Top civil servant who drafted Covid rules admits being at Downing Street party
THE top civil servant who drafted Covid rules last night confessed to her own lockdown-breaking party.
The ex-chief of Whitehall’s crack Covid Taskforce invited dozens of officials to a boozy leaving bash while London was at the height of Tier 3 restrictions that banned indoor mixing and closed pubs.
Kate Josephs, now CEO of Sheffield City Council, said she was “truly sorry” for the do on December 17, 2020 in the Cabinet Office — which has a connecting door to No 10.
The latest party-gate revelation came as PM Boris Johnson was forced into his second grovelling apology for the affair in a week — this time to the Queen.
And more MPs and senior Tories broke cover to tell the PM to bite the bullet and resign.
No 10 was rocked by revelations aides had stayed up drinking and dancing on the night of April 16 last year — the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
The party was so lairy it is even claimed an aide hauled a suitcase full of wine from a nearby supermarket and drunk revellers broke the garden swing used by the PM’s son Wilfred.
The next day, the Queen sat alone at the Duke of Edinburgh’s socially distanced funeral in St George’s Chapel in Windsor because of Covid rules.
April 16 saw two separate gatherings held to mark the departure of two No 10 staffers.
They will be added to the others being investigated by Whitehall enforcer Sue Gray, including one in the garden of Downing Street on May 20.
Her report is expected to be published towards the end of next week.
The PM has promised to give a full account of his actions to the House of Commons afterwards.
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Yesterday his official spokesman said: “It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No 10 has apologised to the Palace.
“You heard from the PM this week, he’s recognised No 10 should be held to the highest standards, and take responsibility for things we did not get right.”
Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie were not at the parties on April 16, as they were away at the PM’s country residence Chequers. But the scandal has renewed calls for him to resign as Prime Minister.
The bashes were held to mark the departure of the PM’s communications chief James Slack, and, separately, one of the PM’s vanity photographers.
The latter party went late into the night and ended up in the Downing Street garden.
One person present reportedly went to a nearby Co-Op to fill a suitcase with bottles of wine.
In a separate development last night, the PM and his wife Carrie were accused of breaking the first lockdown’s rules by moving from Downing Street to Chequers in March 2020.
All non-essential travel was banned at the time — including to and from second homes.
But Downing Street denied they broke the rules, saying that Carrie was heavily pregnant and following government advice to “minimise social contact”.
Yesterday, Andrew Bridgen became the fifth Tory MP to publicly break cover and call for Mr Johnson to quit.
Many more are understood to have privately sent letters of no confidence to the party’s 1922 Committee.
If 54 letters are sent in then Mr Johnson would face a confidence vote and could be ousted as leader and PM.
As support for the PM dwindles, the first Tory groups started calling for his head.
They included Sutton Coldfield’s and Maidstone and the Weald’s Conservative Associations.
Some Tories are privately saying they expect Mr Johnson to be ousted from No 10 within months.
But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss continued to defend him.
She said: “He has apologised, I think we now need to move on and talk about how we are going to sort out issues.”
Mr Slack, who is now deputy editor at The Sun, apologised for his leaving event.
He said: “I wish to apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused. This event should not have happened at the time that it did. I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility.”
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