Boris Johnson 'wandered round Downing Street party shaking hands after staff bought booze from Tesco'
Fresh claims have emerged that Boris Johnson "wandered round" a Downing Street party during lockdown, with reports saying the PM was seen “gladhanding people”.
Johnson admitted on Wednesday that he did attend the event during lockdown in May 2021, but claimed he believed it was a work event.
The PM acknowledged the public “rage” over the incident and offered a "heartfelt apology".
A leak on Monday of an email from Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, revealed how Downing Street staff were invited to a gathering in May 2020 – when people in England were only allowed to meet one person outside – to “make the most of the lovely weather”.
Watch: Boris Johnson admits he went to No10 party during lockdown
According to The Times, a bar was set up in the Number 10 garden, and staff members brought alcohol – including gin and various bottles of wine – that they had bought from a Tesco Express next to Westminster station.
One Tory MP claimed that the events was in fact a "welcome back party" for the PM himself, who had been in hospital with COVID.
Simon Hoare told Sky News: As I understand it, and this is sort of a third-hand understanding, this was a party organised to say, in the first instance welcome back prime minister.
"He’d been in hospital. I think I got the timeline right.
"He’d been in hospital and then recuperating at Chequers. It was also a way of saying thank you to Dominic Raab for holding the fort.”
However a government spokesperson denied that Raab had attended or even been invited to the party.
The PM faced calls to resign from Labour leader Keir Starmer, who described the PM's excuse that he didn't think he was attending a party as "so ridiculous it's actually offensive".
Tory MPs have also openly warned Johnson he should quit if he has been shown to have lied.
The disclosure of the May 2020 party has triggered a new wave of public anger following the reports last year of parties in the run up to Christmas.
The PM has said it is a matter for Sue Gray, the senior civil servant who is investigating a series of reported parties in Downing Street and elsewhere in Whitehall in the course of 2020, to determine exactly what happened.
The leader of the Scottish Tories, Douglas Ross, warned this week that Johnson could not carry on in No 10 if he was found to have misled Parliament.
Backbencher Neil Hudson said he was “appalled and shocked” by the reports, adding “if rules have been broken then quite rightly there should be serious consequences”.
No ministers were on the airwaves on Wednesday morning to answer questions about the partygate row in a sign of the nervousness in Downing Street about the situation.
With the public mood turning increasingly angry, two snap polls found a majority now believed Johnson should stand down as prime minister.
A Savanta ComRes study found 66% of British adults thought he should quit, with 24% saying he should stay, while a YouGov survey for Sky News found 56% believed he should go, with 27% saying he should remain.
Watch: Partygate - A timeline of Boris Johnson’s alleged rule breaks