ITV claims Johnson had birthday party in Cabinet Room during lockdown

Cummings says he answered Sue Gray’s questions in writing as he feared the prime minister would lie about anything he said

Prime minister Boris Johnson at a coronavirus vaccination training hub during a visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire on Monday.  Photograph:  Adrian Dennis/PA Wire

Prime minister Boris Johnson at a coronavirus vaccination training hub during a visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire on Monday. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/PA Wire

 

Boris Johnson had a birthday party for up to 30 people in the Cabinet Room at Downing Street during lockdown in June 2020 when indoor gatherings were banned, according to a report by ITV News. The broadcaster said the prime minister’s wife Carrie helped to organise a surprise party lasting 20-30 minutes on the afternoon of June 19th.

Among those reported to have attended the event was Lulu Lytle, the interior designer responsible for a six-figure refurbishment of Mr Johnson’s private flat in Downing Street. ITV News said Ms Lytle and Mrs Johnson were believed to have presented the prime minister with a cake while staff sang Happy Birthday.

Downing Street confirmed that the gathering took place, but asserted that Mr Johnson stayed for less than 10 minutes.

“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 10 minutes,” a spokesperson said.

Downing Street denied that Mr Johnson hosted family and friends in the flat upstairs later on June 19th, saying he had hosted a small number of people outdoors in line with the rules.

The latest allegations come as senior civil servant Sue Gray prepares to publish her report on a number of lockdown-breaking parties alleged to have taken place in Downing Street. Mr Johnson’s former adviser, Dominic Cummings, said he had refused to give oral evidence to Ms Gray because he feared that the prime minister would lie about what he said, but he answered her questions in writing.

“When [Sue Gray] asked to speak to me I emailed to the effect: if we speak the PM will invent nonsense and spin it to the media and you and I will both have problems. Let’s keep everything in writing, therefore he cannot invent things I’ve supposedly said to you, there is only a written record, this makes both our lives easier.

“She agreed. So I have answered questions in writing and will answer further questions in writing if she wants. But I will not speak and therefore provide the PM with more chances to lie and confuse everybody,” he wrote in his Substack blog.

Party whip

Mr Johnson on Monday ordered the cabinet office to investigate a claim by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani that a party whip told her that her sacking as a transport minister in 2020 was linked to her Muslim faith. Chief whip Mark Spencer said he was the whip who had spoken to Ms Ghani, but he denied that he had said what she alleged.

Mr Johnson met her to discuss the claims in July 2020, and suggested she make a complaint in accordance with internal Conservative party procedures. She decided against such a course because she said the issue arose as part of government business rather than party business.

Mr Johnson will make a statement to the House of Commons after Ms Gray reports and many Conservative MPs have said they will wait until then before deciding whether to call for a vote of no confidence in his leadership.