Health secretary Sajid Javid was forced to cancel interviews this morning and not a single government minister came out to bat for Downing Street after the leaking of the footage
Tory ministers refused to appear on the morning broadcast round today after a bombshell video was leaked of Number 10 staff joking about a Christmas Party last year in breach of Covid rules but which Downing Street still refuses to admit took place.
The health secretary Sajid Javid was forced to cancel interviews this morning and not a single government minister came out to bat for Downing Street after the leaking of the footage, in which an adviser to Boris Johnson is seen joking with Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s then press secretary, about “a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night”.
Johnson and his aides have repeatedly denied that the event, reportedly held for staff at No 10 in December last year, broke Covid rules or took place at all.
The footage, leaked to ITV, was shot on December 22 last year, four days after the No. 10 party was reported to have taken place according to various sources.
In the video, a colleague of Stratton’s asks: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognize those reports?”
Stratton jokes: “I went home,” before responding: “Umm, errr, ahhhh … what’s the answer?”
Another colleague suggests: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.”
Stratton asks: “Is cheese and wine alright?” The colleague seems to reply: “No, joking.” Stratton then answers “it was a business meeting,” warning the room “this is recorded,” before joking again: “This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.”
The footage led to widespread condemnation from newspapers, opposition MPs and members of the public.
In response to the video, Keir Starmer tweeted: “People across the country followed the rules, even when that meant being separated from loved ones.
“They had a right to expect the government was doing the same.
“To lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful.
“We have a Prime Minister who’s socially distanced from the truth.”
BBC Breakfast took the extraordinary step of empty-chairing Mr Javid this morning as vaccines minister Maggie Throup also pulled out of her planned round of regional television interviews.
The refusal of ministers to appear before journalists to answer any questions as Downing Street scrambles to cover its tracks was labelled ‘shameful’.
Pippa Crerar, the Mirror’s political editor tweeted: “Sajid Javid was due to do morning broadcast round to mark one year anniversary of first Covid vaccination.
“In a highly irregular move, he was pulled last night after *that* video emerged. Not hard to imagine how ministers who were sent out to bat for No 10 on party are feeling.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.
We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.