A Christmas party with dozens of staff members was to be held at the office of the British Prime Minister during last year’s lockdown. UK radio station ITV released a video on Tuesday in which senior Downing Street officials joke about the event during a rehearsal for a press conference.
The aired video was recorded in the press room on Downing Street on December 22 last year, four days after the alleged holiday party. It shows several Downing Street employees trying to pretend to hold a press conference that asks for admission. “I just saw reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you confirm these reports,” asks Ed Oldfield, adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “I went home,” he replies, laughing at his then spokeswoman Allegra Stratton, then ponders for a long moment what to say next.
“Would the prime minister agree to a holiday party,” Oldfield said. Laughing, Stratton says to those seated in the room, “What’s the answer?” One of the participants tells her that “it was not a party, it was cheese and wine”. – Are cheese and wine okay? Stratton asks, then the hint writer explains that he was joking.
“It was a business meeting,” Stratton says, laughing, then points out to his colleagues that “it’s taped” and continues, “This fictional party was a business meeting and there was no social distance.
Party on Downing Street during severe lockdown
Two alleged covid parties in Downing Street were revealed last week in the Daily Mirror. According to the paper, on November 27, 2020, while the second lockdown was underway, Johnson was scheduled to deliver a speech at a retirement party to one of his top assistants. Then, when the official Christmas party for Downing Street staff was canceled, he was to agree to be held unofficial – without him attending. It was due to take place on December 18, four days after the third level of restrictions was introduced in London, which meant a ban on meeting people outside of your household and the so-called support bubble. According to the Daily Mirror, both parties were supposed to be around 40-50 people.
When asked several times about the case, Johnson did not deny that such parties had taken place, but argued that downing Street’s covid restrictions had been respected. He also emphasized that his government was concerned with what was really important to people, hinting that discussing the matter from a year ago was not something like that. The last time he spoke about it – in the same spirit – was on Tuesday, a few hours before the recording was broadcast by ITV.
ITV recalled that the covid restrictions at that time clearly forbade organizing any holiday parties or lunches, and even if it were assumed that a business meeting took place on December 18, the regulations said that they could only be carried out in situations where they could not be held remotely, with the participation of only the necessary people, and there may not be more than 30 of them.
Main photo source: Reuters