Partygate timeline: dates of alleged Downing Street events, as photos emerge of Boris Johnson raising a glass
The Metropolitan Police has now issued 50 fines to government personnel, including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, for breaking the Covid rules they set
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, several Conservative Party figures and the families of those who lost loved ones during the pandemic have all called for Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak to go.
A Metropolitan Police investigation into alleged restrictions-busting parties has concluded, while a full report into the scandal by senior civil servant Sue Gray is still yet to be published in full.
So when did the alleged parties take place?
Here are the key dates in the 2020 Downing Street garden party scandal:
- 23 March 2020 - A strict national lockdown is introduced in the UK to combat Covid-19. People were ordered to stay at home and not mix socially. You could only leave your home for an hour per day to exercise or undertake essential tasks, like buying food
- 10 May - People are allowed to go back to work if they are unable to work from home. However, they are told to avoid using public transport
- 13 May - People were permitted to leave home to meet one other person outdoors
- 15 May - Around 20 staff - including Boris and Carrie Johnson, as well as Dominic Cummings - attend the Downing Street garden for an event that included cheese and wine. It came just hours after a press conference hosted by then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged the public to “stay at home as much as is possible” and “stick with the rules”. Number 10 denies a social gathering took place, calling it a “work meeting” - The Guardian publishes a photo of the alleged party
- 20 May - Emails seen by ITV News in January 2022 show the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited 100 members of staff to “socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden”. Reynolds encouraged those attending to “bring your own booze”. Downing Street refuses to comment. 55 minutes before the event is believed to have begun, Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden tells the public at a press conference to “limit contact with other people” and said: “You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place — provided that you stay two meters apart”
- 18 June - Gathering in the Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall on the departure of a No 10 private secretary
- 19 June - Gathering in Cabinet room in No 10 Downing Street for Boris Johnson’s birthday. Up to 30 people were there to present the Prime Minister with a cake and sing ‘happy birthday’, according to ITV News. The Government says the gathering was brief and the PM was only there "for less than 10 minutes”. It’s this event Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are believed to have been fined for
Here’s a timeline of the key events in the Downing Street Christmas party scandal:
- 13 November 2020 - gathering in No 10 Downing Street flat and a gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser. Boris Johnson was said to have started this party in the Sunday Times on 17 April. Photos have since emerged of Mr Johnson raising a glass at this gathering.
- 27 November - gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser
- 10 December - London is in tier two of the Government’s three-tier Covid-19 system. Social mixing between households is banned indoors but the Department for Education holds a Christmas party in its cafe. The department apologises for event when it is revealed by the Daily Mirror
- 15 December - gathering at No 10 Downing Street for an online Christmas quiz
- 16 December - A new Covid-19 variant (Alpha, or the ‘Kent variant’) sees London move to tier three restrictions - the highest level at the time. The rules ban different households from mixing indoors and say people should remain at home
- 17 December - three incidents reported in Sue Gray’s report which details gathering in the Cabinet Office 70 Whitehall held an online Christmas quiz for the Cabinet Secretary’s private office and departures of senior officials
- 18 December - Downing Street staff are believed to have held a Christmas party, with reports that dozens of people were at the event. Some attendees were said to have worn festive jumpers and exchanged Secret Santa gifts
- 22 December - The Prime Minister’s then-press secretary Allegra Stratton is filmed at a mock press conference answering questions about a Downing Street Christmas party. The footage did not emerge until 7 December 2021
- 4 January 2021 - Boris Johnson announces third national lockdown after a rapid rise in Covid cases threatens to overwhelm the NHS after thousands of hospital admissions
- 14 January - Gathering at No 10 Downing Street to mark the departure of two No 10 private secretaries
- 16 April - Two separate gatherings take place at No 10 Downing Street on the departure of two No 10 officials
How the Downing Street Christmas party allegations emerged:
- 1 December 2021 - The Daily Mirror breaks the story that numerous 2020 Christmas parties took place, saying “officials knocked back glasses of wine during a Christmas quiz and a Secret Santa while the rest of the country was forced to stay at home”. At PMQs that day, the Prime Minister insists “all guidance was followed completely”
- 2 December - Business Minister George Freeman says: “I can absolutely assure you that No 10 staff followed the guidance”
- 3 December - Tory chairman Oliver Dowden says: “I have...been assured by what the Prime Minister has said, which is that the rules at all times were obeyed in Downing Street”
- 4 December - The Metropolitan Police says it’s considering opening an investigation into the Downing Street Christmas party and an earlier gathering in November 2020
- 5 December - Deputy PM Dominic Raab insists he did not know the truth of reports based on “unsubstantiated claims all on the basis of anonymous sources” and claimed police “don’t normally look back and investigate things that have taken place a year ago”
- 6 December - Policing Minister Kit Malthouse says: “I asked the question: ‘Were all the regulations complied with?’ I was reassured they were, I have to take that at face value. That’s absolutely what I’m sure is the case; it’s for others if they want to decide to take it further”
- 7 December - Mr Johnson says: “I am satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.” However, later that day the footage from 2020 of Allegra Stratton joking about the alleged party is leaked to ITV News
- Downing Street continues to deny that the party took place, saying: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times”
- 8 December - At a raucous PMQs, the PM apologises for the video clip but not for the party itself. He said he’d been assured that there was no party and no Covid rules were broken. Mr Johnson promises to launch an internal review into what happened in December 2020. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says the allegations have undermined the PM’s credibility. The SNP becomes the first opposition party to call for Mr Johnson’s resignation
- The Met Police announces it will not carry out an investigation due to an “absence of evidence” to launch a investigation into the claims. It had previously said that Covid breaches would not be investigated “retroactively”
- 11 December - Allegations of a 25 November 2020 gathering emerge in The Times. According to the report, around two dozen civil servants who worked on the Autumn Spending Review attended drinks. The Treasury says there were “impromptu drinks around desks” and that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak was not in attendance
- 12 December - Boris Johnson is pictured hosting a Downing Street Christmas quiz on 15 December 2020. Downing Street said the Prime Minister had “briefly” taken part “virtually” in the quiz. He was pictured in close proximity to two colleagues despite social mixing restrictions being in place.
- 15 December - Former Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey resigns from his role in the London Assembly, after images emerge of a “raucous” party which took place at Conservative Party headquarters on 14 December 2020
- 25 January 2022 - The Met announces it will open an investigation into the Downing Street parties. Part of the investigation sees questionnaires given to Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and dozens of others
- 31 January - Sue Gray publishes redacted report into Partygate scandal. It describes "failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office" and says "some of the events should not have been allowed to take place"
- 5 February - Five key Downing Street aides resign, including chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, principal private secretary Martin Reynolds and director of communications Jack Doyle. All three had been implicated in Partygate
- 29 March - Police issue 20 fixed penalty notices but do not say how many people have been given them, nor who these people are. Cabinet Office says: “It would not be appropriate to comment [on them] while the Met Police’s investigation is ongoing”
- 12 April - Police issue a further 30 fines. A 10 Downing Street spokesperson confirms Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are among those to have received FPNs. The PM’s wife, Carrie Johnson, also reveals she’s been fined