A Christmas party crisis engulfs Downing Street

In The News podcast: London editor on the event that came back to haunt Boris Johnson

Will ‘Partygate’ do real damage to Boris Johnson? Photograph: Adrian Dennis/PA

For days there were denials and dodges as Boris Johnson and those around him insisted there was no partying in Downing Street last Christmas.

"The denials took various forms," The Irish Times London editor Denis Staunton notes in today's In The News podcast.

"First of all there was no party and whatever happened the guidelines were followed or the rules were followed . . . Was it a kind of work gathering which might have been legal or was it a mainly social gathering which wouldn't have been allowed at the time . . . Then you heard there was a Secret Santa organised and there were about 40 or 50 people there and there was drink ordered and it went on till two in the morning so that sounds like a party."

As the Tories dodged, the story refused to go away.


Then late on Tuesday night ITV News dropped a bombshell. It published a leaked video filmed a year ago in Number 10 Downing street.

It provided evidence that a Christmas party complete with nibbles, booze, festive jumpers and a Secret Santa had in fact taken place in the British prime minister’s official residence in December 2020, in breach of strict Covid rules brought in just before Christmas last year.

“By the time we got to the video appearing on Tuesday night there were so many different versions and evasions and different versions,” Staunton says, “[that] this whole thing has [created] a melange of accusations that the people who were making the rules were breaking the rules.”

A close aide of the prime minister tearfully resigned.

Johnson offered an apology to the House of Parliament and the Labour Party twisted the knife suggesting that not only were the Tories breaking their own rules, they were laughing at the people who had made such enormous sacrifices to follow them.

In The News is presented by Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope

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