No 10 Christmas party claims ‘incredibly insulting’ – Covid bereaved families

Boris Johnson said any events held at No 10 were “in accordance with the rules”.

Pa Reporters
Thursday 02 December 2021 16:40
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday December 1, 2021.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday December 1, 2021.

A woman who lost her father to Covid-19 said it is “incredibly insulting” to hear claims that Downing Street staff held parties which broke social distancing rules last Christmas.

Pressure has continued to mount on Number 10 over reports that work-related social gatherings were held in the lead-up to Christmas last year even though the public was forbidden from doing the same.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said any events held at No 10 were “in accordance with the rules”.

Safiah Ngah, 29, from a bereaved families group, said the reports are “sickening”.

I can absolutely assure you that No 10 staff followed the guidance

Business minister George Freeman

Her father Zahari, who was a psychotherapist and had worked for the NHS for almost 40 years, died in February after contracting coronavirus over Christmas.

Ms Ngah, a spokeswoman for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said the 68-year-old had been completely healthy and exercised regularly.

The family did “everything we could to stay safe” over Christmas, but it wasn’t enough, she added.

The marketing manager from North London told the PA news agency: “At this point my family and I just feel it really is one thing after another.

“To me it feels like how many scandals and shocks do we have to have before action is taken and before an inquiry actually happens?

“There are actually lives involved, and there are still lives involved because over a hundred people are dying every day, and it’s another blatant example of how the Government says one thing and makes rules for normal people but then actually go about it themselves in an entirely different way.

“And last Christmas was not a time of celebration for a lot of people.

“My dad caught Covid over that Christmas period and ultimately died. A lot of people will have been dying as they were having that celebration, it’s just incredibly insulting.

“I had pretty much no faith in the Government anyway, but it leaves me with even less faith in them.”

The Daily Mirror said the Prime Minister gave a speech at a packed leaving do for a senior aide last November when the country was in the midst of the second lockdown.

The newspaper said members of his No 10 team then held their own festive party days before Christmas, while London was under Tier 3 restrictions.

The Mirror on Thursday quoted a Downing Street “insider” who said there were often get-togethers in the evenings while the curbs on freedom were in place.

The source told the paper: “It was the only place you could get together and socialise. They happened most Fridays.”

On Wednesday, at Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson did not deny the allegations, while No 10 repeatedly argued that “at all stages the rules have been followed” following the reports.

Mr Johnson said on Thursday that any events held at No 10 were “in accordance with the rules”.

Asked whether he was holding a Christmas party, the Prime Minister told broadcasters there were events held in Downing Street “the whole time” and added: “We had events for Hanukkah, we turned the Christmas lights on, and all sorts of things in Number 10, and in accordance with the rules as you would expect.”

Earlier, business minister George Freeman said he could not get “drawn into who was or wasn’t in the room and who was drinking which cocktail” because he was not in Government at the time, but stressed that No 10 was confident the guidance had been followed.

Facing a grilling from broadcasters over the allegations, Mr Freeman insisted No 10 staff “followed the guidance”.

“Look, I wasn’t there. I’ve been in Government six weeks – I was nowhere near No 10 a year ago,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

“I can absolutely assure you that No 10 staff followed the guidance.

“I can’t tell you who was in the room or what happened – I wasn’t there – but I’ve checked before coming on and I’m told very clearly that the guidance was followed.”

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson is “taking people for fools”.

He tweeted: “Boris Johnson hosted multiple parties when the country was in lockdown over Christmas.

“Yesterday he claimed that was within the rules. He is taking people for fools.

“It’s one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else.”

Meanwhile, despite Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey advising people to avoid “snogging under the mistletoe” this Christmas, Mr Freeman insisted the Government is not attempting to “tell everyone who they should kiss or where they should go”.

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