Senior members of staff are heard laughing and referring to “cheese and wine” while the prime minister’s then spokesperson Allegra Stratton remarks there was “definitely no social distancing”. The recording is from a rehearsal on 22 December for Downing Street’s proposed daily TV media briefings which Ms Stratton was set to front before they were later axed.
Staff in the Downing Street press room pose mock questions to Ms Stratton to help her prepare.
In the rehearsal, Mr Johnson’s special adviser, Ed Oldfield, can be heard asking Ms Stratton if she recognises reports on Twitter about a Christmas party to which she replies, “I went home”, before laughing.
Ms Stratton appears stuck for words, looking around the room before responding, “What’s the answer?”
She is then asked: “Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?”
A Downing Street employee then says in a bid to help, “It wasn’t a party it was cheese and wine”.
In the 40 second clip, Ms Stratton next warns the rehearsal is being recorded before answering, “This fictional party was a business meeting”.
To which she adds while laughing, “[A]nd it was not socially distanced”.
The leaked clip comes after the prime minister and senior ministers have spent the last week denying rules were broken on December 18, 2020, when it is alleged that a Christmas party took place in Downing Street.
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At the time, London was under Tier 3 restrictions which meant social events, including parties, were banned.
The law stated “no person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 3 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place in any indoor space”.
In its own guidance, the Government made it clear people must not have a work Christmas lunch or party where it is a primarily social activity.
Police were also looking for people flouting the rules at that time too.
Tristan Kirk, a reporter at the Evening Standard, tweeted that there have been more than 2,000 prosecutions in London since September with over £1.2million worth of fines imposed for illegal gatherings, after hours work drinks and more.
London’s Metropolitan Police shut down a wedding attended by “nearly 40 people” in Ilford on 17 December, one day before the alleged party in Downing Street.
The day after the alleged Downing Street party, restrictions in much of England were tightened with millions of people seeing Christmas cancelled altogether.
When quizzed about the alleged event today, Mr Johnson did not deny a party had taken place when asked, but said he was satisfied that the guidelines were followed at all times.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”
The full report by ITV News’ UK Editor, Paul Brand, will air tonight as part of the ITV Evening News and ITV News at Ten bulletins.
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