‘Rule makers appear to be rule breakers’: Sadiq Khan calls for police to investigate as it is revealed THREE No10 Christmas parties ‘had been planned for WEEKS’
- Alleged Downing Street Christmas party on December 18 is being investigated by the Cabinet Secretary
- It was claimed last night that the lockdown-busting event had been planned for three weeks in advance
- Invitations had been circulated asking attendees to each bring a ‘secret Santa’ for an exchange of gifts
- ITV last night revealed Jack Doyle, the PM’s deputy communications director at the time, had made a ‘thank you’ speech and handed certificates in a ‘joke awards ceremony’
- Now reports of three No10 parties – as Health Secretary Sajid Javid calls for the official probe to be widened
How many parties is the Government alleged to have held last year and when did they happen?
PARTIES IN DOWNING STREET
Dom’s Gone bash – November 13: Dominic Cummings alleges that the PM held a gathering at his grace-and-favour flat on November 13 last year, the day the adviser was ousted from Downing Street. Mr Cummings also suggested there had been ‘other flat parties’.
Leaving do – November 27: The Prime Minister reportedly gave a speech at a packed Number 10 leaving do for a ‘senior aide’. Sources claimed that ’40 or 50 people’ were present.
Christmas party – December 18: Staff in Downing Street are believed to have held a Christmas party, with reports that dozens of people attended the event, some wearing festive jumpers and exchanging Secret Santa presents. London had been placed into Tier 3 restrictions on December 16 – the highest level of curbs on freedoms at the time which banned people from different households mixing indoors. Downing Street has said Boris Johnson did not attend the event.
Quiz night – December: Sources told the BBC that a separate Christmas quiz event was held for Number 10 staff at some point in December. Everyone was apparently invited to attend and to form teams. One source said some people attended virtually via Zoom but others did attend in person and sat in groups of six. Downing Street has insisted the quiz was ‘virtual’.
… AND ELSEWHERE IN WHITEHALL
December 10: Then-education secretary Gavin Williamson hosted a Department for Education party for ‘up to 24 people’ on December 10. The gathering, which included food and drink, took place in the department’s canteen. The department has admitted the event happened.
December 14: About 25 people gathered in the basement of the Conservative party’s Matthew Parker St offices in Westminster. The Times reported last night that advisers at Conservative campaign headquarters held an event with Shaun Bailey, the party’s unsuccessful candidate for mayor of London this May.
Sadiq Khan today hinted that the police should investigate the Number 10 Christmas parties – as it was claimed aides had been planning one of them for weeks.
The Mayor of London said his role as police and crime commissioner meant he had to ‘preserve the operational independence’ of the police and not order officers what to investigate.
‘That being said, I think it’s really important for the police to investigate crimes without fear or favour and go where the evidence points them,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘There’s a huge amount of concern and a public interest, both in terms of people’s health and the fact that rule makers appear to be rule breakers.’
Invitations for one of the No10 parties, on December 18, were circulated on WhatsApp around the end of November, asking each attendee to bring a secret Santa present for an exchange of gifts. The invite is said to have included the date and that there would be food and wine.
Details of the party, which is alleged to have taken place while London is under Tier 3 restrictions, will be used by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in his investigation into whether breach of lockdown rules.
It was also claimed last night that Jack Doyle, then the PM’s Deputy Director of Communications, made a ‘thank you’ speech to up to 50 people who attended the bash.
Reports say that Mr Doyle, now Number 10’s most senior spin doctor, thanked staff working at No10 ‘like he does every week’. However ITV News have claimed that he also handed out paper certificates to members of the communications team as part of a ‘joke awards ceremony’.
Mr Doyle has been overseeing the response to claims about the party, which has seen Number 10 deny for a week that it ever happened – although the Prime Minister has given mixed messages about it when asked.
The Times reported that Mr Doyle then left the party to attend meetings with Mr Johnson where senior figures discussed whether to effectively cancel Christmas for the country – an announcement that was made the following day.
