Downing Street Didn’t Record Work Meeting With Lulu Lytleon Boris Johnson’s Birthday
A key defence of the Prime Minister’s birthday party is undermined by official documents, reports Sam Bright
Downing Street and the Cabinet Office didn’t record a work meeting with the interior designer Lulu Lytle on Boris Johnson’s birthday, official logs show.
Another Downing Street lockdown scandal has emerged over the last day, after ITV reported that a birthday party involving 30 guests was convened for the Prime Minister in the Cabinet room on 19 June 2020, during which Johnson was presented with a birthday cake while the group ate picnic food. At the time, social gatherings were only allowed to take place outside in groups of six, as per Government rules.
Downing Street’s defence is that the event – which Johnson allegedly only attended for 10 minutes – constituted the regular mingling of colleagues during a work day. As this morning’s Politico Playbook says: “the cake-eating and happy birthday-singing lasted a few minutes while work was going on, and therefore it was not a social event and was not beyond the legal get-out of ‘work purposes’”, according to Downing Street.
The event was also attended by Lulu Lytle, according to ITV’s report, who was at the time working on the controversial renovation of Johnson’s Downing Street flat. According to Lytle’s spokesperson, she was “not invited to any birthday celebrations for the Prime Minister as a guest” and merely entered the Cabinet room “while waiting to speak with the Prime Minister”.
However, there is no work meeting recorded by Downing Street between Johnson and Lytle on 19 June 2020. The Prime Minister is recorded as having attended Bovingdon Primary Academy and Aspire Academies Trust on 19 June, but no meeting is logged with Lytle.
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This undermines the suggestion that the Cabinet room gathering was a work event. If it was, Lytle’s presence would presumably have been recorded as a work meeting. Indeed, Government departments are supposed to publish all the meetings held by its ministers with external organisations. Lytle was meeting the Prime Minister in Downing Street, to discuss the renovation of the Prime Minister’s flat, which is Government property, so one could reasonably assume that it fell within the scope of the transparency requirements.
The financing of the renovation work was controversially funded by Conservative peer Lord David Brownlow – after the cost of the refurbishment greatly exceeded the Prime Minister’s £30,000 annual budget. The Prime Minister has insisted that he, eventually, personally paid for the full cost. The Conservative Party was later fined £17,800 by the Electoral Commission for failing to accurately report Brownlow’s donation and failing keep a proper accounting record.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of Lulu Lytle. Downing Street has been approached for comment.