Boris Johnson apologized “unreservedly” for the leaked video footage, which showed his assistant joking about the Downing Street Christmas party during the lockdown as the prime minister was preparing to announce the new coronavirus restrictions.
In a speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Johnson said that cabinet secretary Simon Keys will investigate media reports that a holiday party was held in Downing Street on December 18 last year when London was subject to strict Covid-19 restrictions. Such gatherings were banned.
At the same time, Whitehall officials told the Financial Times that Johnson has decided to impose the so-called Plan B coronavirus restrictions on England, including an order to work from home and a passport that requires vaccinations in large venues.
Several people who know the details said that a party was held on December 18th last year on the 10th. Johnson insisted that no such party had ever happened.
But a government video obtained by ITV News about a simulated Downing Street press conference on December 22 last year showed that Johnson’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, was asked if there were any Christmas parties.
“I’m home,” she said with a smile, and then told her colleagues to “hold on.” Stratton asked the assistants present: “What is the answer?” Someone suggested: “This is not a party, but cheese and wine.”
When asked by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, Johnson said: “I understand and share the anger across the country that the No. 10 staff seems to be underestimating the blockade measures. I can understand and think of those who have been making rules and failing to comply with the rules, because I am also very angry. That fragment.
“I unreservedly apologize for the offense it caused throughout the country, and for the impression it made.”
He added that he was repeatedly told after the media reported that there was no Downing Street party and no violation of Covid-19 rules.
Johnson said that any relevant evidence from Case’s investigation will be handed over to the Metropolitan Police Department.
However, the investigation will not review the reports of other Downing Street parties on November 13 and November 27.
According to reports, former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also held a Christmas party in his old department in December last year. A spokeswoman for the department confirmed that a “rally” had taken place and apologized.
The Labour Party leader Sir Kil Starmer accused Johnson of “taking the public as a fool” at the Downing Street party, saying the facts were “clearly clear”.
“They knew there was a party, they knew it was against the rules, they knew they couldn’t admit it, and they thought it was funny,” Starmer told members of Congress.
Media reports of violations by senior government officials have raised concerns that the new coronavirus restrictions may be undermined.
Johnson’s expected new measures reflect growing concerns about the rapid spread of a new variant of the new coronavirus, Omicron, but government officials also stated that he hopes to regain the initiative a few days after the media’s disastrous coverage of the Downing Street party.
Some people say that the plan B move much earlier than expected is Johnson’s “dead cat” move, which aims to distract people from the anger of the leaked video.
Ministers of the Government’s Covid-19 Operation Committee will meet to decide on specific measures.
According to government insiders, the new restrictions may be announced at a press conference later on Wednesday, and the relevant regulations will be submitted to parliament on Thursday.
Johnson told members of Congress that “no decision will be made without consultation with the Cabinet”, but he did not deny that further measures will be taken.
The prospect of tighter restrictions pushed the pound to fall 0.4% to $1.318, which is the lowest level against the dollar this year.
The new restrictions may provoke the anger of Conservative MPs who are skeptical of such measures.
William Lager, chairman of the Special Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs of the Conservative Party, described the introduction of vaccine passports as a “transfer strategy” for Downing Street parties.
Neil Ferguson, one of the country’s leading coronavirus scientists, said Omicron’s cases will double “at least every three days” and may surpass the Delta variant of the coronavirus before Christmas.
Additional reporting by Tommy Stubbington
How much do we know about Omicron variants so far?We will return to Twitter Spaces today at 2pm GMT/9am Eastern Time, and @clivecookson @jburnmurdoch @hannahkuchler @mroliverbarnes @SarahNev & @Donatopmancini
-Financial Times (@FinancialTimes) December 8, 2021