What do new Partygate photos reveal about PM’s ‘rules were followed’ claim?

The prime minister is seen with a grin on his face, his red ministerial case placed on the floor, raising a plastic cup of white or sparkling wine in a toast with at least eight Downing Street officials.

Standing in a circle, a table overflowing with party fare in the foreground, they are a series of images that perhaps reflect a typical leaving-do scene.

But this was not a typical time. On 13 November 2020, when the photo was taken, England was eight days into its second national lockdown under coronavirus laws. More than 51,000 people had died after testing positive for Covid at this stage, according to official UK government figures.

The prime minister repeatedly told the House of Commons that all rules were followed in No 10 and he had been unaware of any law-breaking parties.

Looking at the images, can that be right?

1. Johnson is standing in a circle with at least eight officials pictured, although it is understood there were more attendees out of shot. There is no social distancing, which was recommended at the time. The prime minister knew the rules well – he had announced them to the public live on television on 31 October.

2. The prime minister is seen raising his plastic cup of wine in one image and gesticulating emphatically in others, clearly addressing the room in what is likely to have been a speech for his departing aide, the then director of communications, Lee Cain. Social gatherings indoors were banned, while pubs and restaurants were shut.

3. The table is loaded with party food and drinks, including five open bottles of wine – four bottles of red and one bottle of white. The image of the prime minister socialising merrily with his officials will probably raise questions as to why he was not given a fixed-penalty notice by the Metropolitan police for attending this gathering. He has been issued with a £50 penalty for a different gathering, his birthday party on 19 June 2020.

4. A bottle of clear spirits, reportedly gin, sits two-thirds empty.

5. There is a sealed bottle of sparkling wine, ready for opening. The Guardian understands the police issued penalty notices to some people who attended the event.

6. A plate of biscuits with two packets of crisps or nuts placed on top.

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7. There are two empty but used wine glasses and a stack of plastic cups.

8. A takeaway container, reportedly from the Indian restaurant Dishoom.

9. A pump bottle of hand sanitiser and a tube of antibacterial wipes can be seen placed on the table. Ministers, officials and chief advisers were still pushing the need to maintain hand hygiene. The official “hands, face, space” slogan was launched in September 2020 and dominated the public health message for much of the pandemic.

10. A red ministerial briefcase, used to hold and transport official government papers.

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