May 21, 2022

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Dominic Raab insists it’s ‘not freshers week’ in No10 in row over lockdown garden photo

Dominic Raab insists it’s ‘not freshers week’ in No10 in row over lockdown garden photo
Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie were pictured in the Downing Street garden along with 17 staff members in May last year, with attendees enjoying wine and cheeseVideo LoadingVideo UnavailableNick Ferrari questions Raab on 'freshers' week' at Downing StreetDominic Raab has been forced to insist it was "not freshers week" in Downing Street as another…

Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie were pictured in the Downing Street garden along with 17 staff members in May last year, with attendees enjoying wine and cheese

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Nick Ferrari questions Raab on ‘freshers’ week’ at Downing Street

Dominic Raab has been forced to insist it was “not freshers week” in Downing Street as another picture emerged of staff gathering during the pandemic.

The photo, obtained by the Guardian, shows Boris Johnson and his now-wife Carrie in the Downing Street garden along with 17 staff members on May 15, 2020, with attendees enjoying wine and cheese.

The PM can be seen sitting at a garden table with Carrie, and two members of staff, with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard on the table.

Four other members of staff are sat around a second table, nine people are gathered on the grass, and another two are sitting on the floor to the right.

At the time, only two people were allowed to meet outside in public places and social distancing had to be obeyed.

Work meetings were only allowed in person if absolutely necessary.

Downing Street insisted the gathering was was not a breach of lockdown rules as it was a work meeting – and the PM and his wife life at No10 so were entitled to use the garden.

Deputy PM Dominic Raab insisted that the picture showed a work meeting
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

It comes amid a furore over a string of allegations about potential rule-breaking in Westminster after the Mirror first reported that a Christmas party was held in Downing Street last year.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab sought to defend the Government in a chaotic broadcast round where he insisted it was not a party.

But Labour’s Angela Rayner urged the Government to “tell us the truth” about what was going on in Downing Street.

She tweeted: “I guess staff meetings look a bit different if you went to Eton?

“Enough is enough. Tell us the truth about what was going on in Downing Street from the very beginning immediately Boris Johnson.”

Mr Raab insisted that no rules had been broken on Monday but sowed more confusion by appearing to suggest they were having a drink after a long day – rather than holding a staff meeting.

He 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.

Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie inside their flat
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Image:

Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)

“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, he 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.”

LBC presenter Nick Ferrari challenged him, saying: “It’s like freshers week in Number 10, isn’t it? There’s a party every other day.”

Mr Raab hit back, saying it “does not look like freshers week” and added: “People after a series of work meetings having something to drink which was consistent with the rules at the time.”

A No 10 spokesperson said: “As we said last week, work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months. On this occasion there were staff meetings after a No 10 press conference.

“Downing Street is the Prime Minister’s home as well as his workplace. The Prime Minister’s wife lives in No 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden.”

Top barrister Adam Wagner, an expert on coronavirus regulations, said he was “doubtful it was against the law”, but that it may have been against guidance.

He said the regulations stated “you couldn’t be outside the place you were living without a reasonable excuse” and that working would be such a reason.

And that there was “no way of knowing from a pic that they weren’t working”.

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