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Downing Street staff joke about Christmas party days after it allegedly happened

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SENIOR Downing Street staff joked about holding a Christmas party in No 10 days after the event allegedly took place, it has been revealed.

A leaked recording shared with ITV News shows staff laughing and making reference to “cheese and wine”, while Boris Johnson’s then spokesperson Allegra Stratton remarked there was “definitely no social distancing”.

Johnson has been dogged with allegations of holding a Christmas party in Downing Street on December 18, 2020 as London – along with the rest of the UK – was under strict restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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Downing Street has denied any rules were broken last December despite the fact that the public faced fines for any large gatherings.

The recording is of a rehearsal on December 22 for Downing Street’s proposed daily TV media briefings, which Stratton was set to front before they were later abandoned. 

Stratton jokes that she “went home” from the party while laughing before not appearing to know what to say. 

Ed Oldfield, the PM’s adviser asks: “Would the Prime Minister condone having a Christmas party?”

She laughs, then says: “What’s the answer?”

She acknowledges that the conversation is being recorded and says the “fictional party” was a “business meeting” and says it “was not socially distanced” while laughing.

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One source who was aware of the party in Downing Street told ITV News: “We all know someone who died from Covid and after seeing this all in the papers I couldn’t not say anything. I’m so angry about it all, the way it is being denied.”

It was recently reported that staff wore Christmas jumpers and were asked to bring “secret Santa” gifts – suggesting the event was planned.

There are also further reports of alcohol and food at the event that was reportedly attended by between 40 and 50 people.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “This video is damning and leaves the Prime Minister with a lot to answer for.

“When every individual up and down the country was told to stay at home in order to protect the NHS, the Tories were instead having a Christmas party which, as a senior staff member has now confirmed, was “not socially distanced”.

“If this is true, then the Prime Minister’s position is untenable and he must remove himself from office immediately.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the leaked video showed that “the Government broke the rules, they partied and now they are laughing about it”.

He told ITV News: “Unfortunately we have a Prime Minister who is socially distanced from the truth.

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“I think he has not been straight about this at all. It is increasingly obvious that there was a party – today’s evidence only adds to that.

“Instead of accepting that and being honest about it, the Prime Minister is pretending there weren’t breaches of any of the rules.”

Starmer added: “You don’t need a great long criminal investigation to get to the bottom of this – it is pretty obvious what happened.”

At the time of the video, London was under Tier 3 restrictions and the law stated that “no person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 3 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place in any indoor space”.

The UK Government’s own guidance specifically stated that people must not have a “work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity”.

Johnson’s official spokesman recently stated that “there was not a party” but the Prime Minister declined to characterise the event during a visit to a prison in London on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson refuses to say rule-breaking Christmas bash did not take place

“What I can tell you is that all the guidelines were observed, continue to be observed,” he told broadcasters when questioned at HMP Isis as the UK Government tries to portray itself as tough on crime.

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

Ministers are yet to explain how the alleged bash complied with the rules in place at the time, despite coming under pressure since an initial report in the Daily Mirror.

The newspaper said two events took place in No 10 in the run-up to the festive season last year, including Johnson giving a speech at a packed leaving do during November’s lockdown.

The other was said to be a staff party in December where party games were played, food and drinks were served, and revelries went on past midnight.

While Stratton alleges in the video that the event was a “business meeting”, this could still have broken the rules due to the number of people in attendance.

Rules stated that a maximum of 30 people should attend business meetings at the time of the tough restrictions and that only “absolutely necessary” participants should attend in-person with most being advised to attend through remote working tools.

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