If Downing Street hoped to press the reset button this year after weeks of damaging allegations of lockdown breaches, the latest revelations are the most damaging yet.
The net appears, from what sources tell Sky News and other outlets, to be closing around the prime minister.
This is not another claim of unknown officials having a gathering on their own initiative; or something that can be passed off as a work meeting with a few glasses of wine.
We now have, revealed by Dominic Cummings in his blog on Friday, a drinks party organised specifically as a social event by the prime minister’s close aide Martin Reynolds; an email leaked to ITV as black-and-white evidence and eyewitnesses placing the PM and his wife among the dozens who attended.
It was May 2020, when we were all told to stay at home, park benches were cordoned off, people were unable to be with loved ones in their last moments.
Less than an hour before the event got going, at 6pm according to the email, cabinet minister Oliver Dowden was at the podium in No 10, chairing a press conference in which he made clear people should only see one other person outside their household, outside and at a two-metre distance.
Five days later, Boris Johnson told a member of the public who asked about lockdown breaches, to “speak to people yourself if you feel that they are not obeying the rules”.
There were 106,451 fixed penalty notices issued in England between March and October that year for lockdown breaches by the police.
Sue Gray, who is undertaking the investigation into Downing Street gatherings last year, needs to reopen her files.
But already, Tories know that the prime minister cannot hide behind the inquiry, and needs to provide answers about whether the reports are correct.
Ed Argar, who had the unenviable job of responding for the government this morning, stressed that – like most people – he spent this period at home glued to Zoom calls and said he could “understand why people will be upset and angry”.
This is a change of tune in itself. Last year Mr Dowden, his cabinet colleague, said he was sure an investigation would “vindicate the prime minister’s assertion” that no rules were broken. This no longer seems to be the message.
Labour are now calling for Mr Johnson to resign if…