“It did not occur to me” that attending a birthday gathering was against lockdown rules

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

April 18, 2022

Facts

On March 21 2020, Mr Johnson tweeted a letter he’d written to a young girl who was celebrating her birthday at home. 

He wrote: “Dear Josephine, Happy Birthday! I am glad to hear you are staying at home, though I am sorry to hear about your party. We have all got to do our bit to protect the NHS and save lives, and that is exactly what you are doing, so well done! You are setting a great example. We are working round the clock to keep people safe and if we work together we can send coronavirus packing. And once we have done that you can DEFINITELY have a party with your friends.” 

Captioning the image of the letter, Mr Johnson added: “Josephine sets a great example to us all by postponing her birthday party until we have sent coronavirus packing.”

According to the Sue Grey report 

  • ”On 19 June 2020 a number of individuals gathered in the Cabinet Room in No 10 Downing Street to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday.”

  • ”The event lasted between 14.25 and 14.45, throughout which the Prime Minister was present. Those attending consumed food and drink, and some drank alcohol.“

  • The guidance at the time said gatherings of two or more persons indoors and more than six outdoors were prohibited.

  • On 19 May 2022 the Metropolitan Police concluded their investigation and found the event that took place on 19 June 2020 broke Covid-19 regulations.

Verdict

It is impossible to peer into the recesses of the Prime Minister’s brain and state for certain what was going on in his mind when he broke lockdown rules to attend his own surprise birthday party on 19th June 2020. We therefore cannot accuse Mr Johnson of misleading parliament. We can state that in the light of Boris Johnson’s handwritten letter to Josephine, the idea that “it did not occur” to him that the party was illegal feels preposterous.

We approached Boris Johnson's office, No10 Press Office and the Cabinet Office to give them a chance to comment, but received no response.

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