The former England footballer Gary Neville has written to his local Conservative MP seeking answers about last year’s Downing Street Christmas party, as the public backlash over the gathering continues.
Although sources say the event on 18 December reportedly involved dozens of people eating, drinking and playing games at close quarters when indoor social mixing was not permitted in London, Boris Johnson insists no rules were broken.
Mr Neville does not accept this assurance, writing to Bolton MP Mark Logan of his belief that the incident shows the prime minister and some Tory frontbenchers “living by different rules” to the rest of the country.
The sports commentator asked Mr Logan to clarify his position on the matter and to confirm or deny whether he was in attendance.
The former Manchester United defender also urged the Conservative backbencher to publicly denounce the alleged breach of coronavirus guidance.
“We need MPs to stand up and show the courage to do the right thing and speak out against wrongdoing,” he said.
The tone of Mr Neville’s letter echoed Keir Starmer’s criticism of Boris Johnson at PMQS on Wednesday.
“The prime minister doesn’t deny there was a Downing Street Christmas party last year...He says no rules were broken. Both of those things can’t be true. He’s taking the British public for fools,” the Labour leader said.
The government is still fending off enquiries about what happened in Downing Street last December, a week after The Daily Mirror first broke the story.
In a potentially worrying development for the government, the issue appears to still be at the forefront of some voters’ minds. Reports suggest the Downing Street party is being regularly mentioned on the doorstep in the constituency in North Shropshire, where a by-election will be held later this month, following the resignation of Tory MP Owen Paterson over lobbying.
On Monday, the policing minister Kit Malthouse admitted he knows “nothing about” the alleged Christmas event, saying he took Downing Street’s insistence that no rules were broken at “face value”.
He also corrected his cabinet colleague Dominic Raab, who suggested on Sunday that the police “don’t normally look back and investigate things that have taken place a year ago".
"The police should be investigating anything that is a historic crime to them,” Mr Malthouse confirmed.
His comment comes as the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she would press the Metropolitan Police about the gathering, after the matter was reported to the force as a possible crime.
The Labour frontbencher added that she is unsure why Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said on Friday that she was not aware of a complaint, suggesting that fellow MPs had discussed the issue with her directly.
"I wanted to find out what’s happened because my understanding is that this has actually been raised with her and she has been sent questions about this by other MPs, by other London MPs. So I will look into what has happened here,” Ms Cooper said.
Amid the ongoing scandal, No 10 has confirmed that festive celebrations are likely to go ahead there this year. "I think there is an intention to have a Christmas party this year,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
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