Downing Street’s Christmas party problem continues to ramp up, not least now it’s become more prominent in the public’s consciousness that there were multiple parties during the November and December lockdowns. Public anger is boiling and a senior head will have to roll. Who was responsible for the events?
There are three alleged drinks sessions contested during lockdown in Downing Street:
Boris reportedly said a few words at Lee Cain’s leaving event on November 13, if that event was accompanied by a few bottles of Downing Street claret it is arguably a leaving party. Incidentally, Boris was pinged and went into self-isolation on November 16…
Cleo Watson’s leaving drinks was on November 27, reportedly Boris came in and made a speech, mentioning how crowded it was in the room before leaving shortly afterwards. This doesn’t sound like an event compliant with the rules.
If, as the BBC reports, the December party was for the press team, it would have to have been authorised, or at least not vetoed, by then-director of communications James Slack. Since he has departed to The Sun it makes it more difficult for No. 10 to blame him for subsequently assuring the PM that no rules were broken. If, however, current director of communications Jack Doyle was at the party, and has been briefing it didn’t happen, that would make life very difficult for him. It was Max Blain, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson, who briefed the Lobby on Monday that there was no party.
Despite being the poster girl for this story, Allegra Stratton was not in charge of the Downing Street press operation at the time of these events, according to the leaked video she did not stay for the party in question and certainly is not responsible for briefing the PM or the Lobby about the nature or (non)-existence of the party this week. Ultimately the PM must take responsibility for his advisors and their actions. Boris’s errors at PMQs today, not least denying Lee Cain’s leaving do was a party on November 13 and being bounced by Starmer into agreeing to hand over any evidence to the Metropolitan Police and the CPS, has compounded his difficulties. The Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is to head an internal inquiry, though currently Downing Street can’t confirm or deny if he attended the party. Allegra resigning over a party for which she wasn’t responsible might not be the end of this…
N.B. This was written before Allegra Stratton resigned.