Footage has emerged of Boris Johnson’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton laughing and joking with fellow Downing Street staff about a Christmas party, just days after Number 10’s alleged festive bash in December 2020.

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.

Stratton is seen answering questions at a mock press conference on December 22 about a party the previous Friday – the date of the alleged Covid rule-breaking gathering.

Mr Oldfield can be heard asking Ms Stratton: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”

Ms Stratton replied “I went home” before appearing to consider what the correct answer should be.

During the rehearsal, filmed as part of a subsequently-abandoned plan for Ms Stratton to lead televised press briefings, one aide is heard saying: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.”

“Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting,” Ms Stratton replied, to laughter in the room.

Ms Stratton then noted “this is recorded”, adding: “This fictional party was a business meeting … and it was not socially distanced.”

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The Metropolitan Police have now confirmed that they will be looking into the leaked video in relation to “alleged breaches” of Covid regulations.

This new footage is likely to see Johnson face some tough questions over the supposed event as millions of others in London lived in isolation for the entire Christmas period.

On the morning media duties, the government chose not to send a minister, which was set to be Sajid Javid, to either BBC Breakfast or Good Morning Britain.

In reaction, Labour leader Keir Starmer said “we have a prime minister who’s socially distanced from the truth.”

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner condemned the jokey nature of the video highlighting that “it isn’t funny” to the millions of people who spent last Christmas alone.

Piers Morgan, a fierce critic of the government’s handling of Covid, said that even by the prime minister’s standards this was “absolutely shameful.”

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.

Some people had more creative ways of venting their anger, including Ant and Dec who mocked the PM on I’m A Celebrity...

Countdown’s Susie Dent always understands the assignment.

Meanwhile, Stratton’s political party on Wikipedia has been changed to “The Christmas Party”

Wikipedia

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...

Some couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that the video was recorded in the government’s very expensive press briefing room which hasn’t exactly lived up to the amount of money that they spent on it.

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.

Additional reporting from PA.

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