Aylesbury MP responds to calls urging him to condemn the Prime Minister over alleged Covid lockdown party

Further government leaks revealed that 100 people were invited to a Downing Street party at a time when the nation was in lockdown

By James Lowson
Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 4:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 4:05 pm

Aylesbury MP Rob Butler has responded to calls asking him to condemn the prime minister for attending a Downing Street party during lockdown.

Today (January 12), prime minister Boris Johnson has admitted to attending a garden party at 10 Downing Street, while the country was in lockdown.

Mr Johnson claims that the gathering was a work event and didn't "technically" break Covid restrictions at the time, but has apologised for the upset caused.

Aylesbury MP Rob Butler

In front of the House of Commons ahead of 'Prime Minister's Questions', Mr Johnson said: “Mr Speaker, I want to apologise.

“I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.

"I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.

“I know the rage they feel with me, and with the government I lead, when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules were not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.

“With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside, [but it] could be said, [the event did] technically, fall within the guidance."

After Mr Johnson's announcement, Aylesbury's MP stated he was 'pleased' that Mr Johnson accepted wrongdoing for the garden get together.

Prior to the Prime Minister's apology, Aylesbury Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesperson Steven Lambert had called for Mr Butler to condemn his party leader.

A leaked email that was shared across social media revealed that 100 people were invited to “socially distanced drinks” in Downing Street.

This "bring your own booze" event was organised back in the spring of 2020, at a time when England was still in lockdown.

Mr Lambert said: “After seeing the email which shows 100 people being invited to a party at Downing Street during lockdown, I call on Aylesbury’s MP asking him to condemn Boris Johnson’s behaviour and apologise on behalf of their party to the people of this town."

Mr Butler told the Bucks Herald: "The reports of a party in the garden of 10 Downing Street in May 2020 have rightly provoked rage and deeply upset people across the Aylesbury constituency.

"I fully understand the strength of anger and distress when at the same time, so many local people were obeying the rules and making huge sacrifices in their own lives: sometimes even being separated from relatives in their final days, when they most needed comfort and support.

"I am therefore pleased that the Prime Minister has today taken full responsibility and apologised for what happened that evening. He was right to do so. The Prime Minister said he regrets very much that things were not done differently and that he should have sent the staff in the garden back inside.

"I entirely agree with him. It is also right that he has committed to come back to the House of Commons to take more questions when the formal inquiry into reports of all parties, not just the one in May 2020, has concluded.”

Part of Mr Lambert's anger stems from the fact that there were other incidents when government officials appeared to break lockdown laws.

The Liberal Democrat spokesperson referenced Dominic Cummings controversial trip from London to Durham during the first national lockdown.

At a time when he was chief adviser to the prime minister, Mr Cummings travelled to his father's property on March 27, and then visited Barnard Castle.

The former chief adviser claimed he drove to the North East to stay at a property near his father's home, as his sister had offered to assist with childcare, while his wife was ill with Covid.

This was during a time of national lockdown when the prime minister had stated people must not travel except for essential journeys.

Mr Cummings justified the second trip to Barnard Castle, by claiming he was testing his eyesight, after contracting Covid-like symptoms himself.

Mr Lambert added: "I wrote to Mr Butler last year after Dominic Cummings 'trip' to Durham expressing my and that of our resident's anger and frustration at what appears to be 'one rule for them and one rule for us'. Now it is clear that it wasn't just Cummings breaking the spirit of the law but also the PM and staff.

"Boris Johnson’s Conservative party is taking this country for fools. People in this area will see right through his poor excuses and evasive answers. Rob Butler cannot continue to remain

silent and ignore media scrutiny as he has done so far. He needs to take accountability for this government’s actions.

"People in Aylesbury spent their Christmas away from loved ones and many lost friends and family to this disease. At a time of great sacrifice when the pandemic was at its worst, it is

disgraceful to think that people in Downing Street were laughing about holding a Christmas party.

"Enough is enough. This government must be held accountable to an inquiry into all their rule breaking; from Barnard Castle to the refurbishment of the Number 10 flat to this latest

rule breaking. It cannot be one rule for them and another for the rest of us.”