UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied claims he was told in advance that a “bring your own booze” party held in the garden of his residence at the height of a national lockdown was a potential breach of Covid-19 restrictions.
Last week Johnson was forced to apologize after it emerged that his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, had emailed an invitation to more than 100 Downing Street staffers to “socially distanced drinks in the No. 10 garden” on May 20, 2020.
At that time, people in England were banned from meeting with more than one other person outdoors, and would be legally punished for doing so. In workplaces, official guidance stated that in-person meetings should only take place if “absolutely necessary.” In his apology, Johnson admitted to attending the gathering but said “I believed implicitly that this was a work event.”
But on Monday, Johnson’s estranged former senior adviser Dominic Cummings claimed he would swear under oath that the Prime Minister was warned about the true nature of the drinks party.
Reacting to those claims on Tuesday, Johnson insisted that he could not fathom that “we would have gone ahead with an event that people were saying was against the rules,” adding that he did not see the invitation to the party sent by Reynolds.
“Nobody warned me that it was against the rules … because I would remember that,” Johnson emphasized.
Johnson added that “if I had my time again, I would not have allowed things to develop in that way,” saying he would have asked the group gathered outside on May 20 to come indoors or told them “this isn’t the right way to do things.”
The Prime Minister continued to place the focus on the investigation into the parties being carried out by senior civil servant Sue Gray, saying she “should be given the space to get on and conclude her inquiry” and urging everyone with memories of the events to speak to her.
Johnson added that it was “not for me to decide who she is going to interview,” when responding to a question as to whether Cummings should be part of the process.
Because of Gray’s position as an unelected civil servant, it is unlikely her report will outright accuse the Prime Minister of breaking any rules and likely to be more of a factual report on her investigation into what happened.
Johnson also refused to comment on whether he would resign from his position if the inquiry finds that he misled the UK Parliament.
He stressed that “we need to see what the report says,” adding that “we can’t anticipate what the conclusion of this inquiry will be.”
Johnson also took the opportunity on Tuesday to “repeat my deep apologies to people for mistakes that may have been made on my watch.”