The internet is still expressing its fury as more details emerge about multiple alleged government and Downing Street Christmas parties that broke lockdown rules in December 2020.
December 2020 was a bleak and difficult time for many of us. Covid-19 cases and deaths were then at an all-time high, frontline workers battled against winter pressures and we were just about to be told by the government to “unpack our bags” for Christmas, dashing the hopes of millions that we would finally be reunited with our loved ones after months of lockdown restrictions.
Therefore it’s understandable that as more details continue to emerge about multiple alleged government and Downing Street ‘Christmas parties’ for officials and Westminster journalists that was held on 18 December, going against lockdown rules, people are taking to Twitter to express the “pure rage and pain” the news has caused.
Following the reporting of an alleged party on 18 December, #DowningStreetParty trended consistently on social media. First reported on 30 November by the Daily Mirror, the paper claimed that despite last year’s official Downing Street Christmas party being canceled due to restrictions, staff held an unofficial gathering.
The event reportedly took place two days after London went into Tier 3 lockdown restrictions on 16 December, meaning people were not allowed to mix indoors with anyone outside their household or support bubble. Under the rules, people were allowed to gather if it was reasonably necessary for work purposes, but that would not have included holding a party.
A source who attended later told the BBC that party games were played, food and drink were served, and the party went on past midnight. Reportedly around 30 people had been in attendance, with other staff joining later.
Now, images published by the Daily Mirror and reports of a “raucous” party hosted by Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign was held in the Conservative party’s Westminster headquarters on 14 December – while London was in Tier 2 restrictions – have emerged, prompting the London Assembly leader to step down from the role.
ITV News have also speculated that the Met Police were indeed aware of the first Downing Street party on 18 December, after an alarm was accidentally triggered which led security “and police” to respond.
So far, the Met have declined to investigate. However, The Good Law Project has written to the Met Police threatening legal action for its continued refusal to investigate Downing Street for holding parties during lockdown.
Boris Johnson has faced repeated accusations of lying after senior Number 10 officials were filmed joking about a party, including references to “cheese and wine”, the lack of social distancing and making the excuse it was a business meeting.
Johnson and his aides have repeatedly denied that the event broke Covid rules or took place at all, but footage obtained by ITV and shot on 22 December shows an adviser joking with Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s then press secretary, about “a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night”.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman denied earlier on this week that any event at Downing Street took place. When asked about the video, Downing Street insisted it had not changed its view, saying: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”
Separately, the Department for Education confirmed a report that some staff and the then education secretary Gavin Williamson held an office party on 10 December last year, while London was in tier 2, the second-highest level of Covid restrictions.
The news has left many groups understandably hurt and angry. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group have called for an apology, with a spokesperson telling the BBC: “My Dad died in February from Covid-19, despite being in good health. The last Christmas period is sadly one I will never forget.
“One in 20 people in my borough had Covid-19 and my family were desperately trying to do what we could to keep each other safe. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough.
“To think that just a few miles away, No 10 was throwing a Christmas Party, with no care for the rules they had set, is sickening.”
Frontline NHS workers also took to Twitter to express their anger, with palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke writing: “On 18 Dec - when Downing Street staff broke their own Covid rules by boozing it up at a Christmas party, 489 people died of Covid. Their loved ones distraught, cut off, unable to say goodbye to them. I think this is despicable.”
Green Party MP and co-leader Caroline Lucas wrote on Twitter: “Worse than Hancock or Barnard Castle. The Prime Minister allowed his staff to party in *Downing Street* as ordinary people were charged by police for gathering, as millions canceled Christmas and some died without family to hold them. If true, this is a clear-cut resignation matter.”
Many others called for apologies and resignations from the Prime Minister and other figures, as well as an investigation by the Metropolitan Police. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said Johnson had not been truthful: “To lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful. The prime minister now needs to come clean and apologise.”
“Christmas celebrations were cancelled, families torn apart, loved ones died, goodbyes never had, hugs not felt, jobs lost. All of this, while Downing Street held parties, and laughed at the rest of us,” added Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan.
In a statement to ITV News, the Met Police said they are aware of the footage, adding, “It is our policy not to routinely investigate retrospective breaches of the Covid-19 regulations, however the footage will form part of our considerations.” However, it has been reported that Met will now review the leaked footage.
Other Twitter pointed out the hypocrisy, with journalist Ben Smoke writing: “Police used Covid regulations to harass young black men, to violently break up a vigil for a women brutally murdered by one of their own and to suppress the right to protest but when downing street throws a Christmas party in the middle of lockdown they chose to look the other way?”
This story will be updated as it continues.