The Downing Street Christmas Party at the centre of a scandal embroiling the UK government was ‘planned for weeks’, with invitations even sent out on WhatsApp, it’s been reported.
Plans for a ‘secret Santa’ and invites to attend a party at Number 10 that promised food and wine were reportedly circulated in late November last year, during which time the UK was in a full lockdown amid rising COVID-19 cases.
The Times reports that the invitations, which would appear to contradict claims that there was no planned party, are likely to form part of Cabinet Secretary Simon Case’s investigation into the claims that Downing Street breached lockdown restrictions.
The party is alleged to have taken place on December 18, 2020, while was London under tier 3 restrictions that banned social gatherings. A Downing Street spokesperson has repeatedly denied that any party took place, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying on Wednesday, December 8, that he had been ‘assured’ the gathering was not a ‘party’.
However its since been reported that among those to attend the alleged party was Johnson’s director of communications Jack Doyle, who supposedly made an appearance to thank press office staff and hand out awards. ITV News reports that Doyle left the gathering to meet with Johnson to discuss the implementation of a ban on household mixing that was ultimately announced a day later, effectively ‘cancelling Christmas’ for millions in the UK.
Despite the prime minister’s initial claims that the Cabinet investigation would only concern the December 18 gathering, The Times reports that Case will also look into an alleged leaving party attended by Johnson on November 27, and a party at the Department of Education. It’s not clear whether claims made by Dominic Cummings that a party was held in Johnson’s flat on November 13 will also be explored.
Multiple Tory MPs have expressed their anger at the scandal, which has dominated headlines in the UK for the past week, with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross saying he believed the prime minister should resign if he was found to have misled parliament about his knowledge of the December 18 gathering.
The latest claims come days after government spokesperson Allegra Stratton resigned following the leak of a video that showed her laughing about the alleged December 18 party.
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