No 10 staff ‘warned against destroying relevant information’ over alleged Christmas parties

Police will be informed of any potential criminal offences, says PM’s principal private secretary

Rory Sullivan
Tuesday 14 December 2021 02:17
Christmas party investigation could include Boris Johnson’s quiz, says Heath Secretary

Downing Street staff have been told not to “destroy any relevant information” as an investigation into illegal Christmas parties allegedly held at No 10 begins.

The latest development comes shortly after Boris Johnson – prompted by a public backlash – agreed to an inquiry into the possible flouting of coronavirus guidelines. At the time of the alleged parties, indoor socialising was banned in London, which was subject to extensive Covid restrictions.

As part of the internal investigation being handled by cabinet secretary Simon Case, Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s principal private secretary, has written to Downing Street staff telling them to cooperate with the inquiry, ITV News reported.

In an email seen by the broadcaster, Mr Reynolds urged Downing Street staff not to dispose of any potentially incriminating material, before adding that any evidence which suggests possible law-breaking would be handed to police.

Some staff members will soon be called to answer questions on what happened late last year, ITV quoted the letter as saying.

However, as Mr Reynolds noted in his message, government emails are automatically deleted after three months as part of security measures in place, meaning any from last year would need to be recovered first.

Over the weekend, the Sunday Mirror published a photo that appeared to show the prime minister flanked by colleagues while hosting a Christmas quiz on 15 December 2020.

This followed the leaking of a video in which senior government advisers can be heard joking about a party alleged to have taken place on 18 December 2020, when the capital was under tier 3 restrictions.

After these revelations came to light, Mr Johnson continued to insist his innocence, saying on Monday: “I can tell you that I certainly broke no rules.”

Nevertheless, these government scandals seem to have tarnished Mr Johnson and the Conservatives, whose popularity with the public have dropped dramatically in the past few weeks.

The latest Ipsos Mori poll suggests that 13 per cent more people now think Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer would be a better prime minister than Mr Johnson.

Meanwhile, other recent surveys put Labour ahead of the Tories, including a YouGov poll from 9 December, which had Labour on 37 per cent of the vote and the Conservatives on 33 per cent, a four point gain and a three point decrease respectively, compared to the previous week.

Given the government’s seeming slump in fortunes, the Liberal Democrats believe they can win Thursday’s by-election in North Shropshire, a seat the Tories won by more than 20,000 votes in the 2019 general election.

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