Video has emerged of Jacob Rees-Mogg joking about the Christmas Party in Number 10 – just hours after a mock press conference showed Downing Street staffers doing the same thing.
The Commons leader was speaking at this year’s Christmas bash for the Institute of Economic Affairs when he joked about police investigating last year’s event.
In a video published on the Guido website, the Tory MP told the audience: “I see we’re all here obeying regulations, aren’t we?
“I mean, this party is not going to be investigated by the police in a year’s time.
“You are all very carefully socially distanced… we have moved, I am pleased to tell you, from the metric back to the Imperial system: I notice you are all at least two inches away from each other which is, as I understand it, what the regulations require.”
Media briefings cancelled
In footage obtained by ITV News, Boris Johnson’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield, along with other aides, were filmed joking about a “fictional” Downing Street party in December 2020.
Ms Stratton is seen answering questions at a mock press conference on December 22 about a party the previous Friday – the date of the alleged Covid rule-breaking gathering which is said to have been attended by dozens of colleagues while social mixing indoors was banned in London under Tier 3 restrictions.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed officers are reviewing the leaked video in relation to “alleged breaches” of coronavirus regulations.
Commenting on news that Downing Street has pulled spokespeople from this morning’s media round, Ian Dunt said it suggests that “after a week of saying a party did not take place which evidently did take place, they currently have no idea how to approach this story.”
The Telegraph’s Harry Yorke said a source told him “we’re f*****” on the back of the revelations, while Sir Roger Gale declared that the situation bore “all the hallmarks of another ‘Barnard Castle’ moment” – a reference to the prime minister’s former aide driving 260 miles during strict lockdown conditions last year.
In the footage, Mr Oldfield can be heard asking Ms Stratton: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”
Ms Stratton replied “I went home” before appearing to consider what the correct answer should be.
During the rehearsal, filmed as part of a subsequently-abandoned plan for Ms Stratton to lead televised press briefings, one aide is heard saying: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.”
“Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting,” Ms Stratton replied, to laughter in the room.
Ms Stratton then noted “this is recorded”, adding: “This fictional party was a business meeting … and it was not socially distanced.”