‘I REPEAT that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken,’ Tory PM Johnson insisted during PMQs yesterday.
He stuck to his line even though footage has emerged showing Downing Street staff joking about a lockdown Christmas party in No 10 last year.
The footage obtained by ITV showed the PM’s then press chief Allegra Stratton joking about the party at a news conference rehearsal last December.
Johnson continued: ‘May I begin by saying that I understand and share the anger up and down the country and seeing Number 10’s staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures.
‘And I also understand how infuriating it must be to think that the people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules.
‘Because I was also furious to see that clip and I apologise unreservedly to the offence it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.’
On the video footage he continued: ‘And I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible.
‘It goes without saying that if these rules were broken there will be disciplinary action.’
Leader of the Labour opposition Keir Starmer, while criticising Johnson, refused to call for him to go.
He said: ‘I heard what the Prime Minister said but frankly it raises more questions than answers. Last week I asked the Prime Minister “was there a Christmas Party in Downing Street for dozens of people on December 18?” The Prime Minister, the government spent the week telling the British public “there was no party. All guidance was followed completely”.
‘Millions of people now think that the Prime Minister was taking them for fools or that they were lied to.
‘They are right aren’t they?’
Starmer continued: ‘We have all watched the video of the Prime Minister’s staff. Including his personal spokesperson.
‘They knew that there was a party, they knew it was against the rules, they knew that they couldn’t admit it, and they thought it was funny.
‘It is obvious what happened. The Prime Minister has been caught red handed. Why doesn’t he end the investigation right now by just admitting it.’
After Labour refused to do so, it was left up to Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the House of Commons, to call for Johnson to quit.
He said: ‘The Prime Minister is responsible for losing the trust of the people. He can no longer lead on the most pressing issue facing these Islands. The Prime Minister has a duty. The only right and moral choice left to him is for his resignation.’
Reacting to the news, Becky Kummer, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: ‘There are simply no words to describe how upsetting and shameful it is then to hear Boris Johnson’s team laughing about breaking the rules they had made, whilst others followed them and could only say goodbye to their loved ones through a screen.
‘It’s the behaviour of people who think they’re above us.’