Matt Hancock has allegedly been spotted in the leaked photo which shows Downing Street staffers enjoying cheese and wine during lockdown last year.
The former health secretary is thought to have been one of up to 17 staff members who gathered in the Downing Street garden alongside Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and their newborn baby in May 2020.
At the time the picture is believed to have been taken, government coronavirus rules restricted social mixing between households to two people outdoors and at a distance of at least two metres.
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In-person meetings were allowed in workplaces, though guidance stressed they must only take place if ‘absolutely necessary’; a rule which the staffers appeared to be ignoring as they were seen sitting with wine and cheese in the image shared by The Guardian.
The prime minister’s former aide Dominic Cummings is now thought to have been spotted as one of the staffers in the picture, as is Hancock, who is believed to be stood towards the back of the image with his back facing the camera.
Other people apparently visible in the photo include the prime minister’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds, his Private Secretary Imran Shafi, his official spokesperson James Slack and his former Chief Press Officer on Foreign Affairs Jess Seldon, LBC reports.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab defended the image while speaking to LBC yesterday, saying: ‘The reality is Number 10 is a place of work, including the garden.’
Raab also insisted that having ‘something to drink’ in the garden was ‘consistent with the rules’.
Meanwhile, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner described the picture as ‘a slap in the face of the British public’, telling The Guardian: ‘The prime minister consistently shows us he has no regard for the rules he puts in place for the rest of us. Alleged drinking and partying late into the evening [at No 10] when the rest of us were only recently getting one daily walk.’
The emergence of the image comes after Downing Street denied last week that a social event involving wine had taken place in May 2020, with Johnson’s spokesperson claiming Downing Street staff were working in the garden in the afternoon and evening.
On the same day, Hancock had held a press conference in which he urged people to stick to the rules and to refrain from being tempted to hang out in groups amid the good weather.
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