Downing Street has pulled their spokespeople from this morning’s media round after a leaked video heaped fresh pressure over their Christmas party claims.
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.”
In response to ITV’s report, a Downing Street spokesman said: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”