Every single social event the government allegedly had during lockdown, a timeline

I guess every day’s a party at Downing Street!!


During lockdown, the government is accused of having held over a dozen parties and social events. Meanwhile, the rest of us were stuck inside, following the rules. People were isolated, with many experiencing declining mental health and feelings of loneliness. Those who did flout lockdown rules were often lumped with hefty fines – with a potential fine of up to £10,000.

Recently it feels like not a week can pass without news of yet another Downing Street or Civil Servant bash being reported. If you’ve been finding it hard to keep up, here’s a complete timeline of all the alleged government parties that happened during lockdown, while you were probably sitting home alone, eating crisps in bed. Strap in and grab yourself a snack, because there’s been loads:

15th May 2020 – Boris pictured with wine and cheese in Number 10 garden

Leaked photos shared with the Guardian showed Boris Johnson pictured with wine and cheese in the Number 10 Downing Street garden – with up to 17 members of staff as well as his wife Carrie. The gathering reportedly followed the Covid press conference from that day, and allegedly involved staff drinking wine and spirits and eating pizza.

At the time, lockdown restrictions meant people were banned from meeting more than one other person outdoors, and you had to remain two metres apart. A Downing Street spokesperson told the Guardian this was a “work meeting” and maintained drinking at work was not against Covid regulations at the time.

They said: “Downing Street is the prime minister’s home as well as his workplace. The prime minister’s wife lives in No 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden.” Boris Johnson told ITV News the image showed “people at work talking about work”.

20th May 2020 – 100 people invited to BYOB party in Number 10

A leaked email, obtained by ITV News, showed a senior civil servant inviting 100 Downing Street employees to a “bring your own booze” gathering, to “make the most of the lovely weather”.

It 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!”

Around 40 staff reportedly gathered in the garden, eating and drinking. Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie were also accused of being in attendance. A witness told the Mirror: “There were long tables laden with drink, crisps, sausage rolls and other picnic food. It was a proper booze-up.”

In January 2022, after the news of this leaked, Boris Johnson admitted to going to the party at PMQs. He claimed he thought it had been a work event, said he was only there for 25 mins, and apologised saying “I must take responsibility”.

Now, on 19th January 2022, Boris Johnson told Sky News that “nobody told” him the party in May 2020 was against the rules – despite the fact that he is the actual Prime Minister.

He apologised once again, and said: “I’m saying categorically that nobody told me, nobody said this was something that was against the rules, doing something that wasn’t a work event because frankly, I can’t imagine why it would have gone ahead, or it would have been allowed to go ahead if it was against the rules.”

19th June 2020 – Boris’s birthday

Next came Boris Johnson’s own birthday party back in June 2020, when precisely no one else in the whole country was able to celebrate their birthdays and indoor social gatherings were forbidden. Up to 30 people reportedly attending  in the Cabinet Room enjoyed M&S snacks and sang happy birthday as Boris’ wife Carrie presented him with a birthday cake, ITV reports – no word yet as to whether it was a Colin the Caterpillar cake. ITV also claims that in the evening on the 19th June 2020, family friends were hosted upstairs in the prime minister’s residence.

A Tory MP has come to Boris’ defence saying he was simply “ambushed with a cake”. Happens to the best of us, right? When the news of this came out in January 2022, people on Twitter were not happy and were rinsing the whole situation.

Number 10 have said a group of staff “gathered briefly” after a meeting with Boris to wish him happy birthday, and said the Prime Minister himself was there for less than 10 minutes. A spokesperson said: “A group of staff working in No 10 that day gathered briefly in the Cabinet Room after a meeting to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday. He was there for less than ten minutes.”

Responding to the claims about an alleged event later that evening in the prime minister’s flat, a Number 10 spokesperson said, “This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time the Prime Minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.”

13th November 2020 – Downing Street flat party

Dominic Cummings has alleged there was a Downing Street flat party during the second national lockdown, on 13th November 2020, the Independent reports. This was also the day Cummings was ordered to leave Downing Street with immediate effect by the Prime Minister.

In December 2020, Boris Johnson was asked at PMQs by a Labour MP whether there was a Downing Street party on this day. He denied it, saying: “Mr Speaker, no, but I’m sure that whatever happened the guidance was followed at all times”.

For much of November 2020, the country was in lockdown. Bars and restaurants were closed, along with non-essential shops, and people were told to stay at home.

25th November 2020 – Treasury staff drinks

Around two dozen civil servants reportedly had drinks during the second lockdown, celebrating after working on the Autumn Spending Review. Government sources told The Times beer and wine had been brought into the Treasury, but insisted they were brought by staff themselves and it hadn’t been planned. Chancellor Rishi Sunak was reportedly not in attendance and unaware of the event.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “In line with the guidance at the time, a number of HMT staff came into the office to work on the Spending Review 2020. We have been made aware that a small number of those staff had impromptu drinks around their desks after the event. The Treasury did not organise an in-person departmental party last Christmas.”

27th November 2020 – senior aide leaving party

Still in the second national lockdown, there was allegedly a leaving party that was believed to be for Cleo Watson, who was a former aide to Dominic Cummings. A source told the Guardian that Boris Johnson allegedly came and made a speech, shortly before leaving to carry on working.

The Guardian reports Boris Johnson’s press secretary said: “We don’t recognise these reports and all Covid rules have been followed. I don’t have anything else to add to what I’ve said already … I’m not going to get into individual pieces of speculation from a year ago.”

