Boris Johnson faces fresh accusations of misleading parliament after photographs were published showing him drinking with eight other people on November 13th, 2020 when Britain was under lockdown. ITV News said the pictures were taken at an event in Downing Street to mark the departure of former director of communications Lee Cain.
They show the prime minister holding a glass of sparkling wine next to a table with six bottles of wine and a half bottle of gin as eight other people stand close together. When a Labour MP asked Mr Johnson a year later if there had been a party on November 13th, 2020, he denied it.
“No, but I’m sure whatever happened the guidance ... and the rules were followed at all times,” he said.
Downing Street played down the significance of the pictures, suggesting that the Metropolitan Police had seen them during their investigation of the parties.
"The Cabinet Office and the Met police have had access to all information relevant to their investigations, including photographs. The Met have concluded their investigation and Sue Gray will publish her report in the coming days, at which point the prime minister will address parliament in full," a spokesperson said.
Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said the photographs showed that while the public were making huge sacrifices during the coronavirus pandemic, the prime minister was breaking the law.
“Boris Johnson said repeatedly that he knew nothing about law-breaking – there’s no doubt now, he lied. Boris Johnson made the rules, and then broke them,” she said.
“The prime minister has demeaned his office. The British people deserve better. While Labour has a plan for tackling the cost-of-living crisis, Tory MPs are too busy defending the indefensible actions of Boris Johnson.”
Earlier on Monday, Downing Street admitted that it initiated a meeting between the prime minister and Sue Gray, the senior civil servant whose report into lockdown-breaking parties is expected to be published this week. The admission contradicted earlier briefings and a senior minister’s claim that Ms Gray instigated the meeting.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said the prime minister had not personally requested the meeting but his officials had suggested it.
“It was suggested it might be helpful to have that meeting. Obviously, Sue Gray is independent, it is up to her whether she proceeds with any meetings in regard to her investigation,” he said.
The Metropolitan Police have concluded their investigation into the parties, fining Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie for their attendance at one of the events. But Ms Gray’s report is expected to name a number of figures in Downing Street as she documents the events and describes the culture that allowed them to happen.
Mr Johnson has stressed the independent nature of Ms Gray's inquiry into the parties and news of his private meeting with her raised questions about whether he was seeking to influence her report. Downing Street's admission came hours after chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke said he understood that Ms Gray had instigated the meeting.