The PM faces renewed pressure as Cummings launches fresh claims, Political Correspondent Shehab Khan reports
The prime minister allowed his principal private secretary to send out an email inviting over 100 people to a drinks party in Number 10's garden at the height of lockdown, Dominic Cummings has claimed.
In a blog post published on Monday, Boris Johnson's former chief advisor made several allegations about so-called "partygate".
The claims come after Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi insisted a flurry of eye-catching new policies being announced were not an attempt to save Mr Johnson from being ousted as prime minister amid calls for his resignation, including from six Tory MPs.
No 10 has said the claims by Mr Cummings are not true.
Downing Street had previously said the PM did not see an email sent by his Principal Private Secretary (PPS), Martin Reynolds, inviting staffers to "make the most of the lovely weather" and bring their own booze to the party on May 20 2020.
Mr Johnson added that he attended the party under the impression it was a "work event".
However, Mr Cummings wrote that Mr Reynolds "checked with the PM whether the party should go ahead. The PM agreed it should".
Mr Cummings also said the PM dismissed his concerns over Mr Reynolds sending the invite.
“Amid discussion over the future of the Cabinet Secretary and PPS himself, which had been going on for days, I said to the PM something like: ‘Martin’s invited the building to a drinks party, this is what I’m talking about, you’ve got to grip this madhouse’,” Mr Cummings wrote.
He added that he also warned Mr Reynolds, and an unnamed senior official approached the private secretary with identical concerns.
Additionally, he said regarding that day alone, “never mind the string of other events”, the prime minister “lied to Parliament about parties” by insisting he had been assured no events had taken place that would have broken coronavirus rules. “Not only me but other eyewitnesses who discussed this at the time would swear under oath this is what happened,” he said.
Senior official Sue Gray, who is investigating a number of possibly rule-breaking events, has questioned Mr Johnson, according to reports.
Meanwhile, other reports have suggested that ministers were announcing a series of policy announcements, including putting the military in charge of preventing small boats from crossing the Channel and a freeze to the BBC licence fee, under “Operation Red Meat” to save the prime minister.
Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: “Honestly, I don’t recognise that at all.”
He added: “Government doesn’t operate like that.”
However, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the next announcement about the BBC licence fee “will be the last”, reopening the debate over the corporation’s future.
And it was reported that Home Secretary Priti Patel is set to announce within weeks that the Royal Navy will be brought in to spearhead controversial “pushback” tactics to turn away boats carrying migrants across the Channel.
Other touted policy announcements as part of Mr Johnson’s attempted fightback include bids to reduce the NHS backlog and a push on the long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper.
But Mr Zahawi said the policies are “on the list because these are the government’s manifesto”.