Anger is continuing to build after fresh leaks have revealed that more boozy parties were held at Downing Street during lockdown when restrictions banned indoor mixing in April 2021.
In the latest addition to the ongoing “partygate” crisis that’s threatening the Prime Minister’s political future, the two separate gatherings – which were originally reported in The Telegraph yesterday evening – were allegedly said to have occurred on the 16 April, which was the night before the Queen was forced to sit by herself at her husband Prince Philip’s funeral at St George’s Chapel in Windsor.
The gatherings were reported to have included people drinking and dancing to music until the early hours of the morning.
It is claimed that the two 16 April events were held in two different parts of the Downing Street complex, but later joined together in the garden, with around 30 people attending both gatherings combined.
The Telegraph reported that one leaving event was held for James Slack – the Prime Minister’s departing Director of Communications, who left to become Deputy Editor-in-Chief at The Sun newspaper – while another was for one of Mr Johnson’s personal photographers.
It was reported that one staff member was said to have acted as a DJ at one of the events, while another is reported to have expressed fears that too much wine was being spilled on a carpet, while one eyewitness even told the newspaper that a staff member used and broke a child’s swing in the garden belonging to Mr Johnson’s son, Wilfred.
The newspaper’s account of the parties also claimed that one attendee was sent to a nearby supermarket store with a suitcase to be filled with bottles of wine and brought back to Downing Street.
James Slack has released a statement this morning saying he wanted to “apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused” by the gathering held to mark the leaving of his role, adding that the event “should not have happened at the time that it did” and that he “takes full responsibility”.
A Number 10 spokesperson told The Telegraph that the Prime Minister was not in Downing Street that day.
He was said to have been at chequers.
Yet the leaks of these newly-alleged parties only appears to be adding to the growing calls for Mr Johnson to resign or be removed from his role.
Sir Ed Davey – the leader of the Liberal Democrats – took to Twitter to call for the Prime Minister to resign following the fresh claims, saying: “The Queen sitting alone, mourning the loss of her husband, was the defining image of lockdown. Not because she is the Queen, but because she was just another person, mourning alone like too many others.
“Whilst she mourned, Number 10 partied. Johnson must go.”
His comments were also echoed by Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, who too took to Twitter yesterday to write: “The Queen sat alone in mourning like so many did at the time with personal trauma and sacrifice to keep to the rules in the national interest.
“I have no words for the culture and behaviours at Number 10, and the buck stops with the PM.”
Fran Hall – from the campaign group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice – added: “If your neighbours had behaved like this, you’d have been disgusted. For the people running the country to do it and then lie about it, shows a complete disdain for the general public.”
Ms Hall added: “The Conservative MPs that are keeping him in power disgrace their country.”
Five conservative MPs – Caroline Nokes, Douglas Ross, Sir Roger Gale, William Wragg, and the latest, Andrew Bridgen – have publicly announced that they have submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
If a total of 54 letters are received, Mr Johnson will be forced to face a confidence vote over his leadership.
At the time when the newly-alleged parties were held back in April 2021, the country was in a period of national mourning, and England was still under strict COVID lockdown rules that banned socialising with other households indoors unless you had formed a support bubble, and people in England were also prevented from meeting outdoors in groups larger than six, or from more than two households.
Restrictions also limited funerals like Prince Philip’s to just 30 attendees with strict social distancing, while only 15 were allowed to gather for wakes.
These multiple allegations of COVID rule-breaking, both Downing Street and other government buildings, are currently subject to an investigation by senior Civil Servant,Sue Gray – however, she is not expected to report on her findings until next week at the earliest.
Tributes pour in for Manchester City legend and former chairman Franny Lee
Tributes are being paid to Manchester City legend and former chairman Francis ‘Franny’ Lee CBE, who has passed away aged 79.
The ex-Man City, Bolton Wanderers, Derby County and England star is said to have passed away in the early hours on Monday morning, 2 October, following a long battle with cancer.
Speaking via a club statement, his wife Gill along with children Charlotte, Jonny and Nik said, “He will be sorely missed and would like to thank everyone for their kind words”.
Both Manchester teams led tributes to the British footballing legend, with avid City fan Liam Gallagher and countless others joining in paying their respects.
Franny Lee scored 148 goals in 330 appearances during eight-year City, helping the club win multiple honours during their first periods of success, including the old First Division title back in 1968.
Born in Lancashire and starting out elsewhere in Greater Manchester at Bolton Wanderers, he also went on to play for Derby following his time with the Blues, helping the Rams to their second-ever title in 1975.
The striker also had 27 caps for England between 1968–1972, scoring 10 goals and winning FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Charity Shield twice at club level during that period.
Honouring their former centre-forward who went on to serve as Chairman for four years from 1994 onwards, the club statement read, “It is with the deepest sadness and heaviest of hearts we announce the passing of former Manchester City player and Chairman Francis Lee, aged 79”, adding that flags around the Etihad Campus are flying at half-mast.
His first club, Bolton, said of the former marksman, “All at Bolton Wanderers are saddened to learn of the passing of former forward, Francis Lee. The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Francis’ family, friends and loved ones at this difficult time.”
As for legacy as for his time in Blue, the club had already planned to immortalise Lee prior to his death, announcing the erection of a statue back in May 2022, the reveal date of which will no doubt be moved up following his passing.
The club has also assured that “more tributes will follow in the coming days.”
Rest in peace to a legend.
Featured Image — Manchester City/England/Bolton Wanderers (via Twitter)
Government set to announce ban on mobile phones at all schools in England
A ban on mobile phones at all schools in England is expected to be announced by the Government this week.
Although many education institutions nationwide already have their own measures in place, according to reports in several major media outlets today – including BBC News, Sky News, The Guardian, and more – Education Secretary Gillian Keegan is pushing for a move to issue a ‘blanket ban’ on mobile phone usage at all schools in England.
She is poised to announce the ban at the Conservative Party Conference – which is currently happening here in Manchester.
If the ban is successfully introduced, it’s believed that under the new Government guidance, head teachers will be told to prevent all pupils from using mobile phones during the entire school day.
The Department for Education wants the devices banned on breaks too, as well as in class time.
While the Education Secretary appears to be adamant that the ban on the devices is a necessary one, reports are indicating, however, that it will be just guidance and would not actually be enforceable by law, which means the final call will be left up to individual schools to decide on their policy and how they’ll implemented.
It’s also unclear at this stage when the guidance will be published, if approved and introduced, according to Sky News.
Reports on the ban of mobile phones today come after the Government estimated back in 2018 that 95% of schools in England have already imposed restrictions, and also come after both former Schools Minister Nick Gibb, and former Education Secretary Gavin Willamson saying they favoured similar restrictions back in in 2019 and 2021, respectively.
Despite this, however, the Education Department said back in 2022 that blanket national rules were not actually needed, as the majority of schools nationwide were already taking action.
This is likely why some eyebrows at Gillian Keegan’s plans today have been raised.
Dr Patrick Roach, who is the general secretary of teaching union NASUWT, said the Government needs to “focus on properly supporting the work of teachers and headteachers”, rather than announcements “designed to detract attention from more than a decade of policy failure”.
Similarly, the general secretary of the National Education Union, Daniel Kebede, said he hopes the Education Secretary will use her Conference speech today to “announce positive measures that face up to the deep challenges in our schools” instead of “distracting attention from them”.