Boris Johnson can't lead country if he went to BYOB Downing Street party, says Miliband

Watch: Boris Johnson shouldn't lead country if he went to BYOB party, says Miliband

Boris Johnson should quit as PM if he attended an alleged Downing Street party during the first coronavirus lockdown, Labour’s Ed Miliband has said.

A picture was published by ITV News on Monday showing an invite to a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020, during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

It is understood that Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s private secretary, sent the email to more than 100 Downing Street employees inviting them to the evening gathering.

Johnson and his wife Carrie are alleged to have attended along with about 40 other members of staff, and the Metropolitan Police have said they are in contact with the Cabinet Office.

Miliband said the prime minister "owes the British people the truth", after Johnson refused to answer questions about the alleged party.

Watch: Boris Johnson declines to answer if he attended Downing Street party

Read more: COVID will be 'difficult' for next three months but 'end is in sight', says WHO

The prime minister will not attend a debate on the party in the House of Commons on Tuesday, instead sending senior MP Michael Ellis to answer questions.

Miliband told Sky News on Tuesday: “If he went to the party, in flagrant breach of the rules, I don’t see how he can lead this country through the difficult decisions that he needs to lead us through.

“He knows whether he went to the party or not. He either did go or he didn’t go. And if he did go he needs to explain himself."

In the email invite, Reynolds said staff should “make the most of the lovely weather”, ITV reported, despite England being under tough coronavirus restrictions banning groups from meeting socially outdoors when the message was sent.

On the day of the alleged BYOB party, the Metropolitan police sent a tweet telling people they could have a picnic, exercise or do sport outside providing you are “on your own, with people you live with, or just you and one other person”.

The-then culture secretary Oliver Dowden used a Downing Street press conference that day to remind the public they could “meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart”.

The then culture secretary Oliver Dowden advises the country on COVID restrictions on 20 May 2020, the same day of an alleged Downing Street party. (PA)
The then culture secretary Oliver Dowden advises the country on COVID restrictions on 20 May 2020, the same day of an alleged Downing Street party. (PA)

Miliband attacked what he called "a culture of such rule-breaking" within Downing Street.

He said: “It’s such arrogance of power that this speaks to that you can send a cabinet minister out one minute telling people you’ve got to observe the rules, you’ve got to protect the NHS, you can only meet one person outside and then you can send an email 45 minutes later for a party saying come along, a hundred of you, bring your own bottle, the sun’s shining."

(Sky News)
Former Labout leader Ed Miliband said Boris Johnson cannot lead the country if he attended a Downing Street lockdown party. (Sky News)

Read more: Mother faces jail for refusing to send daughter to school because of COVID

Dominic Grieve, a former Conservative attorney general from 2010 to 2014, said Johnson is a “serial liar” and should be ousted from office.

Grieve told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Tuesday: “The difficulty we have here is that we have a prime minister who’s effectively a serial liar.

“I think it’d be very desirable if he were removed. I think the Conservative Party would find that it has a much better future without him than it has with him at present.”

Number 10 has refused to comment on the latest party claims, saying it will not do so while senior civil servant Sue Gray carries out her inquiry into numerous allegations of rule-breaking events being held in Downing Street during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gray will also examine an alleged gathering in the Downing Street garden on 15 May 2020, revealed by a leaked photo showing Johnson and staff sitting around a table with cheese and wine.

Conservative MP Philip Dunne defended Number 10 staff for "having a drink after work" following the latest claims, saying it was "not surprising".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Uxbridge, west London, after a visit to a Boots Pharmacy coronavirus vaccination clinic. Picture date: Monday January 10, 2022.
Prime minister Boris Johnson refused to answer questions on Monday about an alleged Downing Street party. (PA)

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on 20 May 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.”

The leaked email from Reynolds, obtained by ITV News, said: “Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening.

“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”

Watch: Politicians and public react to latest Downing Street party claims