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Norfolk Conservative chiefs tight-lipped over new Downing Street lockdown party revelations



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Norfolk’s Conservative MPs and council leaders have declined to offer support for embattled prime minister Boris Johnson over allegations he attended a party in the Downing Street garden during lockdown.

The government has been weathering a storm of news stories about lockdown-busting parties in May, November and December 2020, while the country was enduring some of the strictest rules since the pandemic began.

On Monday, ITV News revealed a leaked email from the PM’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, inviting 100 staff to “socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden” on May 20, 2020.

The invitation for the event, held when strict lockdown rules were still in place, encouraged people to “bring your own booze” and “make the most of the lovely weather”.

Witnesses have reported that the prime minister and his wife Carrie had been among about 30 people who attended the gathering, but Mr Johnson has declined to confirm or deny this.

A senior civil servant, Sue Gray, is conducting an inquiry into the allegations.

Norfolk’s eight Conservative MPs and six Conservative council leaders were approached to get their reaction to the latest claims.

The politicians were asked whether the most recent allegations called into question the prime minister’s position and what they would like to see happen next.

They were also asked whether they had a message for their constituents – who were required to make significant sacrifices to their personal and social lives at the time the alleged party was held.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said: “It is absolutely right that these events are under investigation. If they are true, they are deeply concerning.

“I expect the investigations to leave those individuals involved, fully accountable as soon as possible.

“I have every faith in Sue Gray conducting her investigations and I understand the police are in touch with the Cabinet Office.”

Mr Baker said the investigation could take another “ten or so days” to conclude.

Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew said the leaked email inviting workers to the gathering “suggests an extraordinary approach to the lockdown rules by Downing Street staff”, but did not acknowledge the prime minister’s purported attendance.

“It is as though they considered the people working face-to-face there to be some kind of ‘super bubble’,” said Mr Mayhew.

“It requires a full response from Downing Street and should also form part of the investigation being carried out by Sue Gray, which is due to report shortly.

“A transparent investigation will show us what went on and we will then be best placed to respond appropriately.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “We have to wait and see what her findings are – and I hope this does not take too long.”

West Norfolk borough council leader Stuart Dark was among those who declined to comment, along with the Norwich North MP Chloe Smith and Broadland Council leader Shaun Vincent.

Mr Dark claimed the full circumstances were not clear.

Also approached for comment were: South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, Breckland District Council leader Sam Chapman-Allen, Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller, Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor, Great Yarmouth Borough Council leader Carl Smith, South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss and North West Norfolk MP James Wild – but none responded.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard told the national media on Monday evening: “The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on May 20 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said after the news of the email broke: “Boris Johnson has consistently shown that he has no regard for the rules he puts in place for the rest of us.

“He is trying to get officials to take the fall for his own mistakes, but he sets the tone for the way Downing Street and the rest of government operates.

“At the time this party took place, key workers on the frontline were working round the clock to keep us all safe, people suffered loneliness and loss in unimaginably tough circumstances and for the majority of the country our freedom was limited to a daily walk.”



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