British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being accused of lying after senior No. 10 officials were filmed joking about a lockdown Christmas party that Downing Street insists did not happen.
The footage has prompted anger from MPs, NHS bosses and those who lost loved ones during the pandemic.
The premier and his aides have repeatedly denied that the event reportedly held in December last year, broke Covid rules or took place at all.
Asked about the footage, Downing Street insisted that “there was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”
However, in the video obtained by ITV News, Johnson's then spokesperson Allegra Stratton joked that the party was “was not socially distanced.”
Stratton laughingly says, “This is recorded … This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.”
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said, “To lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful. The prime minister now needs to come clean and apologize.”
Becky Kummer, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said, “There are simply no words to describe how upsetting and shameful it is then to hear Boris Johnson’s team laughing about breaking the rules they had made, whilst others followed them and could only say goodbye to their loved ones through a screen. It’s the behavior of people who think they’re above us.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror reported that former education secretary Gavin Williamson held a separate party, while London was in Tier 2, the second-highest level of Covid restrictions.
According to the Mirror, Williamson delivered a speech while up to two dozen staff gathered in a cafe area.
A senior Tory MP told the Guardian, “The handling of the Owen Paterson affair showed the PM didn’t think the rules applied to his friends. This video demonstrates that’s a view widely shared in No 10 by very senior political advisers, appointed by the PM. People prevented by the government from seeing their loved ones at the end of their life will feel like they’re being taken for fools.”
Backed by Johnson, Conservative lawmakers narrowly voted to halt a proposed 30-day suspension from parliament of Paterson, who had been found guilty of repeatedly lobbying for two firms, which paid him nearly three times his annual salary.
Instead, they pushed through a proposal to delay the suspension and set up a new committee to review his case and the wider system of investigating lawmakers.