Minister insists Boris Johnson 'didn't organise to be given cake' amid fresh outrage over lockdown birthday party in Downing Street
- A minister defended Boris Johnson from claims he broke lockdown with a birthday party.
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Prime Minister 'didn't organise to be given cake.'
A minister attempted to defend Boris Johnson after Downing Street admitted that he attended a birthday celebration with his wife when rules banned social gatherings.
Johnson's now-wife Carrie Johnson and his wallpaper consultant Lulu Lytle gave the prime minister a cake on his birthday on June 19, 2020, with up to 30 people in attendance, ITV News reported on Monday.
The event involved up to 30 people, per the report.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Tuesday said he did not seek to "defend" the gathering but suggested the prime minister was not to blame.
"The prime minister didn't organise to be given cake," Shapps told Sky News. "Some people thought it would be appropriate and came forward on his birthday."
The prime minister faced particular criticism in light of a resurfaced tweet from March 2020 in which he praised a seven-year-old for postponing her birthday party due to lockdown rules.
"Josephine sets a great example to us all by postponing her birthday party until we have sent coronavirus packing," he wrote in the tweet, which was published three months before he celebrated his own birthday.
"Together we can beat this. In the meantime let's all wish her happy birthday (twice) whilst washing our hands."
—Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 21, 2020
Shapps later told BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme that he shared the public's sense of "unease" about the gathering but insisted people should wait for the outcome of a report by civil servant Sue Gray into allegations of numerous parties in Downing Street, which is due to be published this week.
He said that the people in attendance at the gathering were "working together all day," adding that Lytle "happened to come by at the end of it."
Downing Street has not denied the birthday celebration took place and said in a statement to The Times: "A group of staff working in No 10 that day gathered briefly in the cabinet room after a meeting to wish the prime minister a happy birthday. He was there for less than ten minutes."
Lawyer Adam Wagner said on Twitter that if the facts of the ITV News report were accurate "I can't see how it could have been lawful." Indoor gatherings of 2 of more were banned unless they fell within a list of exceptions. Social gatherings were not included in that list.
"It's an indoor social gathering — it lasted 30 mins and the PM apparently stayed for 10," Wagner said on Twitter.
—Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) January 24, 2022
"Pre-arranged in a particular room and food was bought. It's obviously not within the rules and nobody from the govt at the time would have said for a moment it was."
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