A heartbroken mum from Rugby has spoken of her anger over reports a ‘bring your own booze’ party took place in the No 10 Downing Street garden during lockdown – just six days before her son’s funeral.
The row over the event is piling pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with calls from opposition parties for him to resign and strong criticism from some of his own MPs.
Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, sent an email to more than 100 Downing Street employees inviting them to the gathering, ITV reported.
Louise Bennett lost her 14-year-old son Fred to cancer in May 2020 and says her family were not permitted to hold a church funeral for him.
Joining Good Morning Britain hosts Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley on yesterday’s show (Tuesday January 11), she said: “I mean, there have just been so many of these stories now and I think it’s just utterly devastating how out of touch they seem to be with what ordinary people were going through.
“Fred’s death was nothing to do with Covid, he died of leukaemia, but our lives were made so much harder and impossible at times because of the restrictions that were in place – restrictions that we felt we had to abide by.”
Louise said only ten people were allowed to attend her son’s “grave-side ten minute service”.
Among those permitted to attend were Fred’s grandfather, his aunts, uncles and a handful of his cousins.
None of his friends could attend the funeral due to restrictions on numbers.
She said: “I can’t tell you the anger that I feel with the fact that the people who are supposed to be leading the country didn’t think that they need to abide by them [restrictions].”
GMB host Madeley put a question to the heartbroken mum, asking that if they were able to arrange an interview with the Prime Minister, what she might say to him?
“There would be some harsh words,” Louise replied.
“I think that he needed to grow up, I think he needed to show respect to the people that he was supposed to be representing.
“I think he needed to show leadership in terms of what he was expecting other people to do and I think he needed to register the seriousness of the crisis that we were living in, and it was clear that this was not a crisis that applied to him.”
She added: “What becomes so clear from the tone of that email – of the invitation – and the tone of how they are talking about it, is that they have no idea how frightened everybody was and how terrified people were about putting their loved ones in danger.
“We’re certainly not the only family that felt that, and even after Fred’s funeral and in the months that followed that were still locked down, we were really frightened.
“We couldn’t sustain anymore loss, we couldn’t cope with anymore illness, hospitals – and it’s so clear that the Government didn’t feel that.”
The leaked email, which came to light on Monday, said: “Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening.
“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”
Scotland Yard has said it is in contact with the Cabinet Office about the May 20, 2020 allegations.
At PMQs today (Wednesday, January 12), Boris Johnson admitted he was at the ‘party’ and apologised.
He said: “I want to repeat that I thought it was a work event and I regret very much that we did not do things differently that evening.
“I take responsibility and I apologise.”
Downing Street officials have refused to be drawn on details of the allegations because they are being examined by senior official Sue Gray as part of her investigation into claims of lockdown-busting parties in Whitehall and Downing Street.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman confirmed yesterday that Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary continues in his role.
Asked whether Mr Johnson still had full confidence in one of his most senior aides, the spokesman said he did.
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