Boris Johnson had birthday bash during lockdown, ITV News understands
A surprise party, with cake, and up to 30 guests - ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand outlines the events of the party, ITV News understands took place during lockdown
ITV News understands Boris Johnson had a birthday party during the first lockdown in 2020 despite the rules forbidding social gatherings indoors at the time.
It's alleged that the prime minister's wife, Carrie Johnson, helped organise a surprise get-together for him on the afternoon of 19 June just after 2pm.
Up to 30 people are said to have attended the event in the Cabinet Room after Boris Johnson returned from an official visit to a school in Hertfordshire.
ITV News understands that the interior designer, Lulu Lytle - who was not a member of No 10 staff - also attended the gathering. At the time Ms Lytle was renovating Boris Johnson’s flat in Downing Street, which has been the subject of a separate controversy.
Nine days before the alleged birthday bash at No 10, on 10 June, Mr Johnson asked the public "to continue to show restraint and respect the rules which are designed to keep us all safe" during a Downing Street Covid press conference
ITV News also understands that on the evening of 19 June 2020, family friends were hosted upstairs in the prime minister’s residence in an apparent further breach of the rules.
Number 10 have denied this, claiming the prime minister only hosted a small number of family members outside.
At the afternoon event, Carrie Johnson and Lulu Lytle are believed to have presented the prime minister with a cake whilst his wife led staff in a chorus of happy birthday.
Those assembled are understood to have eaten picnic food from M&S, with the gathering lasting for around 20-30 minutes. Downing St say the prime minister only attended for less than 10 minutes.
'For the first time tonight Downing St are admitting the PM was at a party' says Paul Brand, even though there are attempts to play it down
In June 2020 social gatherings indoors were still forbidden under lockdown laws. At the time there was also intense concern about the potential for singing to spread Covid-19, with choirs unable to meet to rehearse.
ITV News understands those present at the afternoon party included the prime minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, who had previously invited over 100 staff to a drinks party on 20 May 2020.
Jack Doyle, currently No10's director of communications, and the head of operations, Shelley Williams-Walker, are also said to have been there. They were joined by other members of the Prime Minister's Private Office, No10 special advisers and No10 operations and events staff.
'It's the worst day for a Prime Minister that I can remember for a significant time' says ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston
The week before his birthday party, Boris Johnson had asked the rest of the country to stick to the guidance in a press conference from Downing Street.
“I urge everyone to continue to show restraint and respect the rules which are designed to keep us all safe. It’s only because of the restraint that everyone, you all have shown so far, that we are able to move gradually out of this lockdown”, he said on 10 June 2020.
He added: "It is emphatically not designed for people who don't qualify to start meeting inside other people's homes - that remains against the law."
On 13 June, 2020, six days before Boris Johnson's birthday, the Queen watched a scaled back ceremony for her official birthday on her own, without family by her side. Her Majesty viewed the annual Trooping the Colour parade from behind the walls of Windsor Castle, with none of it on public view, while the parade was conducted adhering to the strict two metre government guidelines on social distancing at the time.
The latest revelations come as senior civil servant, Sue Gray, finalises her report into allegations of multiple parties in Downing Street during the pandemic, which is expected to be published this week.
The internal inquiry has been ongoing since early December, when the prime minister announced an investigation following the leaking of video to ITV News of Downing Street staff joking about a Christmas party.
Pupils from Bovingdon School in Hertfordshire sing Happy Birthday to Boris Johnson on 19 June, 2020.
Approached for comment about the allegations, Number 10 responded saying, “A group of staff working in No 10 that day gathered briefly in the Cabinet Room after a meeting to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday. He was there for less than ten minutes.”
Responding to the claims about an alleged event later that evening in the prime minister's flat, a Number 10 spokesperson said, “This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time the Prime Minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.”A spokesperson for Soane Britain, the company co-founded by Lulu Lytle, said: "Lulu was present in Downing Street on 19 June working on the refurbishment. Lulu was not invited to any birthday celebrations for the Prime Minister as a guest. Lulu entered the Cabinet Room briefly as requested, while waiting to speak with the Prime Minister."
Watch the full exchange between Ed Oldfield and Allegra Stratton in the mock televised press briefing
What were the Covid restrictions in England on 19 June 2020?
Social gatherings indoors at the time were banned, with people only permitted to meet outside in groups of up to six people.
Pubs, hairdressers and restaurants remained closed
Most schools remained closed to the majority of their pupils
People in England and Northern Ireland who live alone were allowed to form a “support bubble” with another household, but this only applied to people who lived alone and to single parents who lived only with children under the age of 18.