Boris Johnson says ‘rules were followed’ at No 10 party as Rishi Sunak denies attending

The event allegedly took place at a time when parties were banned under lockdown rules.

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Tuesday 07 December 2021 19:17
Boris Johnson claimed no rules had been broken
Boris Johnson claimed no rules had been broken

Boris Johnson has claimed No 10 staff followed all Covid rules at an alleged lockdown Christmas party last year.

It comes as chancellor Rishi Sunak denied attending the bash, which reportedly featured an email invitation and to bring “secret Santa” gifts.

Downing Street yesterday denied a party had taken place at all – going further than the prime minister himself appeared prepared to in person.

The event, the existence of which emerged nearly a year after it happened, took place at a time when parties were banned under lockdown rules.

Asked in the Commons on Tuesday morning to "categorically deny" that "he or any of his officials or spads (special advisers) attended any of the Downing Street Christmas parties", Mr Sunak said:

"No, I did not attend any parties." He made no comment on whether his officials or advisors had attended.

One Labour MP could be heard saying: "So there were parties."

Speaking on Tuesday opposition leader Keir Starmer issued challenge to the prime minister, telling reporters: "Be honest, own up. We don't need a criminal investigation, we need a prime minister who is honest about it."

But speaking during a visit to HMP Isis in London, Boris Johnson said: "What I can tell you is that all the guidelines were observed, continue to be observed."

Asked if he investigated personally, Mr Johnson said: "I am satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times."

The oscillating claims from the top of government that the party both did not happen and was completely within the rules is likely to raise eyebrows.

No.10 had previously claimed that no rules were broken during Matt Hancock's affair with his aide and Dominic Cummings' trip to Barnard Castle – two events which ended in high-profile resignations.

A poll by. Savanta ComRes released on Tuesday found two thirds of the public believe Mr Johnson should apologise for the holding of the events, at least one of which he is reported to have been present at.

Three quarters of people, 75 per cent, have heard of the story – a relatively high cut-through rate for Westminster goings-on.

Three in five say they understand that the party could not have taken place at the time without breaking Covid rules, while 72 per cent believe there is one rule for the government versus the rest of the public.

This latter belief extends to 2019 Tory voters, 56 per cent of whom agree with the statement.

Just one in six voters say No.10 staff deserved a Christmas party.

Police minister Kit Malthouse has said he would expect the police to investigate any breach the rules, after the Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick said the police would deal with rule-breaking without fear or favour.

Former advisor Dominic Cummings meanwhile claimed that journalists were in attendance at the bash – although he did not substantiate his claim or say to who he was referring. Mr Cummings had left government by the time of the alleged gatherings.

The claims refer to two gatherings on November 27 or December 18 last year – one a supposed Christmas bash and another a leaving do for a college moving to work elsewhere. The Daily Mirror newspaper, which first broke the story, has also cited sources claiming there were a number of social gatherings at No.10 over the winter period.

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