Boris and Carrie Johnson hosted a close friend, who helped plan their wedding, overnight at Chequers when a number of Covid restrictions were in place, the Guardian has been told.
Dixie Maloney, a corporate events organiser, stayed at the former prime minister’s grace-and-favour country mansion on 7 May 2021 when indoor gatherings between different households were banned except when “reasonably necessary” for reasons such as work or childcare.
She is understood to have been informally helping to plan the couples’ festival-style wedding, which took place in the Downing Street garden three weeks later.
A spokesperson for Maloney issued a statement saying she would not have done anything that she believed at the time to be unlawful. Johnson’s spokesperson said the stay was “entirely lawful” and sources close to him said Maloney was allowed to be there for childcare reasons at a time when Carrie was pregnant.
Indoor gatherings between different households were only allowed if they were regarded as “reasonably necessary” for work purposes, informal childcare or to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person, including someone who was pregnant.
A spokesperson for Maloney told the Guardian: “Ms Maloney took her obligations under the relevant Covid restrictions very seriously. She would not have done anything at the relevant time unless she honestly believed that it was lawful to do so.
“Ms Maloney has never been formally engaged to work for either Boris or Carrie Johnson, nor has she ever held any public role, whether in government or otherwise.”
A spokesperson for Johnson said: “This was entirely lawful, and it was covered by relevant provisions in the Covid regulations. To suggest otherwise is totally untrue.”
Questions over previously undisclosed gatherings will increase pressure on Boris Johnson at a time when his political career is on the line. He is awaiting the outcome of the privileges committee inquiry into whether he deliberately misled MPs over the initial Partygate scandal.
The visit by Maloney in May 2021 was one of approximately 12 gatherings that allegedly took place at Chequers and Downing Street and are being assessed by two police forces. Thames Valley police, which covers Chequers in Buckinghamshire, confirmed the force is reviewing the evidence and has not yet launched an investigation. At the time Carrie Johnson was pregnant with the couple’s second child, who was born in December that year.
Johnson’s allies have previously said that any gatherings while restrictions were in place were within the rules. After the diary entries were passed to police, Johnson told Sky News: “None of them constitute a breach of the rules during Covid. They weren’t during lockdown. They were during other periods of the restrictions. None of them constitute a breach of the rules. None of them involve socialising. It is total nonsense.”
The referrals to police were made after lawyers acting for Johnson ahead of the Covid inquiry became concerned that his diary entries showed evidence of potential rule-breaking, which they flagged to the Cabinet Office.
While the government has said that the officials made no assessment of whether the events constituted rule-breaking, they were obliged under the civil service code to refer them to the police.
The events being examined are said to include those that did not form part of Scotland Yard’s investigation into Partygate last year, nor the Whitehall inquiry led by then-senior civil servant Sue Gray.
The Johnsons married in May 2021 in a small ceremony at Westminster Cathedral, followed by a celebration in the Downing Street garden with just 30 guests because of Covid restrictions.
Their wedding party was planned to be at Chequers the following July but they were forced to move it to the Cotswolds estate of a major Conservative donor after Johnson resigned as prime minister.
The Johnsons had already sent save-the-date invitations to guests to the party at Chequers, leading to accusations, denied by his allies, that Johnson was trying to delay his departure from No 10 until that date.
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