Downing St Christmas party scandal shows no signs of going away as fresh claims emerge - here’s what they are

Downing St Christmas party scandal shows no signs of going away as fresh claims emerge - here’s what they are

Boris Johnson is under pressure as fresh claims over the alleged Downing Street Christmas party have emerged.

Reports have surfaced that Downing Street’s director of communications made a speech and handed out awards at the event which took place on 18 December 2020.

ITV News claimed on Thursday that Jack Doyle, who was the deputy director of communications at No 10 at the time, addressed up to 50 attendees at the Christmas bash.

He reportedly spoke to the press office team, thanking them for their work as he did every week, and presented some awards as well.

Mr Johnson announced on Wednesday that an internal investigation led by the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case would look into reports of a staff gathering held at No 10 just a few days before Christmas when London was in Tier 3 restrictions. Downing Street has refused to comment further.

The probe was extended to include another festive celebration and an alleged staff leaving do, all while being labelled a “sham” by the Labour party, with the leader Sir Keir Starmer suggesting the prime minister was not up to the job.

Tweeting from his official account on Thursday evening, he said: “Boris Johnson is unfit to lead our country.”

PS: If you haven’t followed closely, the Downing Street Christmas party has become a national scandal that’s dominated headlines for days. It can be neatly summed up here. Then it got worse here, and reminded people of this, which made people really mad. You knew it was serious when Ant and Dec chimed in, and soon after we had one of the most brutal PMQs of the year. This all led to people planning a rave outside. Really. And one fella turned up early.

Right, back to the action: Sir Keir also told The Telegraph: “I’m confident we’re going to win the next general election, whether that’s in 2023 or 2024.

“So the question – and this is really the question that I think is central now – for the Cabinet, for ministers and for all Tory MPs, frankly, is are they prepared to endure the next two years of increased degradation of themselves and their party, being put out to defend the indefensible and bringing themselves and their party into further disrepute?

“Because this isn’t going to change – he’s unfit for office, it isn’t going to change. Or are they going to do something about it?”

As the scandal continues, Boris Johnson faces increased backlash over new Covid rules to stem the spread of the Omicron variant as reports suggest more than 30 MPs could vote against the Government next week.

Mr Johnson is also facing questions over whether he misled an investigation into donations for refurbishments to his Downing Street flat after the Electoral Commission fined the Tories £17,800.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner accused the Prime Minister of having “lied” to his standards adviser Lord Geidt by saying he did not know who was behind the payment, but No 10 insisted Mr Johnson had been honest and followed the rules “at all times”.

On Thursday night, following the latest claims, Ms Rayner said: “As more details emerge about the Downing Street Christmas party, the Government’s internal investigation has been exposed as the sham it is. The investigation has only just published its terms of reference and we are already seeing more details from the media than the Cabinet Office about the parties.”

“We all know there was a party that broke the rules. The Conservatives think it’s one rule for them, and another for everyone else. The Prime Minister is unfit to lead.”

In addition to the alleged party on 18 December, Mr Case will also look into a confirmed gathering at the Department for Education’s (DfE) Whitehall headquarters on 10 December last year, as well as a reported leaving event for a No 10 aide, allegedly attended by Boris Johnson, on 27 November.

The two December dates fall under the period when mixing between households in London was restricted and after England was in a month-long lockdown during November.

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