Politics explained

No 10 is suffering a hangover from last year’s Downing St Christmas do

Questions about the legality of government parties are not going away, writes Sean O’Grady

Thursday 02 December 2021 21:34

Sometimes you can almost sense a story gaining traction. So it is with the Downing Street Christmas party/ies last year. The reports first surfaced in the Daily Mirror, which might have been a bit of a problem, traction-wise, given that the Mirror is traditionally hostile to the Tories, and thus their account could be dismissed as propagandistic. Plus, of course, media rivals were as ever torn between following up a promising tale of covid hypocrisy, versus lending a competitor additional kudos for their scoop, made more painful for the majority of titles that usually give the government the benefit of the doubt.

In the event, though, the temptation of catching virtually the entire Downing Street community, up to and including the prime minister himself, in flagrante delicto In the middle of lockdown was just too tempting to ignore. Hypocrisy is still catnip for Fleet Street (ironically) and there is nothing more delicious than one with the added spice of covid and Christmas attached. “One Yule For Them, Another Yule For Us” (ie no Yule at all) is the line. More and more evidence of party-style gatherings has been gathered by the media, until the impression grows that No 10 resembled a Roman orgy last December, while the rest of the country was masked up, lonely and making the best of life under the tiers statement, with its carefully graduated rules and harsh penalties. Meantime, unbeknown to the rest of us, the spads were living it up. Who knows, maybe Chris Whitty himself was swinging from the chandeliers, champagne in hand, like in the final scenes in Hitler’s chancellery memorably portrayed in Downfall. Thus far, Downing Street has admitted tired that drinks, nibbles and games were played but there were no parties. Besides, the “line” runs, rules were followed at all times.

The Downing Street defence is becoming ludicrous, and the press won’t leave it alone, sensing, correctly, a rising trend of public disgust. As with Dominic Cummings trip to Durham and Mike Hancock’s office tryst, the story is gathering momentum. The press is on the case, and the broadcasters, cautious as ever, are now joining in.

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