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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Alamy Stock Photo Boris Johnson speaks yesterday.
tory party party party

Inquiry into Number 10 party claims could be widened to other events, warns UK Cabinet minister

The Tories admitted an event organised by a mayoral candidate took place in the party’s headquarters on 14 December.

THE UK HEALTH Secretary has said the probe into allegations of a Downing Street Christmas party could be widened to include other claims, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing further questions after the Conservatives admitted a rule-breaking gathering took place at their headquarters.

Sajid Javid said he has been given “assurances” by “senior” officials that no Covid rules were broken by Downing Street staff on December 18.

However he noted it is for Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to use his investigation to “get to the bottom” of whether lockdown-breaking events were held last year.

The Cabinet minister told LBC: “Having this investigation, having the Cabinet Secretary look into this, is the right response because this is the individual who can talk to anyone, can get the data, the evidence together and establish the facts.”

It came as the House of Commons heard this morning that Case’s investigation will examine a gathering held in November of last year. 

The Tories have also admitted that an event organised by a mayoral campaign took place in the party’s Westminster headquarters on 14 December 2020 while the capital was in Tier 2 restrictions.

According to the Times, the “raucous” party took place in the HQ’s basement, was attended by No 10 aides and featured dancing and wine-drinking into the early hours despite indoor social mixing being banned at the time.

Javid said he has no knowledge of that event, but suggested the head of the Civil Service could choose to delve into what happened as part of his investigation.

“I do know that Simon Case is not just looking at a particular date,” Javid said. “He is free to look at whatever dates he wants to consider.”

Case’s inquiry was ordered by the Prime Minister after a leaked video emerged showing Downing Street aides laughing about a “fictional” party at Downing Street in December 2020.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Boris Johnson also appeared to concede that the Cabinet Secretary would be able to go further than just reviewing the events of 18 December and “look at other things”, with other alleged gatherings in Downing Street over the festive period last year.

Johnson has also said that voters have “every right” to cast him “down and out again” as he championed the benefits of living in a democracy.

In remarks he will deliver via a pre-recorded video to the Summit for Democracy, hosted by US President Joe Biden this evening, the Prime Minister said he would “not wish it any other way” than for voters to be able to get rid of him at the ballot box.

He said: “Out of Athens more than 2,500 years ago, there came a simple and beautiful idea: that people are neither passive nor powerless, but free citizens with a right to participate in the governance of their country.

“The idea of democracy has gathered force down the centuries, inspiring billions across the world, and converging on the principles we all share.

“We believe that our peoples are entitled to elect and remove their governments through the ballot box, overseen by independent courts and a free media.

“We’re only here because our electorates have, at least for the time being, raised us to positions of responsibility for their affairs – but they have every right to cast us down and out again, and we would not wish it any other way.”

There was some brighter personal news for the British PM this morning, as Johnson’s wife Carrie has given birth to her second child.

Mr and Mrs Johnson announced the birth of a “healthy baby girl” at a London hospital on Thursday after. 

It came following a tumultuous 24 hours for Downing Street.

Labour has urged police to open an investigation into allegations staff broke coronavirus rules at the December 2020 event in Number 10, saying it was “implausible” for Scotland Yard to suggest there is insufficient evidence to investigate.

Allegra Stratton became the first casualty of the affair when she emotionally stood down after video emerged of her and other advisers joking about Covid restrictions just days after the gathering in No 10 on 18 December last year.

allegra-stratton-speaking-outside-her-home-in-north-london-where-she-announced-that-she-has-resigned-as-an-adviser-to-boris-johnson-and-offered-her-profound-apologies-after-footage-emerged-of-her-wh Alamy Stock Photo Allegra Stratton speaking outside her home in north London. Alamy Stock Photo

But the Prime Minister’s attempt to move on from the row by tasking Cabinet Secretary Simon Case with undertaking an investigation appeared to have failed as details emerged of the separate party.

A Tory spokesman said:

“Senior CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) staff became aware of an unauthorised social gathering in the basement of Matthew Parker Street organised by the [Shaun Bailey mayoral] campaign on the evening of December 14.

“Formal disciplinary action was taken against the four CCHQ staff who were seconded to the Bailey campaign.”

The Metropolitan Police acknowledged it had received “a significant amount of correspondence” relating to the alleged breaches in Number 10 in the run up to Christmas last year but said they do not “provide evidence of a breach” of Covid rules.

“Based on the absence of evidence and in line with our policy not to investigate retrospective breaches of such regulations, the Met will not commence an investigation at this time,” it added.

But the force did leave open the possibility of further inquiries by saying it would consider “any evidence” that emerges in the Case inquiry.

Shadow health secretary West Streeting said the Met should be “knocking on doors, taking statements and investigating people in No 10 in the way they would my constituents or anyone else in the country”.

“It seems implausible for the Metropolitan Police to argue there is no evidence that parties took place,” he told reporters.

They’ve got to pursue this investigation without fear or favour and treat the Prime Minister and his staff as they would treat anyone else. It can’t be one rule for the Prime Minister and another for everyone else.

Meanwhile, Downing Street did not comment on a separate report in The Times newspaper that Dan Rosenfield, then Johnson’s incoming chief of staff, took part in the 18 December party while London was under Tier 3 restrictions.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted the rules were followed that night but apologised over the impression made by leaked footage of Number 10 staff joking about Covid restrictions.

It showed Stratton and aides laughing on 22 December about a supposedly “fictional party” having taken place in Downing Street days earlier as she took part in a rehearsal for her subsequently axed role hosting televised press briefings.

She resigned as a Government adviser yesterday, saying: “I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days and I offer my profound apologies to all of you at home for them.”

Meanwhile, Johnson was forced to deny allegations, including from senior Conservative William Wragg, that his announcement of further coronavirus restrictions was a “diversionary tactic” from the scandal.

The Prime Minister also appeared to concede that the Cabinet Secretary would be able to go further than just reviewing the events of 18 December and “look at other things”, with other alleged gatherings in Downing Street over the festive period last year.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said Johnson should quit if he was found to have misled Parliament.

“If he knew there was a party, if he knew it took place, then he cannot come to the House of Commons and say there was no party,” he told Sky News.

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