Politics

Time for PM to ‘fess up’ over Downing Street parties, says Labour

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to respond to allegations he broke COVID rules by hosting a festive quiz at Downing Street while restrictions were in force.

Labour said the prime minister “might have misled” MPs after he told the House of Commons he had been given assurances that social distancing measures were not broken by Number 10 last year.

The party is calling on Mr Johnson to attend Parliament to “fess up” about whether he and staff partied and socialised while restrictions were in place.

It comes amid fresh claims over the weekend that the PM was involved in an impromptu quiz on 15 December last year, with the Sunday Mirror publishing a photo showing him flanked by colleagues, draped in tinsel and wearing a Santa hat, in the Number 10 library.

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Zahawi defends PM quiz picture

The newspaper quoted a source who claimed that many staff were huddled by computers in their offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol, while the quiz was taking place.

Downing Street has confirmed Mr Johnson “briefly” attended the “virtual” quiz at the end of last year.

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At the time, Tier 2 restrictions were in place across London which stated that there could be no mixing of households indoors, apart from support bubbles, and a maximum of six people outside.

Official guidance also set out that there should not be work lunches or parties “where that is a primarily social activity” and was not exempted for “work purposes”.

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PM ‘worst leader at worst time’ – Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC that the latest revelation about Mr Johnson meant it was “very hard” to see how the rules could have been adhered to.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “Despite repeated denials of parties in Number 10, it has now transpired that there were numerous parties, gatherings and the prime minister even took part in a festive quiz.

“It appears that Boris Johnson lied to the country and broke the law.

“It is increasingly clear that the prime minister presided over a culture of ignoring the rules that he told everyone else to follow. It’s time to fess up.”

She added: “Boris Johnson and the Conservatives really believe it’s one rule for them, another for everyone else.”

What parties are alleged to have taken place in Whitehall and Downing Street during lockdown?

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Investigation launched into potential rule-breaking in government last year

The Times reported that the online quiz will be included as part of Cabinet Secretary Simon Case’s investigation into potential rule-breaking in government last year.

The head of the Civil Service is already looking into claims of a December Christmas party and November staff leaving do at Number 10, as well as festive drinks at the Department for Education.

Mr Case has the power to widen the investigation if fresh evidence comes to light, according to the Cabinet Office.

On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi defended Mr Johnson telling broadcasters that the virtual event had respected the rules.

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