Tory grandees, and Gavin Barwell, have begun to turn on Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his and his wife’s attendance at what The Times was today describing as a “boozy shindig” in the Downing Street garden during the first covid lockdown.
The latest revelations, including an emailed invitation to 100 Downing Street staffers in May 2020, was broadcast last night by ITV News and offers incontrovertible evidence that while the nation tried to obey the rules to avoid the spread of the deadly virus, Johnson and his lackeys behaved as if they were above the very laws which they had just enacted. Chin! Chin!
Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish Conservative leader, was the latest senior Tory to turn on the prime minister this morning when she said he did not need an official inquiry to confirm whether he attended the event that was organised by Martin Reynolds, his principal private secretary.
She added that the public were “rightly furious” at the new revelations, which bring the total number of Downing Street parties being investigated to at least six.
This, according to one Westminster source, “Makes the Conservatives the party party Party.”
The source added, “I don’t get to go to that many parties in a normal year, never mind during covid lockdowns.” The source resolved to do something about their social life, and urgently.
But the usual Omerta that is expected in the cause of party loyalty is clearly breaking down among Conservatives, increasingly embarrassed by Johnson’s repeated law-breaking, lies and public schoolboy smirks when questioned.
Barwell, the former Conservative MP for Croydon Central and now a member of the House of Lords who worked as Theresa May’s chief of staff in Downing Street, was abrupt when he reacted to the ITV News story last night.
“Unbelievable,” Barwell tweeted. “And yet, in another sense, sadly all too believable.”
Barwell knows Johnson well, having collaborated with him when they were respectively MP and Mayor of London and they forced through a deal to impose Westfield on Croydon town centre.
Barwell has also written extensively over Johnson’s self-serving conduct when PM May was desperately trying to cobble together an agreement over Brexit, while being undermined by her own party.
This morning, commenting further on the latest scandal to hit Johnson’s No10, “Lord” Barwell echoed Baroness Davidson when he wrote, “Let me put this politely: it is not entirely clear why the Prime Minister needs to wait for Sue Gray’s report to find out if he went to a party in his own garden.”
By lunchtime today, that tweet had attracted 48,000 “likes”.
At the time of the Downing Street party – which occurred just before Johnson’s then chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, drove from London to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight… – the rest of us were only allowed to meet one person outside of our household in an outdoor, public place, and all while staying two metres apart.
That instruction was delivered by government minister Oliver Dowden at a covid press conference in Downing Street on the very same day as the party.
The email leaked to ITV News shows this was a social gathering organised explicitly for the purpose of making “the most of the lovely weather” with attendees encouraged to “bring your own booze”. Which is nice.
Much like the WhatsApp messages that Johnson said he’d forgotten about sending, until they were found by the Electoral Commission, the PM is now claiming to need an official investigation to say whether he attended a rule-breaking bash.
Only last month, Johnson was claiming that he was “sickened” and “furious” over the parties scandal.
In the Commons this lunchtime, after Labour had tabled an urgent question over the latest Johnson scandal, Conservative MPs seemed markedly reluctant to speak up for their leader.
This was one little party which Johnson failed to show up for.
Sarah Jones, who won the Croydon Central seat for Labour from Barwell in 2017, mentioned that 923 of her constituents had written to her about the cover-up over Cummings’ law-breaking Barnard Castle excursion. Jones asked the Paymaster General to publish the Prime Minister’s list of engagements from May 20, 2020 – the date of the latest party.
Last night, around the time that the news of the party broke, Jones made this comment on social media: “How any of them thought this wouldn’t come out eventually is beyond me.”
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