team’s Ashes victory.

6. David Cameron and Nick Clegg announced the coalition agreement, 12 May 2010.

7. Pele had a kick-about with young people from a football charity, 3 August 2011, and had his photo taken with star-struck political journalists.

8. Series of work meetings with wine and cheese, as photographed from Rishi Sunak’s office, 15 May 2020.

9. “Bring your own booze” “work event”, 20 May 2020, which now threatens to sink Boris Johnson, who attended for 25 minutes.

10. Dominic Cummings’s “eye-test” news conference, 25 May 2020.

As Alastair Meeks suggested, if I wait for Sue Gray’s report, I might have a Top 10 Downing Street garden parties during lockdown alone.

An honourable mention for Harry Johnston and GGMZ, who reminded us that the “Edstone” – Ed Miliband’s promises carved on a slab – was destined for the Downing Street garden if he had become prime minister.

Next week: Political meals, after Boris Johnson flew back from the Cop26 climate summit for dinner at the Garrick private members’ club with Charles Moore, who persuaded him that Owen Paterson must be saved.

Coming soon: Soundbites that sound good on first hearing but when thought about are revealed to be nonsense, such as: “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to

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