THE “bring your own booze” bash held at Downing Street during the height of lockdown was a “welcome back” party thrown for the Prime Minister, a Tory MP has said.

Simon Hoare, the Conservative MP for North Dorset, told Sky News that the party had also been thrown as a way of saying “thank you to Dominic Raab for holding the fort”.

In the late evening of Monday April 6, 2020, Boris Johnson was put into intensive care after he fell ill with the coronavirus. He asked Raab to deputise for him in his absence.

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The Prime Minister left hospital on Sunday April 12, to go to Chequers for a period of recovery.

Hoare said that the party, which saw around 100 staff invited to “bring your own booze” to the No 10 garden on May 20, 2020, had been put together to welcome Johnson back from that period of recovery.

However, he said he did not know whether Johnson had been aware the event was taking place, or if the 30-40 people in attendance had “just jumped out of the shrubbery and shouted surprise”.

The National:

The North Dorset MP (above) told Sky News: “As I understand it, and this is sort of a third-hand understanding, this was a party organised to say in the first instance welcome back, Prime Minister.

“He'd been in hospital. I think I got the timeline right. He'd been in hospital and then recuperating at Chequers. It was also a way of saying thank you to Dominic Raab for holding the fort.”

The news comes as Boris Johnson’s press secretary refused to deny that the Prime Minister had taken his own bottle, or had a drink, at the May 20 bash.

Robert Peston, ITV’s political editor, said he had heard that Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, had been seen drinking gin at the event.

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The press secretary also told journalists that Johnson had not seen the now infamous email sent by his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, inviting the some 100 staff to “make the most of the lovely weather”.

They also refused to say if Raab had been at the event. A spokesperson for the Justice Secretary said it was “categorically untrue” that he had been present.

The reports follow Johnson telling Parliament that he had spent 25 minutes at the party, but that he “believed implicitly” that it had been a work event.

He contradicted Hoare’s claim, saying that the party had not been to welcome him back or thank Dominic Raab (below), but to thank staff.

The National: Dominic Raab

Johnson said: "With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.”

Both the Prime Minister and his press secretary hid behind the inquiry being conducted by Sue Gray into the lockdown-busting parties on Downing Street.

They both claimed that to comment on aspects of the event would be to pre-empt the findings of the report. 

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner said that Johnson’s statement was “obviously lawyered” and “very much about his personal liability”.

“This was only what *he* thought the event was … So defence is a personal one only and leaves open the possibility the event was something else without him realising,” Wagner said.

Raj Chada, the head of the criminal defence department at the Hodge Jones and Allen legal firm, told the PA news agency: “If any client had tried to use [Boris Johnson’s defence], it would have been laughed out of court.

“The cross examination would have been brutal: do civil servants/politicians normally ‘bring a bottle’ to work events?

“I cannot see that his defence has any legal basis.”