Angela Rayner demands Boris Johnson 'set the tone' and fess-up on whether he attended Downing Street party

The Labour deputy leader asked Sir Lindsay Hoyle if he 'still believed that the Prime Minister was a man of honour and integrity' when asking about the May 20, 2020 event.

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Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner was granted an urgent question in the Commons on the row over the May 20, 2020 Downing Street party.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the “Prime Minister sets the tone”.

She said: “That day, the House heard from the Prime Minister himself that 181 NHS workers and 131 social care staff had died, many people made huge personal sacrifices and the minister, quite frankly, hides behind the Gray investigation.

“There’s no need for an investigation into the simple central question today: did the Prime Minister attend the event in the Downing Street garden on the 20 May 2020? It won’t wash to blame this on a few junior civil servants, the Prime Minister sets the tone.

“If the Prime Minister was there, surely he knew. The invitation was sent to 100 staff, many of them his own most personal senior appointees, this was organised in advance, so did the Prime Minister know about the event beforehand and did he give his permission for it go ahead?

“And if so, did he believe this event was (in) keeping with the restrictions at the time and the guidelines, and was the chief medial officer consulted before it went ahead?”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Boris Johnson’s absence from the Commons for the urgent question “speaks volumes”.

She said: “It is incredibly disappointing, but not unsurprising, that the Prime Minister of whom I asked this question is not here today despite not having any official engagements.

“I think his absence speaks volumes as does his smirks on the media, the public have already drawn their own conclusions. He can run but he can’t hide.”

Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis was heckled relentlessly by opposition MPs as he replied to an urgent question on reports of a gathering in the Downing Street garden on May 20 2020.

Shouts of “where is he?” in relation to Boris Johnson could be heard, with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle saying: “It’s quite obvious it’s not the Prime Minister, so we don’t need to keep asking that question.”

He added on Mr Ellis: “He’s got the tough job as it is, don’t make it harder for him.”

This comes after a senior Downing Street official, Martin Reynolds, who invited more than 100 employees to a “bring your own booze” party in the No 10 garden during Covid restrictions retains the full confidence of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he would not comment on the parties saga while Sue Gray’s investigation was ongoing.

He said: “I can’t comment on the reports and claims, including those we’ve seen today.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate to do so, I appreciate that may be a significant number of questions, but that remains our position.

“I think what everyone wants to do is establish the facts through this independent review and for those facts to be set out clearly once that work is concluded.”

Asked why he would not comment, the spokesman said: “It is simply the case that we wouldn’t want to be seen to be prejudging that ongoing work.

“I think given the claims and speculation that’s been reported on, what’s right is that the independent inquiry’s allowed to carry out its work and we’re not seen to prejudge that in any way by only setting out our position to that investigation.”

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman confirmed Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, “continues in his role” after ITV news revealed he invited employees to the gathering during England’s first lockdown in May 2020.

Asked whether Mr Johnson still had full confidence in one of his most senior aides, the spokesman said he did.

The leaked email, which came to light on Monday, said: “Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening.

“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”

Mr Johnson will avoid scrutiny over the allegation on Tuesday, as paymaster general Michael Ellis was instead dispatched to face an urgent question in the Commons.

Asked what the Prime Minister was doing rather than responding himself, the PM’s spokesman said: “I don’t have the full diary in front of me at the moment but it’s not uncommon, obviously, for Government ministers to answer these sorts of questions.”