10th December 2020 – Department for Education Christmas party

The Department for Education has admitted it had a Christmas “gathering” whilst London was in Tier 2, when social mixing between households was banned. Two dozen staff gathered for “drinks and canapes”, the Mirror reports.

A DfE spokesperson said: “On December 10 2020 a gathering of colleagues who were already present at the office – and who had worked together throughout the pandemic, as they couldn’t work from home – took place in the DfE office building in London at a time when the city was subject to Tier 2 restrictions.

“The gathering was used to thank those staff for their efforts during the pandemic. Drinks and snacks were brought by those attending and no outside guests or supporting staff were invited or present. While this was work-related, looking back we accept it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time.”

14th December 2020 – ‘raucous’ gathering at Tory HQ

An image obtained by the Mirror showed 24 people in a room in the Conservative Party’s Westminster HQ, at an event described as “raucous”. It showed food and wine, with Tory aides wearing Christmas paper hats and one in a House of Commons Christmas jumper. At the time London was in Tier 2.

The event was reportedly organised by Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign, and following the news of the party Shaun Bailey quit as chair of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee. Shaun Bailey can be seen in a white shirt at the centre of the image, alongside billionaire Tory donor Nick Candy.

A Tory spokesperson said: “Senior CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) staff became aware of an unauthorised social gathering in the basement of Matthew Parker Street organised by the Bailey campaign on the evening of December 14. Formal disciplinary action was taken against the four CCHQ staff who were seconded to the Bailey campaign.”

A Shaun Bailey campaign spokesperson said: “On the evening of 14 December 2020, at the end of the working day, the campaign hosted a post-work event to thank campaign staff for their efforts over the course of they year. This was a serious error of judgement and we fully accept that gathering like this as that time was wrong and apologise unreservedly”. Shaun Bailey later took to Twitter to “apologise unreservedly”, saying he gave a speech to thank his team and then left shortly after.

A spokesperson for Nick Candy said: “Nick Candy attended the office of the Shaun Bailey campaign for an end of year review on 14 December 2021. He gave a short thank you speech to the team and spent some time with Shaun Bailey to discuss campaign matters before leaving shortly afterwards.”

15th December 2020 – Downing Street Christmas quiz

Whilst London was still in Tier 2, Boris Johnson was pictured hosting a Number 10 Christmas quiz, in images obtained by the Mirror. He was sitting under a portrait of Margaret Thatcher and reading out quiz questions, whilst a source claimed staff drank wine, beer and fizz.

It later emerged that the team quiz names chosen by people who had taken part in the quiz were, as one person on Twitter put it, “an absolute banter vacuum”. They included Professor Quiz Whitty; Hands, Face, First Place; The Six Masketeers; and Santa’s Ho Ho Hos. The names were so bad, in fact, that we made a quiz so you can find out exactly which one you are.

A No10 spokesperson said: “This was a virtual quiz. Downing Street staff were often required to be in the office to work on the pandemic response so those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks. The Prime Minister briefly took part virtually in a quiz to thank staff for their hard work throughout the year.” Boris Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.

17th December 2020 – another leaving do

Kate Josephs, who had led the government’s Covid task force, says there was an indoor leaving party with drinks for her in the Cabinet Office when she left her role. She said she did not attend any events at Number 10. By this time, London had moved into Tier 3 restrictions, which banned indoor social mixing.

In a statement Twitter she wrote: “On the evening of 17 December, I gathered with colleagues that were at work that day, with drinks, in our office in the Cabinet Office to mark my leaving the Civil Service. I am truly sorry that I did this and for the anger that people will feel as a result.”

18th December 2020 – Downing Street Christmas party

The Mirror reported a Christmas party took place in Downing Street whilst London was in Tier 3, where several dozen civil servants and political staff reportedly brought Secret Santa presents and had alcohol. Then a leaked video emerged on ITV, of government officials joking about a Christmas party with “cheese and wine” in a mock press conference on 22nd December 2020.

When it emerged almost a year later, this led to the tearful resignation of Allegra Stratton, a government spokesperson who had been press secretary at the time of the video. She apologised and said: “My remarks seemed to make light of the rules, rules that people were doing everything to obey. That was never my intention. I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days and I offer my profound apologies to all of you at home for them.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”

24th March 2021 – Home Office ‘Prosecco at desks’

During the third national lockdown last year, Home Office staff “mingled” and drank “Prosecco at desks”, Big Issue reports. Around a dozen staff gathered to celebrate a Home Office immigration policy leading BBC News at 6 for that day, with a source describing crisps and four bottles of Prosecco.

There is no suggestion home secretary Priti Patel was present or aware of the drinks. A Home Office spokesperson told The Big Issue: “In line with the guidance at the time, some members of staff came into the office to launch a major immigration policy. A small number had a drink whilst watching the broadcast coverage of their work on 6pm news bulletins before returning to work or going home.”

16th April 2021 – two more leaving dos

The day before Prince Philip’s funeral, when the country was in a period of national mourning, two leaving parties were allegedly held at Downing Street for members of staff who were leaving. Boris Johnson did not attend either party and was reportedly not invited to either of them.

At the time, the country was coming out of the third national lockdown. Restrictions said you could only meet people to mix households outdoors, and the rule of six people/two households was in place. Downing Street has apologised to the Queen.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said: “It’s regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No10 has apologised to the palace for that.” They said the PM had “recognised No10 should be held to the highest standards and taking responsibility for things we did not get right”.

Featured image (before edits): overlay via ComposedPix/Shutterstock, background via Long Truong/Unsplash

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