This afternoon Boris Johnson will face Prime Minister’s Questions as the Downing Street Christmas party scandal continues to escalate.
Yesterday evening a video was leaked to ITV that showed Downing Street aides joking about the alleged Christmas party last December while practising for then Press Secretary Allegra Stratton’s planned TV briefings.
During the video, one colleague asks: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognize those reports?”
Stratton replies: “I went home… Umm, errr, ahhhh what’s the answer?”
Another colleague intervenes: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.” Stratton asks: “Is cheese and wine alright?” The colleague appears to respond: “No, joking.” Stratton answers “it was a business meeting,” before warning her colleagues that “this is recorded,” before once again joking that: “This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.”
Since April 2021 Stratton has served as spokesperson for COP26 President Alok Sharma.
No 10 continues to deny that a party took place.
Labour leader Keir Starmer hit back at the video yesterday, saying: “People across the country followed the rules even when that meant being separated from their families, locked down and — tragically for many — unable to say goodbye to their loved ones.
He went on: “They had a right to expect that the government was doing the same. To lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful. The prime minister now needs to come clean, and apologize. It cannot be one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else,” adding via Twitter that Mr Johnson is “socially distanced from the truth.”
The Scottish National Party’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, has said Johnson ought to resign, while Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has urged an inquiry.
No 10 is also keen to deny Foreign Office whistle-blower Raphael Marshall’s claims that the PM intervened to ensure the evacuation of pets belonging to Pen Farthing’s Nowzad charity in Afghanistan, despite the FCDO saying that they were ineligible.
Marshall said that this decision endangered British troops and used capacity that could have been used by Afghan evacuees nominated by cabinet ministers. which a letter from his parliamentary private secretary published by LBC seems to suggest.
At the time of writing, it appears that no ministers have been scheduled for this morning’s broadcast round.