What on earth could the PM say at PMQs? We don’t know. But to speculate, some options. 1/ A major mea culpa. Accept gatherings happened that looked inappropriate, possibly someone goes. Say sorry, even while arguing somehow rules weren’t broken on work grounds. 2/…
Argue that PM was not aware of the invitation or organisation of the May 20 drinks. Theoretically could try to repeat defence from the Guardian photo gathering - thought it was in work talking about work with drinks. We don’t know yet for sure PM knew about Reynolds email. 3/…
Any argument that rules weren’t broken would likely have No10’s unique position as work / home / centre of government at its heart. People were working all hours, boundaries blurred, work events with social element were problematic but not deliberately ill-intentioned, etc. 4/…
There is a belief among some Johnson loyalists that people will need to go eventually over this. Reynolds position feels most precarious given email. Question is when: today means fewer people there for when Gray report drops; wait till then means pressure remains today. Or 5/…
…Buy time by broadly sticking to position adopted in last 36hrs. Argue it is up for Sue Gray to look at everything in round, confirm attendance for some point of May 20 drinks, argue it was work-linked but avoid specifics + say Gray will judge. But would that frustrate Tory MPs?
The challenge is all of the above is confined by three dangers. 1/ The Met investigates 2/ The PM confirms behaviour that broke lockdown rules 3/ The PM is accused of misleading Parliament.

In short: every move he could make is laced with political danger. We find out at noon.

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More from @benrileysmith

13 Jan

Downing Street staff drank into the early hours at two leaving dos the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.

April 16 2021. UK in public mourning. Indoor mixing was barred. The next day the Queen sat alone as she mourned. (With @Tony_Diver)
The two events began in separate parts of Downing Street.

One was for departure of James Slack, then Boris’s director of comms. The other for one of Mr Johnson’s photographers.

We have talked to eyewitnesses.
It is alleged at the photographer’s leaving do:

* Someone went to Co-Op on the Strand to fill a suitcase full of wine bottles

* Music played on a laptop in the Downing St basement as people danced

* A senior No10 adviser acted as DJ at points, picking the tracks
Read 9 tweets
11 Jan

Downing Street private office drunk booze and stayed late on the last Friday before Christmas 2020, when group socialising was barred.

Was on Dec 18 (same night as the infamous press party). Martin Reynolds attended. Three sources speak to Tel.
The private office is where Johnson’s inner circle of civil servants + closest aides work.

One source in Downing St that night told us: “Everyone was talking about going to the private office drinks as well.”
Lord Lister, then the PM’s chief of staff who worked in private office, tells Tel booze was drunk in lead-up to Christmas there.

“In the run-up to Christmas I’m sure we had a drink. But I want to stress I have no memory of parties. This is sat at one’s desk and having a drink.”
Read 8 tweets
24 Dec 21
Stuck working on Christmas Eve means that I have spotted this…

SAGE papers just released show one scenario being modelled is to bring in tough new restrictions next week that last until **March 28**.
That section from a new Spi-M statement released tonight.

The full modelling is done by Uni of Warwick, also published tonight.

It looked at Dec 28, Jan 1 as possible start dates for new Covid rules

…and Jan 15, Jan 28, March 28 possible end dates.
Not just a passing mention.

Here’s one of the breakdowns from Uni of Warwick modelling for the impact of tougher restrictions.

March 28 would = three months of tighter Covid rules.
Read 7 tweets
20 Dec 21
1/ Right. After a load of calls some clarity is emerging about what happened at Cabinet. In short: A lot of cab ministers made clear their concern about moving to tougher new restrictions now. Lots centred on the need for more data. With @christopherhope. telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/…
2/ Cabinet gathering described by those in the room as discursive. A “wide range of viewpoints” shared. Unlike a lot of the cab meetings it does appear to have been a more general discussion about Omicron approach rather than a ‘here’s the plan, up or down’ meeting.
3/ Those arguing for caution on tougher restrictions can be split largely into two camps - cabinet ministers with economic briefs and those on the libertarian wing of the party / who are championing protection of freedoms.
Read 12 tweets
18 Dec 21
The minutes from Thursday’s SAGE meeting have just dropped and they include this startling line:

“In England it is almost certain that there are now hundreds of thousands of new Omicron infections per day.”
Also this from Sage:

“Without intervention beyond those measures already in place (‘Plan B’), modelling indicates a peak of at least 3,000 hospital admissions per day in England.”
Take these two together - hundreds of thousands of new infections a day and hospitalisations hitting 3k a day even with Plan B - and it’s hard not to see the Government going for tighter restrictions soon.
Read 4 tweets
8 Dec 21
Right. Specifics re Plan B have been bouncing round all day and still being finalised but here are some bits about where we are....
1/ A carve out on face masks is expected for hospitality sector, per two Gov sources. That's what went into system this morning. If so then no masks forced in pubs and restaurants.
2/ Has been debate all day about face masks coming back in classrooms but sounds like it WON'T happen. Again being finalised currently but one to watch
Read 9 tweets

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