Downing Street party: son’s anger over No 10 drinks while mum, 91, spent her last months isolating alone

Paddy Palmer, 91, spent the last few months of her life isolating alone

A son whose mum was isolated at a residential care home during the first Covid lockdown and died just a few months later has spoken of his “anger” over the Number 10 party.

Like many families across the UK during the first Covid lockdown, Hugh Palmer could only speak to his mum, Paddy Palmer, 91, from Pocklington, through a window.

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Sadly, Paddy died just a few months later in August 2020, and the recent revelation that a party was held at Downing Street while many were unable to see their loved ones, perhaps for the last time, has angered Hugh.

Addressing the revelations, Hugh told NationalWorld: “The recent news has saddened me, angered me, but not surprised me.”

Boris Johnson admits attending Downing Street party

An email, revealed by ITV News, invited Downing Street staff to "socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden” on 20 May 2020.

The email was sent when lockdown restrictions were still in place, with people only allowed to meet one other person outside their household outdoors at the time.

It is understood that around 40 staff gathered in the garden that evening, eating picnic food and drinking, including the Prime Minister and his wife Carrie Johnson.

Boris Johnson said at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday (12 January): “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.”

Meanwhile, in May 2020, Hugh said he “had to talk to my mum through a window,” with Paddy having to cut her own hair as she could not visit a hairdresser.

“Meanwhile, they were having a party for 100 people at 10 Downing Street. She was a good person. Shame on you @BorisJohnson,” Hugh wrote on Twitter.

‘It is agony not to be able to hold his hand’

Hugh and Paddy wrote about their experience of lockdown when Covid restrictions were first introduced in 2020.

On 16 April, Paddy wrote: “So I am isolated. We are all isolated if we are to help the NHS, but the biggest cruelty for me is to be able to touch the cold windowpane, but not touch my son on the other side of it.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him this morning and thank God it is possible, but it is agony not to be able to hold his hand.”

On 10 June 2020, Hugh wrote: “Reading what my mother has written is hard. All the more so as my mother’s health has deteriorated since she wrote it.”

He added: “Only being able to see my mother through a window, knowing that these are the last weeks of her life, is incredibly painful.

“I can’t hug her, hold her hand. It is so hard.

“And yet knowing that so many other people have already lost loved ones during this pandemic without even being able to see them at all is sobering. Maybe we are lucky to have the contact we have.”

What did the Downing Street party email say?

The email was sent by Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, to over a hundred employees in Number 10, including the PM’s advisors, speechwriters and door staff.

In the email, Mr Reynolds - a senior No 10 civil servant who has run Boris Johnson’s private office since October 2019 - said: "Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening.

"Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!"

On the same day as the gathering, the Culture Secretary at the time, Oliver Dowden, gave the Downing Street coronavirus briefing, where he confirmed another 363 people in the UK had died with Covid in the previous 24 hours.

At the briefing, he told the public: "You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two metres apart."