On the 16th December, Boris Johnson said: “This Christmas it’s vital that everyone exercises the greatest possible personal responsibility.”
This was the same day that London went into tier 3 restrictions, which means that “No person may participate in a gathering” - unless it was reasonably necessary for work (UK Health Protection Regulations).
The guidance said: “Although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity” (Christmas period guidance 2020).
On the morning of the 18th December, on which the UK recorded 514 Covid-19 deaths, Boris Johnson tweeted: “If you are forming a Christmas bubble, it’s vital that from today, you minimise contact with people from outside your household.”
Hours after that tweet was posted, there was reportedly a Christmas party in Number 10 Downing Street.
The Mirror reported that around “40 or 50” people were said to have been crammed “cheek by jowl” into a medium-sized room in Number 10 for each of the two events.
“It was a Covid nightmare,” one source claimed.
The BBC’s Laura Keunssberg later reported that there had been “several dozen” people in attendance, with food, drink and even party games on offer, with the event going past midnight.
Another Downing Street insider told the Financial Times that there were often get-togethers in the evenings in No. 10 while the country was in lockdown last Christmas. They said: “It was the only place you could get together and socialise. They happened most Fridays.”
Another source told the Mirror: “The Prime Minister gave the impression that it could be very relaxed in No. 10. He would either turn a blind eye, or on some occasions attend himself while everyone else was in lockdown.”
In response to a question from Keir Starmer at PMQs about the alleged parties, Boris Johnson said: “All guidance was followed completely in No. 10”.
When the Prime Minister’s spokesperson was questioned on the alleged parties, they responded saying: “We don’t recognise these accounts and all Covid rules have been followed at all times.”
Johnson encouraged people to exercise personal responsibility, something he rarely does himself. Johnson, his ministers and advisers make regular pious declarations about the need to observe rules of conduct which they themselves have no intention of observing.
Here is an example of Boris saying it’s common sense for people in confined spaces to wear a face mask. Here is Michael Gove insisting that transparency lies at the heart of the Johnson government. Here is Priti Patel taking a stand against bullying. Here is Priti Patel supporting the freedom to protest. Here is the Downing Street Press Secretary insisting that the Johnson government observes the Nolan Principles. Here is Jacob Rees Mogg asserting that the UK always stands up for human rights.