Boris Johnson backs press chief who attended No 10 Christmas party – and ‘refuses to accept his resignation’

PM has ‘full confidence’ in Jack Doyle, who will remain in his post, says spokesman

Related video: Tory minister Paul Scully discusses the difference between ‘gatherings’ and ‘parties’

Boris Johnson today refused to accept an offer of resignation from his communications director, reports suggest, despite claims he attended one of the potentially lockdown-breaking Christmas parties held in 10 Downing Street last year.

Jack Doyle, then the PM’s press secretary, is alleged to have addressed up to 50 colleagues at the 18 December get-together and even handed out awards to them.

A spokesman for the PM said earlier he was “not aware” if Mr Doyle had offered to quit following the allegations, and that he will continue in his post.

However, the BBC reported it had been told by two separate sources that the aide did offer to resign and Mr Johnson turned it down

Asked if the PM had full confidence in Mr Doyle, the spokesman replied simply: “Yes.”

The government has launched a full investigation by cabinet secretary Simon Case into the 18 December party – which allegedly included Secret Santa, cheese, wine and festive games – as well as two other events: a leaving do on 27 November, which Mr Johnson is said to have attended, and a Department for Education (DfE) gathering on 10 December, all last year.

Downing Street has refused to comment further on allegations against ministers and other government staff, other than to say the probe is underway to establish all the facts.

Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former top aide, tweeted earlier to say Mr Doyle was a “gonner” (sic). He also claimed Mr Johnson “will be thinking” it is smarter to “keep” the so-called spin doctor around for when the findings of Mr Case’s inquiry come in.

“Then [Mr Johnson will say], ‘I’m shocked, shocked I tell you to discover there was a party and I was misled’, [and] do a deal with Jack to keep all the wallpaper horror buried,” Mr Cummings said.

He added in a later post: “Also there’s lots of pictures of the parties which will inevitably get out. And invite lists beyond No 10, to other departments...”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the PM “unfit for office” and said it was important to “get to the bottom” of what had happened, including whether Covid rules had been broken.

Related video: Sobbing Allegra Stratton resigns over No 10 party video

He also called Mr Doyle’s position into question. Speaking in Hadston, Northumberland, where he was meeting with families affected by Storm Arwen, Sir Keir said: “I think he’s got to look very carefully at his position.

“If the information that’s coming out at the moment about attending the party is accurate, then it seems to be pretty obvious that he’s got to consider his position.”

It comes after Allegra Stratton, the PM’s former spokesperson, was forced to resign on Wednesday after a leaked video from last year showed her and other colleagues making light of both an apparent Christmas party inside No 10 and the Covid regulations it breached.

In the clip, first published by ITV News, Ms Stratton and her colleague Ed Oldfield can be seen practising answering a potential question from journalists about an event seemingly attended by them and others.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman has since said the PM maintains full confidence in Mr Oldfield.

Asked earlier if Downing Street is still considering throwing a Christmas party this year, the spokesman said there were “no plans” for such an event as the PM focuses on dealing with the omicron variant of Covid.

A total of 58,194 new Covid cases were reported in the UK on Friday – the highest number since January.

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