Staff joke about Downing Street Christmas party during lockdown
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Furious at the fallout from the claims No10 staff held a secret Santa and work Christmas party with alcohol and nibbles, well respected Tory figures and MPs have broken ranks to launch an attack on the Government. Claims of the party were first reported last Wednesday, but the row exploded last night after leaked video footage showed aides to Boris Johnson joking about the gathering.
In the footage, obtained by ITV, the Prime Minister’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield take part in a mock press conference.
Ms Stratton is seen answering questions on December 22 about a party the previous Friday, the date of the alleged Covid rule-breaking gathering which is said to have been attended by dozens of colleagues while social mixing indoors was banned in London under Tier 3 restrictions.
Laughing, Ms Stratton says the “fictional” party was “not socially distanced”.
Well respected North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, tweeted following the emergence of the video: “The No10 party has all the hallmarks of another ‘Barnard Castle’ moment.
“No10 clearly has some serious questions to answer. Fast.”
Meanwhile, Conservative chairman of the Commons Education Committee Robert Halfon said: “I certainly think that those who were doing the video should apologise for the insensitivity of it when people were suffering and struggling all through that time.”
Anne Marie Morris, the Conservative MP for Newton Abbott, added: “Clearly there were rules in place that most of us were diligently following (despite how difficult they were) and they decided to break them.
“It’s not on and, at the very least, they should admit their blatant error and apologise for breaking the rules they imposed on society.”
Tory peer and former Conservative Party chairwoman Sayeeda Warsi went further and said all those present at any party should resign.
She tweeted: “Every minister, parliamentarian and staffer at the Downing Street party must resign now.
“No ifs no buts. The rule of law is a fundamental value, the glue that hold us together as a nation.
“Once that is trashed by those in power the very essence of our democracy is at stake.”
Government ministers have been accused of going into hiding since the video footage was broadcast.
Health Secretary Said Sajid was due to appear in Radio Four’s Today programme, BBC One, Sky News and Times Radio this morning but pulled out at the last minute.
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Planned media appearances by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, Environment Secretary George Eustice and Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup have all also been dropped for today.
Express.co.uk understands No10 had “pencilled in” a televised coronavirus briefing to mark a year since the first person in the UK received a Covid jab.
It is unlikely the press conference will now go ahead.
The anger among Conservative MPs means Mr Johnson is likely to face a difficult time at PMQs at 12pm today.
The Prime Minister and Opposition leader often rely of the support of their MPs behind them to cheer them on during the exchanges.
Labour has seized on the leak to attack the Government.
Sir Keir Starmer said last night: “People across the country followed the rules even when that meant being separated from their families, locked down and – tragically for many – unable to say goodbye to their loved ones.
“They had a right to expect that the Government was doing the same.
“To lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful.”
No10 still denies a party was held, a spokesman said: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”
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