Daily US Times: Boris Johnson is under renewed pressure after Downing Street admitted staff gathered inside No 10 during the first Covid lockdown to mark his birthday.
ITV News reported that up to 30 people attended the June 2020 event, sang Happy Birthday and were served cake.
No 10 said staff had “gathered briefly” to “wish the prime minister a happy birthday”, adding that he had been there “for less than 10 minutes”.
But a number of MPs have expressed criticism over this latest revelation.
Rules at the time – 19 June 2020 – banned most indoor gatherings involving more than two people.
ITV News said the birthday event had taken place in the Cabinet Room just after 14:00 BST that day, adding that it had been arranged as a surprise for Mr Johnson by his then fiancee, Carrie Symonds, after he returned from an official trip to a school in Hertfordshire.
Environment Secretary George Eustice denied ITV’s claim that 30 people had gathered in the Cabinet Room, saying the number of staff present was “closer to 10” and it “was literally just a birthday cake brought in at the end of the day”.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also denied as many as 30 had been present. He said the group had been working together all day and the cake had been organised by Mr Johnson’s office.
Mr Shapps, whose father was in hospital for four months during the pandemic, told BBC’s Breakfast he was aware of the upset and anger people were feeling as new gatherings came to light.
The BBC has learned that Sue Gray, the senior civil servant compiling a report into gatherings on government premises while Covid restrictions were in place, already knew about the 19 June event.
Her findings are expected to be published later this week.
But in the meantime, a number of MPs have denounced the latest revelation.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said Mr Johnson should reflect on his ability to live by the rules he made himself.
He accused the PM of breaching the trust of the British people and called for him to resign.
Former Conservative Party chair Baroness Warsi told the BBC News Channel it was time for Mr Johnson to “think long and hard about what is in the best interest of this country”.
“The question he should be asking himself every morning is, ‘Is me staying in office allowing me to run this office in a way in which is making the country better, or am I a distraction?'” she added.
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