UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under fire after a leaked video recording shows senior Downing Street staff laughing about Johnson allegedly throwing a Christmas party for his staff during last year’s lockdown.
The party is said to have taken place on December 18, when London was under “Tier 3” lockdown restrictions, which meant that no one was allowed to mix indoors with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
The recording is of a simulated press conference on December 22, 2020, four days after the alleged event.
It shows the PM’s then-press secretary, Allegra Stratton, joking when asked about reports of a Christmas party by a fellow No. 10 official. She laughs, then says she “went home,” before adding, “this fictional party was a business meeting, and it was not socially distanced.”
Johnson apologized unequivocally on Wednesday for the offense the leaked video has caused. “I understand and share the anger felt across the country at seeing Number 10 staff appear to make light of lockdown measures,” he said during Prime Minister’s Questions in parliament. Mr. Speaker, I understand how infuriating it must be to think that the people who set the rules have not been following the rules, because I was equally enraged when I saw that clip. I sincerely apologize for the offense it has caused across the country, as well as the impression it has given.”
Johnson stated that he has been repeatedly assured that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken since reports of a Downing Street Christmas party surfaced last year.
“I have requested that the Cabinet Secretary gather facts and report back as soon as possible. And Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that if those rules were broken, then there will be disciplinary action for all those involved.”
Since the video’s release, Downing Street has stated that “there was no Christmas party and coronavirus rules were followed at all times.”
In response to the video, UK opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer told parliament Johnson “has been caught red handed.”
“Why doesn’t he just admit it now and end the investigation?” According to Starmer.
“No one was fantasizing about a Zoom Christmas, with turkey dinners for one and gifts exchanged at gas stations. But the virus had gotten out of hand…. As a result, the British people prioritized the health of others and followed the rules. Isn’t the Prime Minister embarrassed that Downing Street couldn’t do the same thing?” According to Starmer.
According to the government’s dashboard, the UK reported 514 Covid deaths on December 18, 2020, the day of the alleged Downing Street party.
Ian Blackford, the Westminster leader of the Scottish National Party, has called for Johnson’s resignation. “It is time for members of this house to act, because if he does not reign, he must be removed,” he said.
David Lammy, a Labour Party lawmaker, tweeted: “While people were dying, No. 10 partied. While everyone else followed the rules, No. 10 broke them. They laughed as the country suffered. This is absolutely repulsive. They’re all laughing at us. One rule applies to them and another to the rest of us.”
Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative Party lawmaker, said the government needs to demonstrate that it “takes it [the criticism] seriously” and get ahead of the story. Another Conservative MP, Charles Walker: “I think now that, going forward, any [coronavirus] measures will be advisory. I think it would be very difficult to enshrine them in law and then once again ask our poor police forces to enforce them,” after the emergence of the video.