The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Boris Johnson ‘birthday bash’ added to list of alleged lockdown parties

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he leaves Downing Street on Jan. 19. (John Sibley/Reuters)
Placeholder while article actions load

LONDON — A British broadcaster on Monday reported that yet another alleged “bash” occurred at 10 Downing Street during strict lockdown, this one to celebrate Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s birthday in June 2020, at a time when rules designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus forbid indoor social gatherings.

ITV News also said that on the evening of the same day, June 19, 2020, Johnson hosted family and friends upstairs in the prime minister’s residence, another breach of the government’s own orders.

The allegations come as Johnson awaits an investigative report by senior civil servant Sue Gray into a string of allegations about garden parties, “bring your own booze” fetes and basement “blowouts” at 10 Downing Street, which like the White House, serves as both office and residence for the country’s leader.

Johnson earlier this month apologized to the British public for attending one garden party, briefly. Downing Street has maintained that other gatherings were work events.

The prime minister is facing a rebellion in his own Conservative Party by lawmakers upset over what they see as reckless hypocrisy. The opposition Labour Party has charged that it’s one rule for the people and another for Johnson and his staff.

As for the latest allegations, a Downing Street spokesperson told The Washington Post that staff members “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.”

ITV News said it was a surprise party, with cake and singing, attended by 30 people, organized by the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson.

As for the alleged evening party, the same Downing Street spokesperson said, “This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time the Prime Minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson continued to confront questions from Parliament on Jan. 19 over his government's flouting of coronavirus restrictions. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard/The Washington Post)

At that point in the pandemic, although many restrictions were in place, Johnson was being bullish about Britain’s trajectory. On June 19, he visited a school to promote that “schools are safe.” He had reopened nonessential shops in England earlier that week. And days later, he would announce a further relaxation of rules, declaring that “our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end.”

But after the report of the birthday bash, many on social media shared a post from March 2020, days before Britain’s first lockdown, when Johnson thanked a 7-year-old for postponing her birthday party because of the pandemic.

The child wrote to Johnson, “I want to let you know it is my birthday today but I am staying at home because you asked us to. I think mummy and daddy might have to cancel my party but I don’t mind because I want everybody to be OK.”

In a tweet on March 21, 2020, Johnson replied, “Josephine sets a great example to us all by postponing her birthday party until we have sent coronavirus packing.”