Last week, a report inThe Mirror claimed that a party took place on December 18 – with claims that staff drank alcohol and exchanged Secret Santa gifts – when London was under Tier 3 restrictions.
Since then, the government has doubled down on its efforts to deny that the “event” ever took place and, even if it did, has claimed that all the Covid guidelines and restrictions were followed.
However, the new footage, which was leaked to ITV News, shows Stratton, who worked for the PM between November 2020 and April 2021, joking with adviser Ed Oldfield and other aides about the supposed “fictional” party.
The wider response, from across the political spectrum, to this video was predictably one of absolute fury, with many pointing out that numerous members of the public have been prosecuted for breaking Covid restrictions while others had loved ones die during the pandemic.
Worse than Hancock or Barnard Castle.The Prime Minister allowed his staff to party in *Downing Street* as ordinary… https://t.co/5XyeXoG9r3
To make matters worse, another report has emerged that former education secretary Gavin Williamson had also hosted a party around the same period – with some impressed that Williamson had at least managed to organise something...
I am actually shocked Gavin Williamson was able to organise a piss up. https://t.co/2XQ7f2JVyB
This whole incident is the greatest self-own in criminal legal history since my client who wrote down his name and… https://t.co/LlQGcjUOxc
— The Secret Barrister (@The Secret Barrister)
This week, Downing Street has stuck to the claim that the party never happened, with a spokesperson telling ITV after the latest video emerged: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”
Then, during PMQs, Johnson apologised for the clip and said he was “furious” about it, before again denying any party had taken place. However, he said that he had ordered an investigation into claims staff broke lockdown rules.
Stratton, meanwhile, later resigned, saying she would “regret those remarks for the rest of my days”.
It remains to be seen what will happen next but it’s probably going to be another bumpy Christmas for the UK government.