“I was also furious to see that clip.”

Boris Johnson, Prime Ministers Questions

December 8, 2021

Facts

Speaking at PMQs after footage emerged of his former press secretary Allegra Stratton joking about a party in Downing Street, Boris Johnson said: “I understand and share the anger up and down the country, at seeing number 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures. And I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that the people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules, because I was also furious to see that clip.” 

A month later, it was revealed that Johnson’s principal private secretary had invited more than 100 No. 10 staff to a ‘BYOB’ party in the garden of Downing Street. Around 40 staff, including Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson, gathered in the garden eating picnic food and drinking alcohol. It is hard to see how Johnson could not have been aware of this, given it was his own secretary who sent the email. 

Police are investigating 12 alleged Downing Street or Whitehall events. One of them took place in the Prime Minister’s Downing Street flat (a claim which has been described by the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie as "totally untrue").

In her interim report, published on 31st January 2022, Sue Grey stated that  "At least some of the gatherings represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time."

Verdict

Johnson’s remark gave the strong impression to those watching PMQs that he was furious that rules had not been followed. Yet he must surely have been aware that rules were indeed broken. The Prime Minister may have been telling the truth when he said he was “furious to see that clip.” But there is no evidence he was furious when the original rule breaking occurred. To put it another way, it seems that Johnson was furious that he was caught out, but not by the original breach of the rules.

We approached Mr Johnson’s office, the Cabinet Office and the No 10 Press Office to give them a chance to comment, but no reply.

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