Reports Suggest Downing Street 'Garden Party' Photo Could Have Been Leaked by UK Treasury

CC BY-SA 2.0 / David Holt / Open House London 2013 HM Treasury
Open House London 2013 HM Treasury - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.12.2021
The so-called "garden party" at Downing Street is said to have taken place in May 2020, when the United Kingdom was plunged into its first national lockdown. According to a leaked photo, Downing Street staffers, among them PM Boris Johnson, were enjoying wine and cheese in the garden. The officials claimed it was a "working meeting".
Insiders from Downing Street are pointing fingers at Treasury officials amid the search for the leaker of a photo from the "garden party" at No.10 in May 2020, The Telegraph reported.
The outlet's sources pointed out that the photo of the government officials enjoying snacks and wine in the Downing Street garden were likely made from a veranda reached from a first-floor function room.
The room was reportedly being used by the team of Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

“It has to be taken by someone associated with the Chancellor. It is the Chancellor's bit of the Downing Street complex", the sources told The Telegraph.

The source went on to say that the room was used for receptions, but at that point it was being used by No. 11 special advisers and officials because the Treasury was closed down and some of its staffers were working out of No. 11.

"Anybody could walk into that office with a Downing Street pass but it was used by Rishi Sunak’s people and anybody else going in would have been noticed", the source told The Telegraph.

Speculation about the Treasury's alleged involvement in taking the scandalous photo has been fuelled by Ed Balls, the former Labour education secretary.
A source in the Treasury, however, dismissed the speculation.

“At the time the picture was taken there was no one occupying that room. It is never locked and anyone working in Downing Street could have accessed the room which was often left empty", The Telegraph quoted the insider as saying.

The photo, showing over 10 people gathering in the Downing Street garden, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, triggered a scandal, with people lashing out at government officials for "partying" during the strict lockdown.
Back in May 2020 - when the photo is said to have been taken - UK citizens were under lockdown and ordered to practice social distancing. Meetings between more than two people were prohibited, and face-to-face gatherings at work were allowed only if "absolutely necessary".
However, the apparently damning picture shows Downing Street officials in several groups enjoying their wine and cheese - something that the social media users immediately dubbed an "obvious party", castigating the officials for ignoring their own rules.
No. 10, however, dismissed the accusations, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab saying that the leaked picture showed nothing short of a "working meeting". According to him, the Downing Street garden was a place of work for them during the first lockdown, and sometimes officials would enjoy a drink after "a long day or a long week".
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