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UK’s Johnson held birthday party during lockdown — report

British PM already mired in another scandal over staff parties at Downing Street that were banned under virus restrictions, currently under investigation by senior civil servant

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face covering to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, leaves from 10 Downing Street in central London on January 12, 2022.(Tolga Akmen/AFP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face covering to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, leaves from 10 Downing Street in central London on January 12, 2022.(Tolga Akmen/AFP)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke lockdown rules by having a birthday party with up to 30 people present at Downing Street in 2020, a British television channel alleged Monday.

The latest claim comes as the prime minister fights for survival amid a growing scandal over lockdown parties at Downing Street attended by him and his staff, currently the subject of an investigation by a senior civil servant.

ITV reported that Johnson’s then-fiancée Carrie Symonds, who has since become his wife, organized a surprise party for his 56th birthday on June 19, 2020, with up to 30 staff attending.

Under the rules in force at the time, social gatherings were only permitted with six people outside.

Johnson had recently urged the public to “show restraint and respect the rules.”

The ITV report said it understood that those present in the Cabinet Room, a meeting room at 10 Downing Street, included an interior designer who was working on the prime minister’s flat but was not a member of his staff, Lulu Lytle.

In this file photo taken on October 6, 2021 Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and his wife Carrie (R) arrive at the Manchester Central convention center ahead of his keynote speech on the final day of the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, northwest England. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

It alleged that Symonds and Lytle presented Johnson with a cake and his staff sang happy birthday at a party lasting around half an hour.

Downing Street said that staff gathered briefly after a meeting and Johnson attended for less than 10 minutes.

It denied as “totally untrue” a second allegation that the prime minister held a separate party that evening with family friends, saying he met a small number of family members outside.

Critics have accused Johnson of lying to parliament about what he knew and when, with regard to boozy parties held in Downing Street in apparent breach of his own government’s COVID rules over the past two years.

Johnson’s former closest aide, Dominic Cummings, warned on his blog on Monday that “other damaging stories will come out until he (Johnson) is gone.”

The prime minister faces a “no confidence” vote if at least 54 MPs from his party submit letters calling for this.

“The prime minister is a national distraction,” opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer told Sky News in response to the latest allegation.

“In the national interest, he’s just got to go.”

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