Minister admits 'party' took place after Boris Johnson's former aide rejects PM's claim it was work event

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Minister admits 'party' took place after Boris Johnson's former aide rejects PM's claim it was work event
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.Adrian Dennis/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
  • A minister inadvertently admitted there was a party in Downing Street during lockdown.

  • Boris Johnson last week insisted he believed the gathering on May 20, 2020, was a 'work event.'

  • Rishi Sunak, widely touted as a potential successor to the PM, walked out of an interview after being challenged on the parties.

A minister admitted a party took place in Downing Street after Boris Johnson's former aide claimed the prime minister lied about his knowledge of the lockdown-breaking event before it happened.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab described as "nonsense" claims by Johnson's former chief aide Dominic Cummings that the prime minister lied to the Commons when he said he did not have advance knowledge of a drinks party in the Downing Street garden.

But during the same interview with Sky News he inadvertently described the drinks gathering — which Johnson last week insisted he believed was a "work event" — as a party.

"There was speculation that the May 20 party was held in my honour to thank me," Raab said.

Sky News host Kay Burley replied: "So it was a party?" before Raab backtracked, adding that he hadn't been invited and didn't attend.

The prime minister is facing another torrid week as reports of more parties in Downing Street continue to emerge.

Cummings' allegations are potentially the most serious to date because they suggest the prime minister lied to parliament, which is usually considered a serious enough breach to warrant resignation.

Cummings, who left Downing Street and became a fierce critic of the prime minister, said in a blog post on Monday that he told Johnson to cancel the event and said: "You've got to get a grip of this madhouse."

He said Johnson "waved it aside." Cummings also said he told Martin Reynolds — the civil servant who organised the party — that the event broke lockdown rules.

Downing Street has strongly denied the claims, and Dominic Raab on Monday told BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme that there was a "categorical assertion" that Cummings had not been truthful.

In a further escalation of the prime minister's troubles, a minister openly criticised Johnson's Downing Street operation over the parties.

Science minister George Freeman told a constituent in a letter last week that he was "shocked and flabbergasted" by the reports, The Times of London reported. He said that the "prime minister and his office should set the highest standards."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has been widely touted as a likely successor to Johnson in Downing Street, broke his silence over the parties and walked out of an interview as he was challenged on the allegations.

A poll published on Monday by pollsters Redfield & Wilton put Labour on 43 points compared to the Conservatives' 30% — a drop of 5 points from the previous week.

Civil servant Sue Gray, who is tasked with investigating the alleged parties, is expected to publish her report by next week, and her findings could decide the fate of Johnson's premiership.

The government also suffered a defeat in the House of Lords as it tried to introduce greater police powers.

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