UK Covid news: Boris Johnson calls cabinet meeting as ministers consider further restrictions

Good morning. Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, was doing broadcast interviews for Labour this morning and of course she was asked about the Guardian picture showing No 10 staff holding what looks very much like a drinks party in the garden at Downing Street, when social gatherings like this were not allowed.

No 10 says it was a work meeting. But Reeves ridiculed this claim. When it was put to her on the Today programme that staff in the picture were at work, she replied:

I don’t know what you do at work, but I don’t spend my time drinking glasses of wine and eating cheese … I don’t take my husband to work either.

Carrie Johnson, the PM’s wife, is pictured at the gathering. Reeves went on:

That wasn’t a picture of people at work. That was a picture of people enjoying themselves, and not just with colleagues, but also with family as well. So, yes I do think there is evidence of law breaking, not just on this occasion, but on multiple occasions.

Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister, has been on the airwaves for the government this morning and, on the Downing Street picture, he stuck to the line that it was a work gathering – although he also road-tested the novel argument that it could not have been a party because people were wearing suits. He told Times Radio.

The point I’d make is the rules that you were referring to were all the social mixing rules. This was not a social gathering. It is palpably not a social gathering, because you had people in work suits, following meetings that they were having at work.

Most of the questions in the Raab interviews, though, were not about the picture, but about whether or not the government will announce fresh Covid restrictions before Christmas. But in response to these questions, almost nothing he said took us on much from what we learnt when Sajid Javid, the health secretary, was on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday not ruling this out. “I’m not going to trail things where decisions haven’t been made,” Raab told Today.

By the end of the day the position might be clearer. We will get a lobby briefing at 11.30am, and the BBC says it is possible there might be a press conference later, although this has not been confirmed.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

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