THE UK Government has been accused of “taking the public for fools” after a picture was published showing Boris Johnson and more than a dozen of his staff drinking wine in the No 10 garden during the first lockdown last year.
Downing Street has claimed that staff who were photographed in the garden last May eating and drinking wine were discussing work matters.
Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said having a drink “after a long day or long week” was not against the regulations when asked about the photo, published by the Guardian.
Exclusive – Boris Johnson has been pictured with wine and cheese alongside his wife and up to 17 staff in the Downing Street garden during lockdown – with @GuardianHeather and @peterwalker99
— Rowena Mason (@rowenamason) December 19, 2021
The photo shows Mr Johnson, his then-fiancee Carrie, and 17 other staff members in the garden on May 15, 2020, with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard on a table in front of the Prime Minister.
Mr Raab told Times Radio: “Downing Street used that garden as a place of work. They used it for work meetings. The photo is from a day when, I think, the Prime Minister had just done a press conference.
“And sometimes they’ll have a drink after a long day or a long week. And that’s not against the regulations.”
On Mr Johnson’s then-fiancee Carrie being there, Mr Raab said: “It is not just a place of work for all the staff that work in Number 10 and the Prime Minister, but it is also the the residence of the Prime Minister and his very young family.
“I genuinely don’t think it gets classified as a party because Carrie popped down and spent a little bit of time there with her husband.”
But Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed said: “Dominic Raab has spent hours this month taking the public for fools instead of dealing with the massive problems the Conservatives have created in the justice system.
“Raab and this high-tax, soft-on-crime Conservative government should be tackling the courts backlog and raising the pitifully low conviction rate for rape in this country.
“It is yet another slap in the face of the British public, who will rightly think that it is one rule for Boris Johnson and this Government, and another rule for everyone else.
“Raab needs to stop wasting time defending the indefensible and start doing his job.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “These were individuals in Downing Street – officials, staff – who were meeting after the most recent press conference that day, so meeting out of hours.
“There were meetings taking place both inside and outside No 10.
“This shows colleagues who were required to be in work, meeting following a press conference to discuss work.”
Asked why the Prime Minister’s wife was there, the spokesman said: “Downing Street is also a private residence for both the Prime Minister and Chancellor.
“The Prime Minister’s wife has use of her garden. It is effectively her garden.”