Daughter whose mother died alone 'furious' at Downing Street drinks party at height of lockdown

Valerie French told ITV News she felt "intense fury" at seeing the news of alleged Downing Street parties held during lockdown - while her mother died alone in hospital

A daughter whose mother died alone during the nationwide lockdown said she veers "between depression and intense anger" at the latest development in the Downing Street party row.

Downing Street staff were invited to a drinks party in the Number 10 garden during lockdown to "make the most of the lovely weather" ITV News reported on Monday, having been shown an email providing evidence of the event on May 20, 2020 - when the rest of the country was banned from meeting more than one other person outdoors.

Just days earlier, Valerie French had only been allowed 10 minutes with her 98-year-old mother Marjorie before she died on a hospital ward on May 15, 2020 of pneumonia and heart failure.

She told ITV News: "She was sort of in and out of conscious, she was moving and trying to tell us something but after 10 minutes we had to go.

"And they rang me during the night to say she'd passed away."

She added: "It was the worst passing that I could possibly have hoped for for her... Lying alone in a hospital bed. It was tragic."

Watch ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand's report in full on the email which proves Downing Street staff held drinks party at height of lockdown

Valerie told ITV News of her "intense fury" at learning over a hundred employees in Number 10, including the Prime Minister's advisors, speechwriters and door staff, were invited to the drinks party.

Reflecting on the moment she said goodbye to her mother, Valerie added: "Just 10 minutes. That's not long enough to even drink a glass of wine, never mind about have a cheese and wine party."

On the same day her mother died, a photo was taken of the prime minister, his wife and Mr Reynolds enjoying cheese and wine at a separate alleged Downing Street gathering on May 15, 2020.

ITV News last year aired footage of Number 10 staff laughing and joking about an event on December 19 2020 where wine and cheese was also mentioned.

ITV News Political Correspondent has the reaction to ITV News' report on the email proving Downing Street staff held a drinks party during lockdown

Valerie, who had been the primary carer for Marjorie, said not being able to visit her sick mother in hospital in the two weeks leading to her death had been "extremely stressful".

She said her mother "detested to be on her own" as "she was very much a people person".

"But we managed it because those were the expectations, that's what people were doing all over the country," she added.

"I veer between depression about it and intense anger," Valerie told ITV News.

"Surely they must know how people were feeling but to still go ahead with that... It couldn't be any worse for us, it's absolutely mind blowing," she added.

"It really did rub salt into the wound. Not just a pinch of salt, a bag full of salt."

"It's like having an immoral parent, why should a child take notice if the parent isn't following the moral rules?"

She said her message to Downing Street would be that the prime minister and his government need to realise that "the culture is set from the top and trickles down".

"If people don't take notice now [of the rules] I shouldn't be at all surprised, and why should we?"

Hannah Brady, a spokeswoman for the Covid-10 Bereaved Families for Justice Group, said her father Shaun, who worked at the Kraft Heinz factory in Wigan, died four days before the email invite was sent out.

'He looked me in the eyes and said he'd done all he could to save him'

She described meeting the Prime Minister at Downing Street in September and telling him her father's story.

"I showed him a picture of my dad on a ventilator, which I've never shown anybody before, and he looked my in the eyes and said that he'd done all he could to save him," she said.

"But four days after my dad died, Boris Johnson thought he would make the most of the weather with a 'bring your own booze' party in Number 10 Downing Street.

"Knowing that he had partied in that same spot the very day that Dad’s death certificate was signed. It makes me feel sick to think about it".

There have been a series of other allegations that the government held numerous parties that allegedly broke rules, which the cabinet office has launched an inquiry into.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray, who took over from former Cabinet Secretary Simon Case due to allegations that he knew of at least one party himself.

Valerie said she is still coming to terms with her mother's painful death, but her hope now is that Ms Gray follows up on the No10 inquiry to the "nth degree".

On the email seen by ITV News about the November 20 drinks party, Downing Street said it would not comment on the story due to the Sue Gray inquiry.