‘Bring your own booze’ party leaves Boris Johnson with a massive hangover: What the controversy is all about

The British prime minister is under heavy fire after a leaked email from his private secretary reveals that his staff held a ‘socially distanced’ drinks party at a time when gatherings of people was banned

File image of Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson reacting during a press conference at Downing Street. AP

Boris Johnson just can’t catch a break!

The British prime minister is facing a wave of public and political outrage over allegations that he and his staff flouted coronavirus lockdown rules by holding a drinks party in 2020 while Britons were barred by law from meeting up with more than one person outside their households.

Johnson will face a make-or-break session on Wednesday when he will face a barrage of questions with furious Conservative MPs awaiting his explanation of the “bring your own booze” garden party in May 2020.

So, what’s the row all about and the many controversies surrounding him.

‘Bring your own booze’ party

Broadcaster ITV published a leaked email that was sent by the prime minister’s private secretary, Martin Reynolds, to more than 100 people on 20 May, 2020, for ‘socially distanced drinks’ in the garden of the prime minister’s Downing Street office and residence.

“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,” the leaked invitation read, adding, “Please join us from 6 pm and bring your own booze!”

Coincidentally, the event was scheduled on the same day that the government had held a news conference reminding people that gatherings of people were banned indoors and out.

Reports in UK media suggest the prime minister attended the event with his wife Carrie, while Johnson has insisted he personally broke no rules.

Police inquiry
According to an AFP report, London’s police said late Monday they were making enquiries over potential breaches of the lockdown laws in relation to the May gathering.

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

Outrage

Many British lawmakers have publicly criticised the Downing Street gathering.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, called for him to resign. “Millions of people obeyed the lockdown rules, often at huge personal cost. They missed funerals, cancelled weddings and said goodbye to dying loved ones on video calls – some on the very day that No 10 illegally hosted a garden party,” The Guardian quoted him as saying.

“Boris Johnson has become a threat to health of our nation, and for the sake of the country still gripped by this awful pandemic he must resign.”

Labour lawmaker Ed Miliband said the allegations were ‘incredibly damning’. “How can he lead the country through these difficult times, get people to follow public health advice, if he has so flagrantly breached the rules?” Miliband said on BBC radio.

Ruth Davidson, former leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, said many people would ‘never forgive’ the ‘utterly indefensible’ garden party.

“It just makes a mockery of this idea that we were doing a national endeavor to keep each other safe,” she said.
The public has also come out against Boris Johnson. “It truly is beyond belief that while the rest of the country was in lockdown, Johnson and his staff felt it was acceptable to have a party,” Rivka Gottlieb, of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, told Sky News.

Lyndsay Jackson, whose mother died of COVID-19 that month, said the government showed “contempt for ordinary people and for the difficulties we were all facing”.

“I wasn’t able to be with her when she died, I wasn’t able to hold her hand… I couldn’t even hug my brother after the funeral,” said Jackson, a member of the group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice. She told Sky News that Johnson was “beneath contempt.”

Johnson’s many scandals

The ‘bring your own booze’ party is just the latest claims of wrongdoing to rattle Boris Johnson.

In November and December 2020, he faced allegations of lockdown breaches when members of his government held Christmas parties.

He is also facing allegations over refurbishment of the Downing Street apartment that prime ministers use as their official residence.

Leaders are granted £30,000 pounds ($41,000) a year for upkeep, but after Johnson and his now-wife, Carrie, took up residence in 2019, they undertook a much more expensive overhaul, complete with designer wallpaper and pricey furniture.

An AP report stated that Johnson’s office initially said he had paid for the redecoration himself, but it was later disclosed that it had been funded by a wealthy Conservative Party donor, David Brownlow.

With inputs from agencies

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FP Staff

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