Politics

Boris Johnson said ‘everybody understands’ Covid rules, 9 days before No 10 party


Boris Johnson told MPs that “everybody understands” the Covid rules, nine days before he apparently breached them at the No 10 garden party.

The British people knew they needed to “obey those rules and apply common sense”, the prime minister said in a Commons statement on 11 May 2020, during the first lockdown.

Yet, just four days later, Mr Johnson attended what has been dubbed the “cheese and wine party”, in the No 10 garden, being photographed relaxing with his future wife Carrie and close aides, with no social distancing.

Five days after that, he joined around 30 people at a “bring your own booze” party – the gathering that has plunged his premiership into its greatest crisis.

At the time, despite a slight loosening of restrictions, the rules allowed only two people from different households to meet outside, and only at a distance of two metres.

In his Commons statement in May 2020, Mr Johnson announced bigger fines “for the small minority who break the rules” – starting at £100 and rising to £3,600 for multiple infringements.

And he told MPs: “Let us be clear – everybody understands what we are trying to do together.

“We are working together as a country to obey the social distancing rules, which everybody understands.

“The British people understand that this is the moment for the whole country to come together, obey those rules, and apply common sense in their application of them.”

The prime minister continued: “I have huge admiration for the way that the police have enforced the rules so far.

“I know that the British public will continue to help the police, and everybody, to enforce the rules, get the reproduction rate down, and get this disease even further under control, by continuing to apply good, solid, British common sense.”

Some 20 months after the comments, Mr Johnson is fighting for his public life, after confessing to attending the 20 May party – while claiming he did not realise it was a party.

He admitted he joined the social event for 25 minutes, saying: “I believed this was a work event…with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside.”

Tory MPs say his fate is now in the hands of Sue Gray, the Cabinet Office civil servant investigating all the No 10 parties, although it is not within her remit to judge whether rules were broken.

Some senior Conservatives – Scottish leader Douglas Ross, rising star William Wragg and ex-minister Caroline Nokes – have called for the prime minister to quit immediately.

Amid the crisis, Tory poll ratings continue to plunge to 28 per cent in one survey – while the chancellor Rishi Sunak has refused to back the prime minister before the inquiry has concluded.

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