Carrie Johnson could be dragged into No.10 lockdown parties scandal
Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie could be dragged into the Downing Street lockdown parties scandal over two close friends’ visits for ‘work reasons’ – as inquiry chief Sue Gray analyses data from staff swipe cards
- Sue Gray has received evidence that Josh Grimstone and Henry Newman went to Carrie’s flat several times while Covid restrictions were in place
- Mr Newman and Mr Grimstone visited for ‘work reasons’ even though they were based in the Cabinet Office rather than No.10 at the time
- Mr Newman is ex-protégé of Michael Gove who worked on Dominic Cummings’ Vote Leave campaign in run-up to referendum; he is now a No.10 senior adviser
- Josh Grimstone is a special adviser to Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove
Boris Johnson’s wife could be dragged into the Downing Street parties scandal following reports that two of her close friends visited the flat she shares with the Prime Minister during lockdown.
Senior Cabinet Office official Sue Gray has received evidence that Josh Grimstone and Henry Newman went to Carrie’s flat several times while Covid restrictions were in place.
Ms Gray has also been given access to data of Downing Staff staff movements in and out of the building, including from their swipecards, the Guardian reported.
It comes as the top civil servant’s inquiry into allegations of Covid-rule busting parties at No.10 was widened to include socialising at the PM’s apartment.
The explanation given was that Mr Newman and Mr Grimstone visited for work reasons, even though they were based in the Cabinet Office rather than No.10 at the time, the Sunday Times reported.
Henry Newman is a former protégé of Michael Gove who worked on Dominic Cummings’ Vote Leave campaign in the run-up to the referendum and is now a senior adviser at No.10.
Josh Grimstone is a special adviser to Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove.
Boris Johnson’s wife could be dragged into the Downing Street parties scandal following reports that two of her close friends – one of whom is Henry Newman – visited the flat she shares with the Prime Minister during lockdown. (Above, Carrie with Mr Newman)
Senior Cabinet Office official Sue Gray has received evidence that Josh Grimstone (right) and Henry Newman (left) went to Carrie’s flat several times while Covid restrictions were in place. Mr Newman is a former protégé of Michael Gove who worked on Dominic Cummings’ Vote Leave campaign in the run-up to the referendum and is now a senior adviser at No.10. Mr Grimstone is a special adviser to Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove
Whitehall sources said the Prime Minister had torn up his diary to talk with wobbling MPs ahead of the expected publication of the Gray report
Ms Gray is also said to have been given access to data of Downing Staff staff movements in and out of the building, including from their swipecards
Mr Cummings has alleged that the PM held a gathering at his grace-and-favour flat on November 13 last year – the day the adviser was ousted from Downing Street. He also suggested there had been ‘other flat parties’.
A senior government source confirmed the ‘scope of the inquiry has broadened’ but suggested that Ms Gray was prepared to accept the explanation offered by Mr Newman and Mr Grimstone.
But a Whitehall source said: ‘Why are two spads [special advisers] from the Cabinet Office going to the PM’s flat to have work meetings with the prime minister without any officials present?’, according to the Sunday Times.
Meanwhile, the information Ms Gray gleans from the No.10 data logs could prove decisive, according to senior Whitehall sources.
A source who knows Ms Gray said: ‘This information is conclusive. This is not someone saying “I saw him or her at a party”. This is the proof of who was where, how many people were inside the building at any one time. She will have been looking at all that information, which is far more valuable than people’s say so. It is the evidence,’ reported the Guardian.
Ms Gray is said to be keen to interview all of the people identified as key witnesses in the row to ensure her final report – expected to be published next week – is viewed as credible.
But the mood music in Whitehall is said to be ‘darkening’ as she gathers more evidence.
Sue Gray (above) is reportedly keen to interview all of the people identified as key witnesses in the row to ensure her final report – expected to be published next week – is viewed as credible
Whitehall sources said the Prime Minister had torn up his diary to talk with wobbling MPs ahead of the expected publication of the Gray report.
Meanwhile, leaked photographs from last year appeared to show the Prime Minister and Carrie attending a ‘cheese and wine’ party held in the No10 garden on May 15, 2020.
