May 2020 Photo Causes New Headache for Boris Johnson

It seemingly shows 19 people drinking outdoors during a strict lockdown period
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2021 7:26 AM CST
2020 Photo a New Pandemic Headache for Boris Johnson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches journalists as he welcomes the Sultan of Oman, Haitham Bin Tarik Al Said, to 10 Downing Street in London, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

(Newser) – The behind-closed-doors behavior of Boris Johnson and his staff during the pandemic continues to float to the surface. The latest: a photograph obtained by the Guardian (see it here) that seemingly contradicts the government's denial last week that a social event complete with booze occurred inside and outside No. 10 Downing Street on May 15, 2020. The photo shows only the outdoors—specifically the terrace and lawn—but captures 19 people assembled in four separate groups. They are not social distancing and wine bottles and what looks to be a cheese plate are shown.

Johnson's rep had said staffers were working in the garden on the day in question, but the Guardian notes that at the time, social events between members of different households were supposed to be capped at two people, and in-person work meetings were only supposed to occur if "absolutely necessary." CNN quotes the rep as putting it like so: "As we said last week, work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months. On this occasion there were staff meetings following a No. 10 press conference." During that press conference, the health secretary had urged people not to be tempted by the warm May weather to gather in groups.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab came to Johnson's defense Monday, noting in comments to Sky News, "This is a workplace. They had a drink after what had been a grueling day ... this wasn’t a social occasion." Raab insisted the behavior was "consistent with the guidance at the time." But a legal expert tells the Independent that what's shown in the photo looks to be "quite an obvious social gathering," particularly "having heard Dominic Raab say that this was a drink after the formal business event had ended—it doesn’t sound convincing as a work gathering." Labour leaders pounced, with one noting that at the time of the photo, people were prohibited from even gathering for funerals. (Read more Boris Johnson stories.)

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