Boris Johnson admits he attended 'BYOB' Downing Street gathering

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement ahead of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of C

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement ahead of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. - Credit: PA

The prime minister has told the House of Commons that he did attend a gathering in the garden of No 10 Downing Street during the first coronavirus lockdown.

Boris Johnson apologised for attending the event in May 2020, and spoke of the "rage" that people in the country felt after reports of parties at Downing Street during Covid lockdowns.

It comes after an email leaked on Monday showed his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, had invited around 100 Downing Street staff to a gathering on May 20, 2020 to “make the most of the lovely weather”.

The staff were invited to "bring your own booze" to the event.

An inquiry into the events at Downing Street has since been launched — headed by high-ranking civil servant Sue Gray.

At Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs), his first public appearance since the leak, Mr Johnson said: "I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.

“I know the anguish they have been through – unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.

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“I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.

“And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility.”

He went on to say that he had attended the gathering in the garden of No 10 Downing Street.

However, he claimed he believed it to have been a "work event" and asked that an inquiry into the events to be allowed to conclude. 

Mr Johnson said: "No 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus.

“When I went into that garden just after six on May 20, 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.

“With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.

“I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies.

“All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked if the prime minister would resign over the admission, and described him as a “pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road”. 

In response Mr Johnson said he took “responsibility” for the events of May 20, 2020 and said: “I want to repeat that I thought it was a work event and I regret very much that we did not do things differently that evening. 

“I take responsibility and I apologise. But as for his political point, I don’t think that he should pre-empt the outcome of the inquiry."