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From the file

Chequers | In March 2020 Boris Johnson pre-recorded a broadcast in which he told the country to stay at home. Tortoise believes he then ignored his own advice by moving back and forth between London and Chequers

An open letter to Sue Gray

An open letter to Sue Gray

Tortoise believes that the prime minister travelled to Chequers on 23 March 2020, on the same day he announced the first lockdown. We’re asking Sue Gray to consider this as part of her investigation

19 January 2022

Dear Ms Gray,

We are asking that you consider reports that the prime minister broke lockdown when he moved from Downing Street to Chequers on 23 March 2020, having that day told the nation: “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction: you must stay at home.”

Downing Street’s explanation to us is that the lockdown came into force on 26 March at 1pm. That is not how it was understood: the instruction to the 27 million people who watched was that lockdown would take effect “from this evening”. The prime minister and Mrs Johnson’s movements afterwards were therefore in clear breach of the rules.

We believe this should be subject to your investigation because it speaks directly to the question of the conduct of the prime minister and his Downing Street operation as regards adherence to Covid rules and guidance. 

Downing Street has refused on multiple occasions to clarify the details of these movements. Without a formal request from you for clarity the full facts of these trips may never be known. 

At least one staff member at Chequers caught the virus soon after the prime minister and Mrs Johnson. Their movements took place in a window when both were likely to have been infectious. Chequers was closed on 28 March owing to “staffing considerations”, and Downing Street has confirmed there was “anxiety” about coming into work at the time.

We would like to point out that Downing Street has, over the course of more than a year, been dishonest and evasive in answering questions about Mr and Mrs Johnson’s travel back and forth between London and Chequers at the start of lockdown. We also note that they have tried to move the goalposts, reframing our questions as allegations of criminality. To be clear, the reason we believe that getting to the truth about the use of Chequers, like the Downing Street parties, is in the public interest is because it is a case of blatant hypocrisy and a breach of trust. 

We ask that you consider these breaches of the rules as part of your investigation. This isn’t a matter of the conduct of staffers – it concerns the prime minister, who told the nation to stay at home and, we believe, immediately did the opposite.

Kind regards,

Lara Spirit, Tortoise 

If you agree, consider asking your MP to seek clarity on the prime minister’s movement in March 2020.