Boris Johnson made the decision to implement Tier 4 Covid lockdowns – ruining Christmas plans for millions of Brits – while senior civil servants partied the night away in Downing St, leaked WhatsApp messages reveal.
A No10 Christmas party raged on December 18, 2020, which saw civil servants spill wine on the walls of the press office and partygoers leave the carnage to attend ‘official meetings’ according to Sue Gray’s Partygate report.
All the while, the then Prime Minister was sat in the Cabinet room drawing up plans to announce that regular citizens in high-risk areas were to stay at home.
The timing of the party was revealed by time stamps on WhatsApp messages exchanged between then Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Simon Case, the then permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, according to The Daily Telegraph who obtained the messages.
MailOnline has contacted No10, the Cabinet Office and Boris Johnson for comment.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference in response to the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street on December 19, 2020 in London, England
A No. 10 Christmas party raged on December 18, 2020, which saw civil servants spill wine on the walls of the press office and partygoers leave the carnage to attend ‘official meetings’ according to Sue Gray’s Partygate report (Johnson pictured at a lockdown party)
Hours after the No. 10 party on December 18, Johnson addressed the nation, telling people they were facing reinforced restrictions and that they could no longer travel.
‘First, we will introduce new restrictions in the most affected areas – specifically those parts of London, the South East and the East of England which are currently in tier 3,’ the then Prime Minister said.
‘These areas will enter a new tier 4… that means residents in those areas must stay at home, apart from limited exemptions set out in law.
‘Second, we are issuing new advice on travel… We are asking everyone, in all tiers, to stay local.’
This advice came less than 24 hours after civil servants were quaffing booze in the halls of Downing St – and just three days after Johnson had told the nation that ‘it would not be right to criminalise people who have made plans and simply want to spend time with their loved ones [at Christmas].’
The sickening revelation comes as messages revealed that Matt Hancock said the Government must ‘get heavy with the police’ to make them crack down on lockdown rule-breakers and gave senior police officers ‘their marching orders’ to enforce restrictions.
Hancock made the second comment days before No 10 staff held an illicit party at Downing Street. The leaked texts to The Daily Telegraph also reveal that senior officers were hauled into No 10 to be told they should be stricter with the public.
This is despite ministers claiming at the time that the police were operationally independent of the Government.
On August 28, 2020, Case asked Hancock: ‘Who is actually delivering enforcement?’
The Government must ‘get heavy with the police’ to make them crack down on lockdown rule-breakers, Matt Hancock said during the pandemic
This is despite ministers claiming at the time that the police were operationally independent of the Government (file image)
Hancock replied: ‘I think we are going to have to get heavy with the police.’
After a meeting on January 10, 2021, one week after England entered its third national lockdown, Hancock texted about how ‘the plod got their marching orders’.
The meeting was attended by Boris Johnson, then home secretary Priti Patel and Case, who is now the Cabinet Secretary.
On January 14, a gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of two private secretaries. The Metropolitan Police later said this event breached the rules in place at the time.
It also emerged that Johnson feared he had ‘blinked too soon’ by plunging Britain into a second lockdown during the pandemic.
The then prime minister made the observation in private messages after being told that modelling he had been shown predicting death numbers was ‘very wrong’.
The messages, leaked by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was a ghost-writer on Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries, show he expressed the fear on November 1, 2020, a day after he announced a national lockdown would come into force a few days later.
Despite his fears, the lockdown went ahead and lasted for a month.
The messages raise fresh questions about whether ministers were making decisions about curbing people’s freedoms based on the science, as they always insisted. It also raises the prospect that people were forced to abide by draconian restrictions for more time than was necessary.
In one message on November 1 that year, Johnson said he had held an online conference call with scientists Dr Raghib Ali and Dr Carl Heneghan.
He told those in the messaging group that Dr Heneghan had said ‘the death modelling you have been shown is already very wrong’ because it was out of date due to having been drawn up three weeks previously.
The previous day, Johnson had announced an impending national lockdown, justifying the decision by pointing to public modelling that 4,000 people could die daily without action. But this data projected what could happen in the event of no restrictions being ordered.
The then PM shared a link in the exchanges suggesting that the modelling was out by a factor of four, with a newer Cambridge study suggesting 1,000 deaths a day would occur.
Referring to the idea that ministers could be criticised for announcing a lockdown too early, Johnson wrote: ‘The attack is going to be that we blinked too soon.’ Previous messages reveal how Johnson was told that lifting curbs earlier than planned was not in line with what the public wanted.
A message Johnson sent to Hancock on June 6, 2020, said he was ‘thinking hard about the 15th June’. On June 15, ministers were planning on opening non-essential retail premises. But Johnson’s message suggested he wanted to go further and remove more restrictions.
However, he was warned by his senior media advisers Lee Cain and James Slack not to do so. Johnson said they ‘still think the whole package will be too far ahead of public opinion’.