politics

Top Tories turn on Boris Johnson over Downing Street ‘Christmas Party’



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oris Johnson faced fury from Tory MPs on Wednesday over a “Christmas party” at No 10 while London was in Tier 3 lockdown last year — with one saying the police should be called in to investigate.

They vented their anger ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions after a video emerged of one of Mr Johnson’s senior communications chiefs seemingly joking about the alleged party during a mock press briefing.

Families who have lost loved ones in the pandemic demanded an apology from Mr Johnson over the gathering on December 18, a day when 514 people died within 28 days of getting Covid.

Mr Javid was one of the ministers who dismissed reports of a Christmas Party at No 10, saying last week: “I don’t think there is anything there.”

As ministers went to ground on Wednesday, Matthew Offord, Conservative MP for Hendon, said: “It’s horrendous that there were rumours of a party and now a video has emerged that appears to confirm that one did take place.”

He added: “If the allegation is that lockdown/Tier 3 was broken, then the police should investigate.”

Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch told Kent Online: “I am fuming! My constituents have every right to be angry. Their memories of lost loved ones are traumatised knowing that they died alone.

“I am not even going to begin to justify or defend a party in Downing Street. We all deserve a fulsome explanation and apology and swiftly.”

After the Owen Paterson sleaze storm U-turn, another Tory MP said there was “open fury amongst colleagues… yet again led up the hill and left with their pants down”.

Tory grandee Sir Roger Gale told Sky News on Wednesday morning: “The Prime Minister has to either say there was a party, he did not know about it, and he apologises or he has to say on the record at the Despatch Box: ‘There was no party’.

“If he says that I will believe him because to deliberately mislead the House, if that turned out to be the case, would be a resignation matter.”

Critics claimed rumours of Plan B restrictions being brought in were being used to distract attention from the Christmas party scandal. Sir Charles Walker, MP for Broxbourne, believes any new restrictions will be “advisory” as they would be so hard to enforce by law. “The events of the last 24 hours make it probably almost impossible now,” he told Times Radio.

Miriam Cates, Tory MP for Penistone and Stockbridge, said the party row had called into question “the whole morality of making these kind of rules”. The party row, which has been simmering for days, exploded last night after leaked footage emerged from No 10’s £2.6 million press briefing room which showed then No 10 Press Secretary Allegra Stratton laughing as she appeared to rehearse answers to questions over a Christmas party.

The video, reported to be from December 22 last year, refers to a party on “Friday” — which would have been December 18, the day The Daily Mirror reported there was a staff party — with games, food and drinks — that went on past midnight.

No 10 initially did not say the reports were inaccurate but said all rules had been followed, before later denying any Christmas Party had taken place.

However, reports have suggested that the party was arranged on WhatsApp and by email, and that there was wine, cheese and Secret Santas.

Scotland Yard confirmed that officers were considering the footage as part of the assessment — begun last week after complaints about the party from MPs — of whether action should be taken against those involved. It cautioned, however, that the Met had previously declined to investigate suspected Covid breaches reported retrospectively.

Adam Wagner, a barrister from Doughty Street Chambers and an expert on the Covid laws, said those involved in the party could be in “legal peril”, despite potential “ambiguities” in the legislation which might allow them to escape, including whether the restrictions applied to No10.

In response to ITV’s report, a Downing Street spokesman said: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”

Ms Stratton was holed up at her £2 million Islington home on Wednesday morning.

At the time of the alleged gathering, the Tier 3 rules explicitly banned work Christmas lunches and parties where it is “a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted”.

Safiah Ngah, who lost her father to Covid, said the alleged party was “absolutely shameful”.



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