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'Cheese And Wine': Downing Street Officials Joke About Holding Christmas Party During Lockdown

·2 min read

Repeated denials by Downing Street that a Christmas party took place during lockdown last year have been questioned after a video emerged showing senior staffers joking on camera about an event involving “cheese and wine” and “definitely no social distancing”.

Leaked footage to ITV News shows an adviser to Boris Johnson, Ed Oldfield, joking with Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s then press secretary, about “a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night”.

The footage was reportedly filmed as part of preparations for televised briefings by Stratton – a plan which was subsequently abandoned.

The party at the centre of the row is reported to have taken place on Friday, December 18.

At the rehearsal with Stratton on December 22, Oldfield asked her: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”

Stratton replied “I went home” before a discussion with colleagues about whether the event was a “cheese and wine” evening.

She added: “This fictional party was a business meeting … and it was not socially distanced.”

Keir Starmer said Johnson needs to “come clean and apologise” after the footage was made public.

The Labour Party leader said: “People across the country followed the rules even when that meant being separated from their families, locked down and – tragically for many – unable to say goodbye to their loved ones.

“They had a right to expect that the government was doing the same.

“To lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful.

“The prime minister now needs to come clean and apologise.

“It cannot be one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else.”

Only this morning, Dominic Raab said it would have been a breach of Covid restrictions at the time if a party was held in No 10 Downing Street in the run up to last Christmas.

Boris Johnson has not denied reports that his staff held a party on December 18 last year when London was under Tier 3 restrictions but has insisted that no rules were broken.

In response to the footage, a Downing Street spokesman said: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”

The Metropolitan Police said it is reviewing footage of Downing Street staff discussing a Christmas party.

A statement from the force said: “We are aware of footage obtained by ITV News relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at a government building in December 2020.

“It is our policy not to routinely investigate retrospective breaches of the Covid-19 regulations, however the footage will form part of our considerations.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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