A gathering in the garden at 10 Downing Street with wine and cheese in May last year during lockdown was a work meeting, Dominic Raab has indicated, noting that those in attendance were “predominantly in formal attire”.
The UK’s justice secretary made the remarks after a photo obtained by the Guardian newspaper showed Boris Johnson with his then-fiancee Carrie, and 17 other staff members in the garden on May 15, 2020, with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard on a table in front of the Prime Minister.
Just days before the gathering, Johnson had told the public that they could go to the park to exercise on their own, or with members of their own household.
But he said that if they wanted to meet someone from outside their household, it would have to be just by themselves and that other person as a pair, and that they should observe social distancing, two metres apart.
Raab defended the gathering whilst appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme on Monday.
It comes amidst a probe into a Christmas party alleged to have been held at Downing Street last year – which last week, the civil servant leading it stepped down from after reports emerged that parties had also been held in his office during the same period.
“There were work meetings held throughout the day, and is often the case in other walks of life, they might have a drink towards the end of it,” he said.
“And because it is also the home of the Prime Minister, then you can also see his wife coming down and checking in on him during that.”
Raab continued: “Of course, doctors and nurses in a clinical setting would not be able to do this, but then again, that is a very different set of considerations on health grounds.”
Speaking on Sky News, Raab noted that a large number of the people at the gathering were “in suits”.
He said: “Number 10 Downing Street and the garden is used for work, it was used throughout that week, I think the PM is there seen just after the press conference he’d done, folk at home will remember the daily press conferences, and he had meetings earlier I think with the health secretary, earlier in the day or in the week.
“And you can see staff there and, look… it was fundamentally a place of work.”
Raab continued: “That’s because it’s a place of work, they’re all in suits, predominantly in formal attire… I think a large number of them… to be honest with you, look, the Prime Minister is in a suit, the officials there.”
He added: “Some of them have taken their jackets off.”