Martin Reynolds: Official at the heart of lockdown-busting No 10 party row

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Martin Reynolds is one of the most senior officials in No 10 but had largely avoided the limelight until the emergence of his email inviting colleagues to “socially-distanced drinks” during England’s first coronavirus lockdown.

As Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary he plays a key role advising the Prime Minister on a wide range of issues.

He served as the UK’s ambassador to Libya before being appointed to the role at the heart of No 10 in October 2019.

The Cambridge graduate had previously served in a range of Foreign Office roles in Whitehall, South Africa and Brussels.

Before joining the Foreign Office, he was a City lawyer.

Mr Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings said the influence wielded by the principal private secretary within Downing Street was not widely appreciated.

“The PPS exercises far more influence and actual power over many issues than Cabinet ministers,” Mr Cummings said.

“He can nudge policy, he can nudge vital appointments (real power). He can and does walk into the PM’s office and exclude all political people ‘on security grounds’.”

A leaked photograph of the Prime Minister and officials drinking in the No 10 garden on May 15 2020 – five days before the “bring your own booze” event that Mr Reynolds invited colleagues to – showed the PPS sat at the same table as Mr Johnson.

Mr Cummings used a blog last week to defend the May 15 gathering – where he was pictured at the same table as Mr Reynolds, the Prime Minister and Carrie Johnson.

However, he said a “senior No10 official” invited people to “socially-distanced drinks” in the garden on May 20 – an apparent reference to the email sent by Mr Reynolds.

Mr Cummings said that he and “at least one other” special adviser warned “this seemed to be against the rules and should not happen”.

“In my opinion the official who organised this should anyway have been removed that summer because of his failures over Covid,” Mr Cummings added.

“I said this repeatedly to the PM. The PM rejected my argument.”

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