The gathering storm

The trouble with parties is that there is always a party organiser. A party simply doesn’t happen without an invitation. A gathering – if you stretch the truth a little – may just occur.

This is why Downing Street and its supporters have been so particular about their language? Their gatherings, they keep suggesting, were not premeditated.

Under the lockdown rules meeting more than the prescribed number was simply to risk a relatively light fine under a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) but to organise and host a party means a fine of a different magnitude.

So whether or not a gathering was actually a party is important. We, the public, may have little trouble in distinguishing the two but precision is critical when it comes to law.

The most recent revelations suggest that emails were sent inviting people to the ‘gathering’ where, in Conor Burns’s immortal words, the Prime Minister was “ambushed with a cake” . . . before he later changed the story and said there was no cake. And the emails came from where? And who brought the cake? Not all parties have cake but most birthday cakes end up at parties.

So is this why the Met has suddenly put the brakes on Sue Gray’s report? Because, as always, it’s all in the numbers. Like the difference between £200 and £10,000.