What They Said at the Time: Lee Cain’s Leaving Drinks

Last night’s Partygate photos, taken at Lee Cain’s leaving drinks on 13th November 2020, will prove difficult terrain for the PM, even after having escaped a second fine from the Met’s investigation last week. In November 2020 the country was in a full national lockdown, with gatherings only permitted if “reasonable” for work…

As with the birthday cake debacle, details of the gathering were leaked to the press contemporaneously, to very little fanfare. On 15th November 2020, two days after the event, the Telegraph revealed Boris gave “a leaving speech” for Cain, who was then cheered out by colleagues:

“The Telegraph has learnt that Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Mr Cain, who stayed in Number 10 for hours after Mr Cummings had departed. One member of staff said: “It was a very warm speech, the Prime Minister talked about how good a friend Lee had been and how they would continue to be friends. It was a nice gesture…

Former journalist Mr Cain was then “banged out” by colleagues, a tradition borrowed from Fleet Street, in which people thump on desks to show their affection for a departing co-worker”

The Sunday Times ran with a similar line on the 14th:

“Johnson visited Cain in his office and signed a pair of boxing gloves emblazoned with “Get Brexit done” before making a speech wishing him well. “He’s the only one of my staff who always answers phone calls, no matter what time of day or night,” Johnson said, adding: “I sometimes wait for days for Dom to return them.””

At the time, the focus was naturally on the circumstances of Cain and Cummings’ departure – not the farewell speech afterwards, though not a single member of the media decided to go through Covid laws line-by-line to see if it was permissible. Of course, there may well be more incriminating evidence to come, and it’ll likely be a sticky wicket for Boris to defend in front of the Commons Standards and Privileges committee. Still, Guido struggles to see the difference between wine and crisps in Downing Street, and beer and curry in Durham…

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