Piers Morgan has declared that Boris Johnson is “toast” after leaked footage showed senior Downing Street staff joking about holding an illicit Christmas party last year.
The prime minister’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield, along with other aides, were filmed joking about a “fictional” party in December 2020.
On Tuesday, Downing Street again insisted there was no Christmas party and coronavirus rules had been followed at all times.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on Johnson to “come clean and apologise”, adding that for aides “to lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful”.
Cheese and wine
The footage obtained by ITV News showed Stratton answering questions at a mock press conference on 22 December about a Downing Street Christmas party the previous Friday – the date of the alleged rule-breaking gathering.
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 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, Oldfield pressed her for an answer.
“Would the Prime Minister condone having a Christmas party?” he asked.
Stratton asked “what’s the answer” and staff in the press room appeared to suggest ideas, with one saying “it wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine”.
“Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting,” Stratton replied, to laughter in the room.
Stratton then noted “this is recorded”, adding: “This fictional party was a business meeting … and it was not socially distanced.”
‘The big lie exposed’
The leaked footage was shot in the media room at 9 Downing Street, which was refurbished at a cost of £2.6 million in preparation for the televised broadcasts before the plan was ditched.
And on Tuesday night, former Good Morning Britain presenter Morgan condemned the video, tweeting: “Wow. The big lie exposed, in their own damning words. And look how funny they all found it. I doubt the British public will find this quite so amusing.
“Boris Johnson is continuing to lie about last year’s illicit Christmas party at No10 – even when we’ve all now seen his own spokeswoman on video laughing about it & wondering how best to lie about it to the media. Even by his standards, this is absolutely shameful.”
He added later: “The British public’s been bizarrely forgiving of Boris Johnson’s myriad lies as Prime Minister. But they won’t forgive his sniggering, mocking No10 staff brazenly plotting to lie about a Christmas party he’d banned anyone else from having as 1000s were dying. He’s toast.”