When the photo is said to have been taken, the UK Covid rules prevented different households from gathering and outdoors meetings were restricted to just one-on-one while indoor gatherings were strictly forbidden.
The photo, obtained by The Guardian, showed Johnson, his then-fiancee Carrie, and 17 other staff members in the garden, with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard on a table in front of the prime minister.
The Guardian adds that, along with cheese and wine, others spirits and pizza were available to those in attendance indoors. A spokesperson for the prime minister said: “The picture shows colleagues meeting in a place of work.
“As we said last week, work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months. On this occasion, there were staff meetings after a No 10 press conference.
“Downing Street is the prime minister’s home as well as his workplace. The prime minister’s wife lives in No 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden.”
When asked about the photo on Times Radio, deputy prime minister and justice secretary Dominic Raab said having a drink “after a long day or long week” was not against the regulations. He added: “Downing Street used that garden as a place of work. They used it for work meetings. The photo is from a day when, I think, the prime minister had just done a press conference.
“And sometimes they’ll have a drink after a long day or a long week. And that’s not against the regulations.”
On Johnson’s then-fiancee Carrie being there, Raab said: “It is not just a place of work for all the staff that work in Number 10 and the prime minister, but it is also the residence of the prime minister and his very young family. I genuinely don’t think it gets classified as a party because Carrie popped down and spent a little bit of time there with her husband.”
In response to the photo, Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves told Good Morning Britain: “Last year the government were partying, this year the government’s hiding.
“We need leadership from this government and that is desperately lacking today. This is a government who set the rules for everybody else and yet think they don’t apply for them. It is not acceptable.”
Raab did later appear to undermine the notion that this was a picture of a work meeting. He told BBC Breakfast: “I think there’s a lot of exhausted people and they, as people do in work, have a drink after – after the formal business had been done.
“This wasn’t a social occasion. It was staff having a drink after a busy set of work meetings and the pressures of the day.”
Raab also protested that: “They’re all in suits, predominantly in formal attire,” which naturally triggered a lot more memes.
Dominic Raab’s justification for the garden gathering: “It’s a place of work. They’re all in suits, predominantly i… https://t.co/ZIotY5cWhi