Messages show how No 10 struggled to explain Covid parties within rules
Officials in No 10 struggled to explain how lockdown gatherings in Downing Street complied with the Covid restrictions in place at the time, according to newly released internal messages.
The Commons Privileges Committee, which is investigating whether Boris Johnson misled Parliament, published extracts from a series of WhatsApp exchanges involving then communications director Jack Doyle and other officials.
On April 28 2021 – seven months before the first reports of lockdown parties appeared in the press – one unnamed official sent a message noting another official was “worried about leaks of PM having a piss up and to be fair I don’t think it’s unwarranted”.
On January 25 2022, Mr Doyle sent a message asking “Have we had any legal advice on the birthday one?” followed by another one saying “Haven’t heard any explanation of how it’s in the rules”.
The query related to a gathering in No 10 in June 2020 where Mr Johnson was presented with a cake to mark his 56th birthday for which he and others were subsequently issued with fixed penalty notices by the Metropolitan Police.
Later that morning an official messaged Mr Doyle, saying: “I’m trying to do some Q&A (a question and answer briefing for officials dealing with the media queries), it’s not going well”.
Mr Doyle replied: “I’m struggling to come up with a way this one is in the rules in my head”, adding: “PM was eating his lunch of course”.
The official responded: “I meant for the police bit but yeah as ridiculous as the cake thing is it is difficult”.
The official then suggested they could argue it was “reasonably necessary for work purposes”.
Mr Doyle replied: “Not sure that one works does it. Also blows another great gaping hole in the PM’s account doesn’t it?”