How Dominic Cummings lit the fuse on latest Number 10 'party' row

How Dominic Cummings lit the fuse on the latest Number 10 ‘party’ row: PM’s ex-chief aide started the ball rolling last week with fresh claim of ‘socially distanced drinks’ in May 2020 as he stepped up his war with Boris Johnson

  • Dominic Cummings made fresh claim last week of No10 drinks event on May 20 
  • Leaked email from senior No10 official has now backed up Mr Cummings’ claim
  • It is the latest in a series of attacks launched by Mr Cummings on Boris Johnson
  • PM’s ex-aide left Downing Street in November 2020 after losing power struggle

Dominic Cummings lit the fuse on the latest Downing Street ‘party’ row last week when he published bombshell claims of a ‘socially distanced drinks’ event being held in Number 10 on May 20, 2020.

A Cabinet Office probe led by senior official Sue Gray was already looking into allegations of a series of Covid rule-busting events in Whitehall during the course of the pandemic.  

But the May 20 date had not been highlighted publicly before and Mr Cummings’ claims breathed new life into a dispute which has rocked Boris Johnson’s premiership. 

A leaked email emerged last night which showed Martin Reynolds, Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, had invited more than 100 Downing Street staff to an event in the Number 10 garden on May 20, 2020.  

The email obtained by ITV News showed Mr Reynolds had invited staff to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’ and to ‘bring your own booze’. 

The message backed up Mr Cummings’ initial claims as the former adviser scored a direct hit on his old boss as the war between the two men escalated. 

Dominic Cummings reignited his war with Boris Johnson last week after he claimed a ‘socially distanced drinks’ event was held in the Downing Street garden on May 20, 2020 

Mr Cummings left Downing Street in November 2020 after losing an internal power struggle. 

Since that point he has been a vocal critic of Mr Johnson, repeatedly mocking the PM and taking aim at his handling of the pandemic.  

However, it is the initial claims surrounding the May 20 event which could do more damage to Mr Johnson than any of Mr Cummings’ previous salvos.  

In a blog post published on January 7, Mr Cummings dismissed claims of a rule-breaking ‘cheese and wine’ gathering taking place in the Number 10 garden on May 15, 2020, after a leaked photograph showed him sitting alongside Mr Johnson. 

He echoed Downing Street in saying that gathering was work-related and no Covid restrictions had been broken. 

But he then said the Cabinet Office probe into parties ‘should investigate the “Socially Distanced Drinks” email sent on Wednesday 20 May 2020’. 

Mr Cummings wrote: ‘On Wednesday 20 May, the week after this photo, a senior No10 official invited people to “socially distanced drinks” in the garden.

‘I and at least one other spad (in writing so Sue Gray can dig up the original email and the warning) said that this seemed to be against the rules and should not happen.

‘We were ignored. I was ill and went home to bed early that afternoon but am told this event definitely happened.’ 

The email from Mr Reynolds was then leaked to ITV News and published on Monday evening, plunging Downing Street into a fresh crisis. 

Mr Cummings used the same blog post to accuse Mr Johnson of telling ‘multiple lies’ about alleged parties. 

The Vote Leave maverick had alleged in December last year that there were more rule-breaking parties in Downing Street that should be investigated. 

They included an allegation that an event was held in the Prime Minister’s own flat on the day that Mr Cummings left Number 10. 

Mr Cummings declared that ‘regime change is coming’ as the furore over an alleged Christmas party in Number 10 on December 18, 2020, rumbled on.             

Mr Cummings, who now uses a shopping trolley emoji on Twitter to refer to Mr Johnson, a reference to the PM’s apparently chaotic approach to decision making, has not confined his attacks to coronavirus matters. 

In September 2021 he labelled Mr Johnson’s Cabinet shake-up a ‘Carrie Reshuffle’ as he claimed the PM’s wife had influenced appointments. Downing Street categorically rejected the suggestion.      

He also criticised the PM in the same month over his £12billion raid on National Insurance to boost the health service. 

Mr Cummings left Downing Street in November 2020 after losing an internal power struggle

Mr Cummings said that Number 10 ‘can’t do anything but spend’ taxpayers’ money as he labelled the tax rise decision a ‘good day’ for the Labour Party. 

The previous high point in the war of words between Mr Cummings and Mr Johnson came in May last year when the former gave evidence to MPs on the Government’s handling of the pandemic. 

Mr Cummings lobbed a series of very personal criticisms at Mr Johnson as he questioned the premier’s character and ability to lead the country.

He also said it was ‘crackers’ that Mr Johnson ever ended up in Number 10 as he painted a picture of a vain and dithering figure who is obsessed with the media. 

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