Boris Johnson’s staff joked about Christmas party at height of lockdown

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s staff joked about a Christmas party at Downing Street at the height of last year’s coronavirus lockdown in England, newly-released video footage shows.

It comes after the U.K. prime minister’s office spent days denying claims, first reported in the Mirror, that a party was held for staff last Christmas.

The film — published by ITV News on Tuesday night — shows senior No.10 employees taking part in a December 2020 rehearsal for a press briefing.

Ed Oldfield, adviser to the prime minister, asks Johnson’s then-spokesperson Allegra Stratton: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night. Do you recognize those reports?”

In the footage, Stratton replies “I went home,” before composing herself and telling colleagues to “hold on” as she appears to consider what her answer should be.

Oldfield then asks: “Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?”

Stratton laughs, looking down, before responding, “what’s the answer?” Staff then attempt to help the PM’s then- spokesperson formulate a response. “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine,” suggests one.

The Times carried a story Tuesday saying a party in No. 10 had been organized by civil servants and included a secret Santa. Press reports suggest 30 to 40 people were in attendance, at a time when social events including parties were strictly banned under England’s coronavirus restrictions.

Ministers have been repeatedly quizzed about the claims, which have been condemned as “sickening” by a campaign group representing the families of COVID victims.

Johnson was asked about the allegations last week and did not deny outright that a party took place. But he insisted “all guidance was followed completely in No. 10.”

Downing Street has since given a more categorical denial, with a spokesperson saying in response to the leaked video: “There was no Christmas party. COVID rules have been followed at all times.”

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said: “The prime minister now needs to come clean and apologise. It cannot be one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else.”



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