Downing Street Christmas party inquiry hauls in aides

One government source said those asked for interview were “pissing themselves”.

Maybe they fear being thrown under one of Boris’ buses, while he walks free? – Owl

Steven Swinford www.thetimes.co.uk

Downing Street officials and special advisers have been asked to attend formal interviews as part of an inquiry into allegations that parties were held in No 10 during lockdown last year.

Sue Gray, the civil servant leading the inquiry, has emailed more than a dozen people about the events. One government source said those asked for interview were “pissing themselves”.

Gray was drafted in to take over from Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, after The Times revealed that a Christmas party was held in his office during lockdown. Case said he was aware of the gathering but had not participated.

The inquiry is likely to focus on a gathering in Downing Street on December 18 last year. Several of those present told The Times that there was cheese and wine, music and that the event went on until 2am. No 10 has denied that the event was a Christmas party.

However, the gathering was planned for three weeks, with invitations sent to officials and advisers on WhatsApp while the UK was in full lockdown.

The event was attended by Jack Doyle, the prime minister’s director of communications, who handed out awards, something insiders said he did every week.

He is said to have left the party for meetings with Boris Johnson, including urgent discussions on whether to effectively cancel Christmas for millions of people by banning households from mixing. Johnson made the announcement the following day.

Johnson has repeatedly said he has been “assured” by senior advisers that the event was not a party. However, he was forced to order an investigation amid public outrage over the event.

There are suggestions that up to seven lockdown-breaking gatherings took place in November and December last year. Gray’s investigation will examine the event on December 18, a reported leaving event for a No 10 aide on November 27 which was said to have been attended by Johnson, as well as a party at the Department for Education. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has said that Gray will be free to investigate other events.

Downing Street staff were also pictured drinking in the No 10 garden during the first lockdown in May 2020. The government has insisted that it was a work meeting.

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