UK Covid live: No 10 claims there was no party in Downing Street last Christmas and it’s a ‘fact’ no rules were broken

Good morning. Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, was on the airwaves for the government today, primarily to talk about the government’s new 10-year drugs strategy. But he also became the latest minister to face the interview challenge from hell – defending Downing Street’s threadbare and incoherent line on the No 10 Christmas parties last year that appeared to break lockdown rules.

On BBC News Malthouse said that he was not sure whether there was a party. But that did not stop him saying, if it did happen, it did not break the rules.

Lizzy Buchan

🎄 On No10 Christmas party claims last year, Policing Minister Kit Malthouse tells @BBCBreakfast: “I don’t even know if an event took place but if it did no rules were broken” …

December 6, 2021

On Sky News Malthouse said he took the reassurance he had had from Downing Street “at face value” (an unusual formula – he could have just said he believed them).

Kay Burley

Did a Covid rule-breaking Christmas party take place at No.10 last December? 🎄

Why isn’t the police investigating? 🚨

We put Policing Minister @kitmalthouse on the spot #KayBurley UF pic.twitter.com/UbP0t30ZwJ

December 6, 2021

And then, on the Today programme, Malthouse said that factors like social distancing, and the size of the room, might have been factors in whether or not the party was legal – even though these were not exemptions allowed in the guidance.

Lizzy Buchan

Kit Malthouse later muddied the waters further by telling @BBCr4today that it would have depended on things like “How far apart were people… What size was the room?” if a No10 Xmas drinks would have broken the rules.

Except that’s not what the rules said at the time…

December 6, 2021

Paul Waugh

.@kitmalthouse, asked by @MishalHusain if he had asked No10 *how* the Xmas drinks party games on Dec 18 2020 was within the Covid rules:
“I’m not an investigator, my job to seek reassurance. ..I have to take that at face value.”

December 6, 2021

Paul Brand

Kit Malthouse now adding the interesting interpretation that perhaps a hypothetical Christmas party would have been within the rules last year if you consider things like…

“How far apart were people?”

“What size was the room?”

…The guidance clearly banned Christmas parties.

December 6, 2021

Malthouse also said that it was right for the police to investigate allegations about offences committed in the past – at the end of last week the Met said it did not routinely “retrospectively” investigate breaches of Covid rules – but he said it was for the police to decide what they did in this case. The Met is under pressure to investigate.

The Green MP Caroline Lucas suggests Malhouse’s failure to offer a proper defence of Downing Street strengthens the case for an investigation.

Caroline Lucas

Docile acceptance of No.10 ‘reassurances’ by @kitmalthouse leaves him unable to answer straightforward question on #r4today about No.10 Xmas party.
Met police must urgently investigate this question of PM ignoring his own rules as others forced to cancel their Xmas gatherings

December 6, 2021

The SNP MP John Nicolson has also described Malthouse’s Today interview as “excruciating”.


Excruciating interview with Tory minister Kit Malthouse on #bbcr4Today He wasn’t at the Downing St party – the party which didn’t happen. But he believes Boris Johnson that no rules were broken at the party. Even though parties were illegal at the time.

December 6, 2021

Here is the agenda for the day.

10.30am: The high court gives its ruling in a case brought by the FDA, the senior civil servants’ union, challenging Boris Johnson’s decision to ignore the ruling that Priti Patel, the home secretary, broke the ministerial code by bullying civil servants.

11.30am: Downing Street holds its lobby briefing.

2.30pm: Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, takes questions in the Commons. He is also due to make a statement on an inquiry into the Arthur Labinjo-Hughes case.

3pm: Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, gives evidence to the Commons Scottish affairs committee.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com


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