As an investigation is launched into a party held in No 10, other alleged gatherings are under the spotlight amid allegations that some in Downing Street may have contravened Covid rules.
Aubrey Allegretti www.theguardian.com
An inquiry announced by the prime minister, however, is focused on facts surrounding what happened on 18 December 2020.
18 December 2020 – Downing Street Christmas party
A party was held in No 10 when London was in tier 3 restrictions, which banned social events, according to multiple sources after the Daily Mirror first broke the story last week. Several dozen people – a mix of civil service and political staff – reportedly attended and were told to bring “secret Santa” presents, with cheese and wine laid on.
While Boris Johnson’s spokesperson insisted no rules had been broken and then denied any party took place, a video filmed four days after the event was published by ITV.
The leaked footage showed Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s then aide, rehearsing for televised press conferences and laughing and joking with aides about a party on 18 December. Stratton all but confirmed the event took place by laughing it off as a “business meeting” but added: “It was not socially distanced.” Cabinet secretary Simon Case will investigate what rules may have been broken.
10 December – Gavin Williamson’s staff party
Earlier in the month, when London was in tier 2, which only allowed socialising in groups of six outside, then-education secretary Gavin Williamson threw a party in his Whitehall department.
The most senior civil servant in the department, Susan Acland-Hood, attended and admitted that there was a “work-related” gathering hosted in the canteen. She did not dispute people were drinking wine, and blamed Williamson for instigating the event.
She recalled he wanted to “say a few words” to thank staff after a difficult year. Acland-Hood confirmed Case would also consider the Department for Education event as part of his investigation into Westminster parties.
Unspecified date in December – a festive No 10 quiz
On an unspecified date also in December, a Christmas quiz was organised for No 10 staff, the BBC said, with invites emailed to everyone who worked in the building.
Some guests were said to have dialled in by Zoom but others apparently attended in-person and sat in groups of six, some wearing Christmas jumpers. Downing Street was contacted for comment.
27 November – Downing Street leaving do
While England was still in the grip of its second national lockdown, a leaving do was organised in No 10 – said to have been for Cleo Watson, a former aide to Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
A source told the Guardian that Johnson personally attended and gave a speech, remarking on how full with people the room was, before leaving to continue working.
At the time, socialising in groups from different households was completely banned and people were ordered to work from home, though key workers could continue going into the office.
13 November – Boris and Carrie Johnson flat party
The latest alleged party to emerge dates to around midway through England’s second lockdown and relates to the Downing Street flat where Johnson and his wife live.
The accusation came from Cummings and the event was said to have taken place on the same evening he left Downing Street for good. After Case’s review into the 18 December party was announced, Cummings urged the cabinet secretary to also investigate a party in the Johnsons’ flat.
He alleged there had been “other flat parties” and suggested the pair’s “bubble” policy should be investigated. Asked this week if a party went ahead in his flat on 13 November, Johnson said “no”.
The prime minister’s “bubble” has come under scrutiny before, after his spokesperson did not deny that a close friend of Carrie Johnson – Nimco Ali – stayed with them last Christmas. One of the explanations offered was that Ali was considered part of the Johnsons’ childcare support bubble.