The education secretary labelled Boris Johnson’s Christmas quiz as just “hype”, amid pictures emerging of the prime minister taking part in the event during last year’s Covid restrictions.
Nadhim Zahawi defended Johnson, who appeared to sit alongside two colleagues in Downing Street during a virtual quiz on December 15, only a few days before a Downing Street Christmas party allegedly took place despite social mixing being banned.
“What do we see in that picture? We see a prime minister on a virtual quiz night for 10 to 15 minutes to thank his staff who, by the way, had no choice but to come in every single day,” Zahawi told Sky News.
Sitting next to two people
He added: “Sitting in his office with the two people who are working closest with him — no alcohol on the table, not drinking, on a zoom call or a teams call or virtual call respecting the lockdown rules.
“Many people would have had similar quiz nights around the country.”
“If I had done it, I would be in monster trouble,” presenter Trevor Phillips replied.
Zahawi tried to argue it was only a virtual quiz, but Phillips pointed out Johnson was “sitting next to two people!”
“In many ways I’ve had emails from constituents, because the hype around parties that was going on in the last week and the week before made it sound completely different,” Zahawi added.
Separately from the quiz, The Mirror reported that Downing Street held a Christmas party on 18 December – allegations which made Allegra Stratton, Johnson’s former press secretary, resign.
Meanwhile, the Department for Work and Pensions confirmed staff working for secretary Therese Coffey drank alcohol and ate takeaways “late into the evening” several times during Covid restrictions.
Zahawi defends Christmas quiz
According to The Mirror, government staff gathered around computers to enjoy alcohol for the Christmas quiz on 15 December, when official guidance banned social mixing between households and work Christmas parties and lunches for Tier 2, which London was under.
But Zahawi insisted on BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “These are people who work together.
“There is no drink here. I don’t think there is a rule against recognising Christmas with tinsel or a hat.
“Ten to 15 minutes to thank his team who were working all hours on a virtual screen in a pub quiz – I think people can make their own mind up on that.”
Asked about the allegations regarding a No 10 Christmas party on 18 December, Zahawi said: “I think that is unfair.
“Allegra Stratton who resigned over this, she resigned because she felt the frivolity and the laughter… the Cabinet Secretary is looking at all allegations.
“I think it is only fair and right, because these are the values that we adhere to in this country, that we should wait for that investigation.”