A Boris Johnson tweet praising a seven-year-old girl for cancelling her birthday party during the first lockdown has resurfaced, following claims the prime minister celebrated his 56th birthday with an illegal gathering just weeks later.
Mr Johnson is alleged to have been given a birthday cake during the gathering of a group of around 30 people in the Cabinet Room on the afternoon of 19 June.
Indoor gatherings were banned in England at the time, meaning that such an event would have breached the government’s own coronavirus restrictions.
The reported bash took place just three months after Josephine, 7, sent the prime minister a letter on her birthday, which fell at the start of the first national lockdown.
“I think mummy and daddy might have to cancel my party but I don’t mind because I want everybody to be OK,” she wrote to Mr Johnson.
In a response dated 21 March 2021, the prime minister said he was sorry to hear about the cancelled party but was glad the 7-year-old was respecting the rules.
“We have all got to do our bit to protect the NHS and save lives, and that is exactly what you are doing, so well done!” he said.
Mr Johnson added that she could “definitely” have a party once Covid-19 had been “sent packing”.
The prime minister later tweeted both letters under the hashtag #BeLikeJosephine as part of the government’s appeals for the public to stay at home.
The latest partygate allegation means that Mr Johnson is likely to face even more pressure to resign, both from his own MPs and from opposition parties.
The Independent has seen evidence which suggests that Mr Johnson had a birthday cake with candles at the 19 June event, which he blew out after attendees finished singing happy birthday.
A No 10 spokeswoman confirmed that a group of staff had “gathered briefly” in the Cabinet Room “to wish the prime minister a happy birthday”, adding: “He was there for less than ten minutes.”
Downing Street did not deny Mr Johnson had a birthday cake and blew out candles, but instead referred to their previous statement.
ITV News also reported family friends were hosted upstairs in the prime minister’s flat for an event later that evening – a claim denied by No 10.
Carrie Johnson, his wife, is said to have organised the 19 June 2020 get-together, with guests thought to include Lulu Lytle, the designer behind the controversial luxury revamp of the Johnsons’ Downing Street flat.
Later that day, family friends were hosted upstairs in their resident, the report claimed.
A spokeswoman for Soane Britain, the luxury designer co-founded by Ms Lytle, said she had been in Downing Street on June 19 working on the refurbishment.
“Lulu was not invited to any birthday celebrations for the prime minister as a guest. Lulu entered the cabinet room briefly as requested, while waiting to speak with the prime minister,” said the spokeswoman.