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Boris Johnson is in hot water for hosting a BYOB party during the U.K.'s 2020 lockdown

A 2020 email from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's private secretary shows that 10 Downing Street hosted a private party, at a time when the country was under lockdown. Johnson is seen here visiting a pharmacy in his home constituency of Uxbridge, England, on Monday.
Leon Neal
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Getty Images
A 2020 email from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's private secretary shows that 10 Downing Street hosted a private party, at a time when the country was under lockdown. Johnson is seen here visiting a pharmacy in his home constituency of Uxbridge, England, on Monday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office is under fire after an email emerged showing his private secretary invited people to a lawn party at 10 Downing Street when the rest of the country was under a strict COVID-19 lockdown. Martin Reynolds' email concluded, "bring your own booze!"

The party is said to have occurred on May 20, 2020. The email invitation was first reported by ITV, which says "around 40 staff gathered in the garden that evening, eating picnic food and drinking. Crucially, they included the Prime Minister and his wife Carrie Johnson."

The Metropolitan Police says it's talking to the government about the apparent party. On the date in question, people in England were required to remain in their homes and away from others unless they had a "reasonable excuse," such as exercising. It wasn't until June 1, 2020, that Johnson's government eased the rules enough to allow some outdoor gatherings — and those were limited to six people.

It's the latest public relations headache for the prime minister's office. In recent months, British media have reported that Downing Street also hosted a holiday party in December 2020, when London and other parts of the nation were again under lockdown orders.

The U.K.'s Cabinet Office has launched an inquiry, led by civil servant Sue Gray, into allegations that Johnson's office broke its own rules about coronavirus restrictions.

When Johnson was asked about the latest accusations on Monday, he refused to discuss the matter, replying, "All of that, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation by Sue Gray."

In response to the new claims, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer accused Johnson of knowing about and attending the parties, despite his previous statements.

"Stop lying to the British public," Starmer said. "It's time to finally come clean."

The May 20 party occurred weeks after Johnson recovered from COVID-19. In early May 2020, the prime minister said his own battle with the disease, which included a stint in intensive care, "could have gone either way."

Last fall, the U.K.'s Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee issued a report stating that the British government's early approach to the pandemic, including the delay in adopting lockdowns, was "one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.