Boris Johnson reportedly joked during a boozy exit to No10 during the coronavirus pandemic that staff were at “the most anti-socially distanced party in Britain”.
He claims he will continue to pressure the former prime minister as he faces a parliamentary inquiry into whether he misled MPs over the so-called Partygate scandal.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson did not dispute the comment but insisted the then Prime Minister had been “working constantly” to ensure the government was doing everything in its power to save lives and protect livelihoods during the pandemic.
ITV News reported the comments were made as staff gathered around a table stocked with alcohol and party snacks to hear him toast his outgoing communications director, Lee Cain, in November 2020.
At the time of the event, England was in the grip of a second national lockdown, with indoor gatherings banned except in certain circumstances such as “work purposes” and social distancing in workplaces remaining the norm.
In her report in the Partygate series, Senior Official Sue Gray said she had been told the November 13, 2020 event was not pre-scheduled, but took place around the time that the “Wine Time Friday” Events in No. 10 routinely took place.
Mr Johnson delivered a farewell speech for Mr Cain and wine was provided for those present, Ms Gray’s report said.
Mr Johnson’s comment is part of a series of new allegations made on an ITV podcast, Partygate: The Inside Story.
A source is reported to have said: “I was working late into the night – music was playing, murmurs were rising and there was a lot of people standing around, but this time I came out because I heard the Prime Minister speaking, and that’s when I heard the quote: ‘This is the most anti-socially distanced party in the UK right now’ and everyone laughed at it.”
Mr Johnson has been fined as part of a police probe into gatherings at Downing Street while social distancing restrictions were in place.
However, he was fined for attending his own birthday party at the Cabinet Room in Downing Street in June 2020, rather than the alleged party the ITV source mentions.
He is yet to appear before the Commons Privileges Committee over comments he made to MPs from the Partygate shipping box, insisting he believes the rules in No 10 have been complied with.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, Boris Johnson led our country through the most dangerous peace crisis in living memory.
“As Prime Minister during a 24/7 national emergency, he worked constantly to ensure the government was doing everything in its power to save lives and protect livelihoods.
“Mr Johnson pays a heartfelt tribute to the heroic frontline workers who have fought the pandemic, many of whom have lost their lives.
“Your service to our country will always be remembered.
“He is also incredibly grateful for the efforts of hard-working staff working in central government – the vast majority of them civil servants – who helped coordinate the UK national response from 10 Downing Street, in Whitehall and across the UK Government .
“Their work has been vital as they have helped organize the UK Government’s response during a national emergency.”
These shocking revelations confirm Boris Johnson’s total disregard for the rules he has asked of us all. He laughed and celebrated while the rest of the country sufferedWendy Chamberlain, Chief Whip of the Liberal Democrats
Wendy Chamberlain, Chief Whip of the Liberal Democrats, said: “These shocking revelations confirm Boris Johnson’s total disregard for the rules he has asked of all of us. He laughed and celebrated while the rest of the country suffered.
“Conservative MPs should be ashamed that they have supported Johnson for so long and that some are even considering putting him back in 10th place.
“Rishi Sunak must agree to testify under oath to the Partygate inquest everything he knows about rule violations in #10, including reports that files were shredded. After all their sacrifices, the British people deserve the truth, not more lies and cover-ups.”
Among other claims, ITV reports that whistleblowers told the podcast that staff “confirmed their stories” before filling out Metropolitan Police questionnaires about their possible involvement in rule-breaking gatherings.
The report also suggests that a No. 10 party on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral service in April 2021 was even more lavish than previously documented, with at least two couples “enjoying each other” and “touching each other” and two other staffers in a kitchen area “on top of each other”.
The podcast also reports that only half of the parties that have occurred have ever been investigated by Ms Gray, the senior Cabinet Office official who investigated the Partygate claims, or the Met.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/johnson-joked-he-was-at-the-most-unsocially-distanced-party-in-uk-during-covid-42277955.html Johnson ‘joked he was at the most anti-socially distanced party in the UK during Covid’