Sources have reportedly claimed that Mrs Johnson was drinking with Mr Newman, who is a personal friend and close aide to the Prime Minister.
The May 15 party is one of several that will be examined during Ms Gray’s enquiry.
The development comes as Carrie Johnson has admitted she breached social distancing rules when she celebrated a friend’s engagement just days after the public were warned to keep their distance from people they were not living with.
Carrie Johnson has admitted she breached social distancing rules when she celebrated a friend’s engagement just days after the public were warned to keep their distance from people they were not living with. Mrs Johnson, 33, had been at an engagement celebration for her friend Anna Pinder on September 17, 2020 at The Conduit, a private members’ club in Covent Garden, London
Both PM Boris Johnson and wife Carrie have faced allegations of attending lockdown-breaching parties that will be investigated by civil servant Sue Gray. Above: Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie, with their daughter Romy and dog Dilyn at Chequers in December
Mrs Johnson, 33, had been at an engagement celebration for her friend Anna Pinder on September 17, 2020 at The Conduit, a private members’ club in Covent Garden, London.
Mrs Johnson, whose arm is wrapped around Ms Pinder in a picture that circulated online, appears to laugh with her friend as they pose for the snap on a sofa on the club’s outdoor terrace.
A spokesman for Mrs Johnson said: ‘Mrs Johnson was one of a group of six seated outside celebrating a friend’s engagement.
‘Mrs Johnson regrets the momentary lapse in judgment in briefly hugging her friend for a photograph.’
At the time, Brits had been warned that the country was on the cusp of a second wave of Covid infections, with 3,395 new cases reported that day, the highest daily total for four months.
Two metre social distancing guidance and the rule of six, meaning groups of more than half a dozen were restricted from meeting for anything other than work, education or weddings and funerals, were also still in place in September 2020.
Days before the happy friends were pictured smiling together on their night out, the PM hosted a press conference in which he reminded the British public to ‘always stay two metres away from people you don’t live with’ and warned the country was on the cusp of a second Covid wave.
Two days after the friends met up, Mr Johnson said it was ‘inevitable’ that a second wave would reach the UK as he contemplated six months of ‘on-off’ restrictions to tackle the upsurge in coronavirus cases amid concerns in Downing Street that the public was ignoring rules on social gatherings.
He had brought in the ‘rule of six’ on Monday, September 14 – three days before Mrs Johnson met her friend – and on September 18 said the only way to avoid a second lockdown was ‘if people follow the guidance’.
Parts of England were also forced back into lockdown, with curbs including a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants and a ban on socialising outside of households across the North West, Midlands and West Yorkshire from the following Tuesday.
A total of around 13 million people were put under the new local restrictions.
Lockdown… or party time in Whitehall? The alleged gatherings during the pandemic
Here is a list of the alleged gatherings, which in several cases have been admitted to.
– May 15 2020: Downing Street garden party
Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie, former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, and Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, were all pictured, in a photograph leaked to The Guardian, sitting around a table in the No 10 garden, with wine and cheese in front of them.
Some 15 other people were also in the photograph, but the Prime Minister has insisted this was a work meeting, saying: ‘Those were meetings of people at work, talking about work.’
– May 20 2020: BYOB garden party
The revelation came in an email, leaked to ITV, from Mr Reynolds to more than 100 Downing Street employees inviting them to ‘bring your own booze’ for an evening gathering.
Multiple reports have suggested the Prime Minister attended the event with his wife.
– November 13 2020: Leaving party for senior aide
According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and a close ally of Mr Cummings.
– November 13 2020: Johnsons’ flat party
There are allegations that the Prime Minister’s then fiancee hosted parties in their flat, with one such event said to have taken place on November 13, the night Mr Cummings departed No 10.
A spokesman for Mrs Johnson has called the claim ‘total nonsense’.
– November 25 2020: Treasury drinks
A Treasury spokesman told The Times that a number of staff had gone into the office to work on the Spending Review.
He said: ‘We have been made aware that a small number of those staff had impromptu drinks around their desks after the event.’
