Prime minister Boris Johnson has apologised “unreservedly” for the offence the footage has caused “up and down the country” and the “impression it gave” following the alleged Christmas party at Downing Street during lockdown restrictions last year.
Johnson said he was “furious” after seeing the clip and insisted there was no party and no rules were broken.
He has, however, asked the Cabinet Secretary to investigate claims about the Christmas party in Downing Street last year adding that, if rules were broken, there will be disciplinary action.
The alleged staff party, reported to have included games and food and drink, is said to have taken place on 18 December when England was living under tier three restrictions – a time when some people were getting fined if caught hosting a gathering for over six people.
Johnson has repeatedly insisted that rules were followed but the official line has now shifted with the announcement of the inquiry.
As a result, Brits were furious and turned to Twitter to share how they spent Christmas in 2020, thanks to government rules. Many spent Christmas alone or were unable to visit loved ones, some of whom had days left to live.
“I spent last Christmas alone in my small apartment and it would have been my final Christmas with my grandfather before he passed away this year,” one wrote, adding: “Glad they had fun though.”
Despite ministers continuing to insist there was no party, a new leaked clip has prompted further questions about exactly what went on on December 18, 2020.
The video, obtained by ITV and reported to be from December 22 last year, shows Allegra Stratton laughing as she appears to rehearse answers to questions over a lockdown-busting Christmas party.
In the clip, No 10. Special adviser to the prime minister Ed Oldfield asks Stratton about reports of a party in Downing Street “on Friday night” – which would coincide with the alleged December 18 party date.
“I went home,” Stratton responded before pausing.
Oldfield then asks whether the prime minister would “condone” a Christmas party. Stratton responded: “What’s the answer?”
Another aide joked that “it wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine” before asking, “is cheese and wine all right?”
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.”