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Call for Boris Johnson to quit over Covid ‘party’ row

Two events added to Downing St party probe


Boris Johnson at Downing Street this week. Photo: Chris J Radcliffe /Getty

Boris Johnson at Downing Street this week. Photo: Chris J Radcliffe /Getty

Boris Johnson at Downing Street this week. Photo: Chris J Radcliffe /Getty

The probe into alleged Covid rule-busting parties in the British government has been widened to include another festive celebration and a reported staff leaving do.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, a senior civil servant, will investigate reports of a staff Christmas party at Downing Street on December 18, 2020, as well as the other two alleged events.

The row which has overshadowed the announcement of new Covid restrictions has led to calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson should not continue as prime minister if he is found to have misled the London Parliament over an alleged party in Downing Street last year, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said.

A video appearing to show Downing Street aides joking about the alleged December 18 party was released by ITV News earlier this week.

Mr Johnson has been under intense pressure over the issue in the past week, but he said in the Commons on Wednesday that he has been assured no party took place – although he had ordered the Cabinet Secretary to investigate.

Mr Ross said of Mr Johnson: “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.”

It is understood Mr Case will also include in his review a confirmed gathering at the Department for Education’s headquarters on December 10 last year, and a reported leaving event for a No 10 aide on November 27.

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

Not included in the review are claims of a party in Mr Johnson’s Downing Street flat on November 13, the night the PM’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings departed.

Mr Ellis said that any evidence of potentially criminal behaviour “will be referred to the police and the Cabinet Office’s work may be paused”.

Ministers, special advisers and civil servants will be “expected to cooperate with this investigation”, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis told MPs in the Commons.

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Fleur Anderson, Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, called for the government to “be straight with the British people” over what happened last year.

Conservatives also demanded answers over who had given reassurances to Mr Johnson that coronavirus regulations had been followed, with MP Philip Hollobone going so far as to suggest “possibly criminal” behaviour might have taken place.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Mr Case had the authority required to “get to the bottom” of the claims being made and to “establish the facts”. Mr 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.

During interviews yesterday, Mr Javid – who was not in Government at the time the parties are said to have taken place – repeated past comment that he had been given assurances by officials that no Covid rules were broken last year. But the Cabinet minister, speaking to LBC, said that if the rules had not been broken, then “a party could not take place”.

The leaked footage, obtained by ITV News, showed aides laughing about an alleged social event while rehearsing for subsequently ditched televised press briefings in No 10’s media room.

Allegra Stratton, a former spokeswoman for the prime minister who featured in the rehearsal, resigned on Wednesday while Ed Oldfield, a media aide who is heard asking a practice question about a rumoured party, refused to answer questions when approached by Sky News.

Following the saga of what went on in No 10, the Tories have come under pressure after they confirmed that an event organised by a failed London mayoral candidate took place in the party’s headquarters on December 14 while the capital was in tier 2 restrictions.

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