Downing Street and government ministers are speaking out to defend a controversial photo that emerged over the weekend that appears to show the Prime Minister at a lockdown gathering.
Since the emergence of the photo in question – which was first published in The Guardian yesterday – Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been coming under significant pressure to answer questions over the series of alleged gatherings that were believed to have been held at Number 10 during various lockdown restrictions last year.
The photo published yesterday shows the Prime Minister, his wife Carrie, and several colleagues enjoying cheese and wine in the Downing Street garden on 15 May 2020 – which was during the first national lockdown.
The newspaper reported that 19 people were present at the gathering, and that there were “spirits and pizza inside and outside the building”.
Restrictions in place during the first national lockdown meant that the alleged gathering happened at a time when the British public were still being asked to remain two metres apart from each other, both indoors and outdoors, and were being urged to “stay at home as much as is possible”, while schools did not reopen for another fortnight, and many pubs and restaurants were ordered to remain closed until early July.
The emergence of the photo comes not long after the government was accused of hosting two other mid-lockdown gatherings, during November and December 2020 – which, despite strong criticism from opposition, has continued to deny.
The emergence of the photo over has resulted in national public outcry online over the weekend.
As well as outrage by members of the public on social media, the photo has of course prompted heavy criticism from opposition politicians and parties, with Labour demanding “the truth” about the situation be revealed and Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Wes Streeting insisting that it’s “no laughing matter” how the Prime Minister lies with “ease”.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner also took to Twitter to say: “I guess staff meetings look a bit different if you went to Eton?
“Enough is enough.
“Tell us the truth about what was going on in Downing Street from the very beginning immediately.”
Former Labour politician and onceSecretary of State for Children, Schools and Families also chimed in with some specifics to add that he was “pretty sure this is the view from the 11 Downing Street first floor balcony.”
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – also said this morning that photo adds to a “culture of impunity” reflected in a number of stories over the last few weeks, adding that the Prime Minister has “made a lifetime of thinking rules don’t apply to him”, and that the country is now in a situation where the public health message is being “undermined”.
Yet despite all of this criticism and demand for the truth to be told, Downing Street has insisted that the photo shows a “staff meeting”.
A government spokesperson explained in a statement: “As we said last week, work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months [and] on this occasion, there were staff meetings following a Number 10 press conference.
“Downing Street is the prime minister’s home as well as his workplace [and] he prime minister’s wife lives in Number 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden.”
This statement by the spokesperson has also been echoed and enforced this morning by Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who told host Kay Burley during an appearance on Sky News this morning that Downing Street is a “place of work”.
He then said that the meeting was “consistent” with the COVID-19 guidance issued by the government at the time.
“Number 10 is a place of work and also the prime minister’s home and they use the garden for work meetings and that’s what you can see,” he concluded.
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner – who examines coronavirus regulations and interprets them for the public – said in on Twitter over the weekend that he was “doubtful” the gathering “was against the law”, but that it may have been against guidance.
He added that there was “no way of knowing that they weren’t working”.
Featured Image – 10 Downing Street
Holly Willoughby delivers honest and emotional statement addressing Phillip Schofield scandal on This Morning return
Holly Willoughby has officially addressed the ongoing Phillip Schofield scandal on her return to This Morning on Monday.
Making her first appearance since the pair both dropped off the show following Schofield’s admission that he had a relationship with a younger man who worked on the show, his former co-presenter jumped straight into the issue at the top of the show.
“Firstly, are you OK? I hope so. It feels very strange sitting here without Phil and I know that you might be feeling a lot like I have: shaken, troubled, let down, worried for the wellbeing on all sides of what’s been going on, and have lots of questions.
“You, me and all of us at This Morning gave our love and support to someone who was not telling the truth, who acted in a way that they themselves felt they had to resign from ITV and step down from a career they loved. That is a lot to process and it’s equally hard to see the toll that has taken on their own mental health.”
The 42-year-old went on to say, “I think what unites us all now is a desire to heal for the health and wellbeing of everyone. I hope that as we start this new chapter and get back to a place of warmth and magic that this show holds for all of us, we can find strength in each other.
“From my heart, can I just say thank you for all your kind messages and thank you for being here this morning. Myself, Josie, Dermot, Alison, Craig and everyone who works on this show will continue to work hard every single day to bring you the show that we love.”
Stand-in host Josie Gibson then hugged Holly and said: “All we can do now is be the family that we are”.
After making it through the statement, Holly and Josie then jumped back into the regularly scheduled programming as usual.
As for the scandal itself, Schofield recently gave an exclusive interview with the BBC admitting that his “career is over” and had “suicidal thoughts” after the story broke, as well as insisting that he hasn’t spoken with Holly since apart from sending her an apology via text following his own statement.
The 61-year-old continues to deny allegations that he groomed the man he maintained a relationship with for a number of years but ITV has stated that they are continuing to investigate the situation following his resignation.
Tribute paid to gran, 51, stabbed to death in broad daylight in Tameside
A 51-year-old woman who was stabbed to death in broad daylight last week has been named as Michelle Hodgkinson, as her family issue a heartbreaking tribute.
She has been described as ‘the most amazing, loving, selfless and funny daughter, mother, mother-in-law, sister, auntie and most recently a nanna’.
Michelle, or ‘our Shelly B’ had been walking along Edge Lane on Friday 2 June when she was approached by a male and stabbed.
Emergency services rushed to the scene but tragically, Michelle died at the scene.
She had just been going about her day, walking to meet her mum so that she could take her shopping.
A 28-year-old man has been arrested arrested on suspicion of murder and has since been detained under the Mental Health Act.
Michelle was a community-driven individual with a long history of charity work and volunteering, as well as being her family’s ‘biggest cheerleader’.
In tribute to her issued through GMP, Michelle’s family said: “Everyone who knows Michelle is in utter shock at the attack she endured and how horrific her last moments were. Our Shelly B was the most amazing, loving, selfless and funny daughter, mother, mother-in-law, sister, auntie and most recently a nanna. It was a privilege to have been known and loved by her.
“She loved helping people in her community and was known for volunteering as an appropriate adult, her charity work and loved creating hampers to make people smile. She would be there for anyone and the day she was taken from us, she was doing just that – walking to meet her mum to take her shopping and to go for a coffee.
“Our family and friends are heartbroken. In one moment our world has crumbled and will never be the same. We will support each other, and we thank and appreciate the love and support shown by our family and friends. Please hold your loved ones close, tell them you love them and make memories.
“Words cannot describe how much she will be missed. Our biggest cheerleader, our confidant, our rock – she will never be forgotten. We love you to the moon and back! We’ll do everything we can to get justice. Love you forever and always!”