#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 14°C Friday 20 May 2022
Advertisement

Boris Johnson under pressure from Christmas party claims as Covid Plan B comes into effect

A senior Tory MP urged Boris Johnson to “get a grip” on matters.

Image: PA

FRESH CLAIMS HAVE emerged over an alleged Christmas bash in No 10 Downing Street as the UK Prime Minister remains under intense pressure.

A senior Tory MP urged Boris Johnson to “get a grip” on matters following reports that Downing Street’s director of communications made a speech and handed out awards at the event said to have taken place on 18 December 2020.

ITV News reported yesterday that Jack Doyle, who was then deputy director of communications at No 10, addressed up to 50 people at a Christmas gathering said to have been held on that date.

It is understood that Doyle spoke to the press office to thank them for their work, as he did every week, and presented some awards to mark the team’s efforts.

Downing Street refused to comment further than to say a fact-finding review was ongoing.

Doyle has been approached for comment.

As the new allegations surfaced, a probe into reported Covid-rule busting gatherings in Government was branded a “sham” by Labour, while the party’s leader Keir Starmer suggested the PM was not up to the job.

A tweet from his official account on Thursday night said: “Boris Johnson is unfit to lead our country.”

Keir also told The Telegraph: “I’m confident we’re going to win the next general election, whether that’s in 2023 or 2024.

So the question – and this is really the question that I think is central now – for the Cabinet, for ministers and for all Tory MPs, frankly, is are they prepared to endure the next two years of increased degradation of themselves and their party, being put out to defend the indefensible and bringing themselves and their party into further disrepute?

“Because this isn’t going to change – he’s unfit for office, it isn’t going to change. Or are they going to do something about it?”

Plan B

Meanwhile, Johnson faces the prospect of a growing rebellion over new Covid rules to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, as reports suggest more than 30 MPs may vote against the Government next week.

It is reportedly “very likely” care homes in England will be forced to operate with a three-visitor limit under Government plans to limit Omicron’s spread before Christmas.

Rising cases of the variant have already prompted new restrictions including the use of masks in more places, a return to working from home on Monday and mandatory Covid passports for large venues from Wednesday.

And The Daily Telegraph cites an anonymous Government source as saying it is “very likely” visitors in social care settings will be limited to three and this would only be changed “when there is a clear change of circumstances for one of them”.

Any change to the number of visitors would mark a significant shift after the Government last month said there were “no nationally set restrictions” on visits into care homes in England, amid concerns residents’ rights were being curtailed.

The Government source who spoke to the Telegraph said the idea of limiting visitors was “still awaiting ministerial clearance” and “could still be vetoed by Number 10”.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

There have been concerns throughout the pandemic about the management of restrictions in care homes.

In November, the Relatives & Residents Association said there had been a “huge disparity” in how measures have been eased for care homes and the wider public, as well as differences in how individual homes have interpreted guidance up until now.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new curbs have him facing the prospect of a growing rebellion, as reports suggest more than 30 MPs may vote against the measures next week.

Investigation

Johnson has been fielding criticism from across the political spectrum in light of allegations that rules were flaunted at the heart of Government last year.

He announced on Wednesday that an internal investigation led by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case would look into reports of a staff gathering held in Downing Street just days before Christmas, when London was under Tier 3 restrictions.

The probe was subsequently widened to include another festive celebration and a reported staff leaving do.

Separately, Johnson is facing questions over whether he misled an investigation into donations for refurbishments to his Downing Street flat after the Electoral Commission fined the Tories £17,800.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner accused the Prime Minister of having “lied” to his standards adviser Lord Geidt by saying he did not know who was behind the payment, but No 10 insisted Mr Johnson had been honest and followed the rules “at all times”.

Tory MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who is treasurer of the 1922 Committee, said yesterday that “the truth must come out” about the various allegations levelled at Downing Street.

He told BBC’s Newsnight: “What we need from all of this is a really straightforward version from the Prime Minister on all of these serious issues – whether it’s by investigation of the most senior (civil) servant Simon Case on the Downing Street parties, whether it’s by investigation by Lord Geidt on the donations to the Downing Street flat – all of these things need to be investigated and the truth must come out.”

The whole parties issue could have been investigated in a day or two, a week or so ago, and the correct version given – whoever it was who organised whatever it is that we don’t know or do know that happened.

“The truth should have been given and then the appropriate action against those who organised these parties – if that’s what they were, or gatherings… the appropriate disciplinary action should have been taken.

“And I think now as other commentators have said, the Prime Minister needs to get a grip on all of these matters.”

Last night, following the latest claims, Rayner said: “As more details emerge about the Downing Street Christmas party, the Government’s internal investigation has been exposed as the sham it is.

The investigation has only just published its terms of reference and we are already seeing more details from the media than the Cabinet Office about the parties.

Alongside the alleged 18 December party, Case will include in his review a confirmed gathering at the Department for Education’s (DfE) Whitehall headquarters on 10 December last year and a reported leaving event for a No 10 aide – allegedly attended by Boris Johnson – on 27 November.

The terms of reference for the investigation, published yesterday afternoon, said “where there are credible allegations relating to other gatherings, these may be investigated”.

The two December dates coincide with when mixing between households in London was restricted, with England in a month-long lockdown during November.

Case’s inquiry was ordered by the Prime Minister after a leaked video emerged showing Downing Street aides laughing about a “fictional” party at No 10 in December 2020.

About the author:

Press Association

Read next:

COMMENTS (11)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel