Friday, January 21, 2022

Downing Street ditches Christmas party as PM battles scandal

The announcement comes despite Boris Johnson specifically saying he hoped people would go ahead with Christmas parties and other festive events while exercising caution.

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Downing Street will not hold a Christmas party this year, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said Friday as the prime minister faced public fury over claims his staff broke rules last year.

“There’s no plans for that in No 10,” the spokesman said, linking the decision to Johnson’s announcements on Wednesday that England was progressing to stricter virus rules due to try to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

“I think we’ve made clear since the latest situation with Omicron, obviously that’s taking up great deal of time at the moment,” the spokesman said.

The announcement came despite Johnson specifically saying on Wednesday he hoped people would go ahead with Christmas parties and other festive events such as children’s Nativity plays, while exercising caution.

People in England will be asked to follow guidance to work from home if possible from Monday, prompting many offices to cancel festive events such as parties, in a severe blow to the hospitality industry.

Johnson is under pressure after media reports that Downing Street staff last year held an illegal party at a time when restrictions banning mixing of households were in force in London.

Work Christmas parties were banned if “primarily social”.

But there have been a slew of damaging claims that Downing Street played games and exchanged “Secret Santa” gifts at a party on Dec 18 last year and listened to a speech by Johnson’s then-director of communications, Jack Doyle.

A day later, Johnson announced a “stay at home” alert level in the capital and in southeastern England, forcing the public to abandon their Christmas plans with family and friends.

Johnson has told parliament he believes no rules were broken and has ordered an investigation by a senior civil servant.

But his former press secretary resigned after footage emerged of her laughing at a press conference rehearsal soon after the alleged party, trying to work out what to say about it.

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