– November 27 2020: Second staff leaving do
The Mirror reported that the Prime Minister gave a farewell speech to an aide at the end of November while the lockdown in England was still in place.
Other reports have said the leaving do was for Cleo Watson, a senior Downing Street aide and ally of Mr Cummings.
– December 10 2020: Department for Education party
The DfE confirmed a social event had happened after The Mirror reported that former education secretary Gavin Williamson threw a party and delivered a short speech at an event organised at his department’s Whitehall headquarters.
A spokesman acknowledged that ‘it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time’.
– December 11 2020: Wine fridge delivered to Downing Street for staff’s ‘wine-time Fridays’
A fridge with the capacity for 34 wine bottles was delivered through the back door of No 10.
According to sources cited by The Mirror, the fridge became necessary for staff’s ‘wine-time Fridays’ which were held throughout lockdown, with the Prime Minister allegedly encouraging the parties to help aides ‘let off steam’.
The regular social gatherings were reported to be particularly popular among staff between autumn 2020 and spring 2020 when staff were ‘fatigued’ with tough Covid restrictions that banned socialising.
Mr Johnson was said to have attended a ‘handful’ of these gatherings.
– December 14 2020: Party featuring Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey and staff
Shaun Bailey apologised ‘unreservedly’ for attending the gathering at Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) organised by staff on his campaign team.
‘It was a serious error of judgment at a time when Londoners were making immense sacrifices to keep us all safe and I regret it wholeheartedly,’ he tweeted.
He quit his role chairing the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee after The Mirror published a picture showing him at the gathering.
– December 15 2020: Downing Street quiz
The Prime Minister appeared on contestants’ screens at the quiz but insisted he broke no rules.
An image published by the Sunday Mirror showed Mr Johnson flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in No 10.
Downing Street admitted Mr Johnson ‘briefly’ attended the quiz after the photographic evidence emerged but insisted it was a virtual event.
– December 16 2020: Department for Transport party
The Mirror reported that senior civil servants were ‘boozing and dancing’ at the event, allegedly planned by staff from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ office.
A DfT spokesman said: ‘Fewer than a dozen staff who were working in the office had a low-key, socially distanced gathering in the large open-plan office after work on December 16, where food and drink was consumed.
‘We recognise this was inappropriate and apologise for the error of judgment.’
– December 17 2020: Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’
A number of outlets reported that a gathering was held in the Cabinet Office on December 17.
The Times reported that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case attended the party in room 103 of the Cabinet Office, that it had been organised by a private secretary in Mr Case’s team, and that it was included in digital calendars as ‘Christmas party!’.
The Cabinet Office confirmed a quiz took place, but a spokesman said: ‘The Cabinet Secretary played no part in the event, but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office.’
– December 17 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head
The former director-general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce said she was ‘truly sorry’ over an evening gathering in the Cabinet Office for her leaving drinks during coronavirus restrictions days before Christmas in 2020.
Kate Josephs, who is now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, said she gathered with colleagues who were in the office that day and added that she is co-operating with the probe by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
– December 18 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street
The claim which kicked off the rule-breaking allegations is that a party was held for Downing Street staff on December 18.
Officials and advisers reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts, although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.
Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, quit after being filmed joking about it with fellow aides at a mock press conference.
– Run up to Christmas 2020
The Daily Mirror reported that Mr Johnson attended a leaving do for defence adviser Captain Steve Higham before Christmas 2020.
The newspaper alleged the Prime Minister made a speech but No 10 did not respond to a request for comment and the Ministry of Defence declined.
– April 16 2021: Drinks and dancing the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral
The Telegraph reported that advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events on the Friday night.
They were to mark the departure of James Slack, Mr Johnson’s former director of communications, and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers.
Mr Slack, who left his No 10 role to become deputy editor-in-chief of The Sun newspaper, said he was sorry for the ‘anger and hurt’ caused by his leaving do, while Downing Street apologised to the Queen.
The Telegraph quoted a No 10 spokesman as saying Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day and is said to have been at Chequers.
The newspaper reported accounts from witnesses who said alcohol was drunk and guests danced to music, adding that it had been told that around 30 people attended both events combined.
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