Case’s official probe will focus on two other parties as well – a ‘drinks and canapes’ event hosted by Gavin Williamson at the Department for Education on December 10, and a reported leaving event for a No 10 aide on November 27 that the Prime Minister was said to have attended.
It is not known whether the Cabinet Secretary’s report will also look into claims by Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former chief adviser, that a party was held in Johnson’s flat on November 13 — the day he unceremoniously walked out of Downing Street with a cardboard box of his belongings.
Special advisers will be expected to co-operate in the probe, but Case cannot compel staff to release WhatsApp messages.
Former Speaker John Bercow weighed into the row today, saying the scandal was ‘causing reputational carnage to everyone involved, and the Commons in particular’.
Contrasting the situation now with the sleaze that infected John Major’s government, he said that while Mr Major was always seen as a man of ‘unimpeachable’ honesty, ‘Now the person steering the ship is regarded as a serial dissembler and a habitual liar.
‘I’m sorry to say it, but I’ve known 12 Prime Minister’s in my lifetime and by a country mile Boris Johnson is the worst… this guy stinks in the nostrils of decent people.’
Officials in Number 10 had been planning their lockdown-busting Christmas party up to three weeks before the event took place, it was claimed last night. The party is said to have taken places a few rooms away from where Boris Johnson was working on new lockdown measures to effectively cancel Christmas
Jack Doyle, the Prime Minister’s top spin doctor, is said to have made a ‘thank you’ speech to up to 50 people who attended the Downing Street bash on December 18 last year
Yesterday Mr Cummings dragged the PM’s wife Carrie Johnson into the raging ‘partygate’ row by insisting Case ‘focus’ the probe on an alleged party on November 13, after he and ally Lee Cain had been ousted following an apparent power struggle with Mrs Johnson.
The adviser said the leaving event – thought to have been for another Vote Leave friend Cleo Watson – was merely someone ‘walking into the press office to say bye’ before the PM ‘bumbled in and started babbling’.
He said the focus ‘shd be actual party in PM’s flat Fri 13/11’.
That is alleged to have been attended by a number of Mrs Johnson’s friends – but Downing Street and her spokeswoman have denied that any rules were breached.
The intervention came as the aide who joked about the Downing Street Christmas party in a notorious video refused to answer questions as he fled a media scrum.
Ed Oldfield, a 23-year-old former public schoolboy, kept his head down as he strode purposely through Whitehall pursued by a press pack.
Journalists shouted questions including, ‘Was there a party at Downing Street?’, ‘Are you planning to resign?’ and ‘Have you got anything to say about the party’ before giving up and letting him walk off.
Mr Oldfield was heard on leaked footage joking about the bash with Boris Johnson’s former £125,000-a-year press secretary Allegra Stratton during a mock news conference.
Sajid Javid suggested this morning that the investigation into allegations of the Christmas party at No10 could be widened to include other claims.
The Health Secretary said he had been given ‘assurances’ by ‘senior’ officials that no Covid rules were broken by Downing Street staff on December 18, but that it is for Mr Case to use his investigation to ‘get to the bottom’ of whether lockdown-busting events were held last year.
Today, Sadiq Khan hinted that the police should investigate the Number 10 Christmas parties (he is pictured with Met commissioner Cressida Dick)
Boris Johnson (left leaving hospital after the birth of his latest child) and wife Carrie (right arriving at hospital) are facing questions about a gathering at their Downing Street flat
Dominic Cummings yesterday dragged the PM’s wife Carrie Johnson into the raging ‘partygate’ row by insisting Case ‘focus’ the probe on an alleged party on November 13, after he and ally Lee Cain had been ousted following an apparent power struggle with Mrs Johnson
Dominic Cummings insisted that the ‘focus’ for the Cabinet Secretary probe should be another alleged party on November 13, after he and ally Lee Cain had been ousted following an apparent power struggle with Mrs Johnson
Double poll blow for Boris Johnson as two thirds of voters question his integrity over Christmas party – while Labour surge to four-point lead over Tories
One of Boris Johnson’s top advisers made a speech and handed out awards at the controversial Downing Street Christmas party and has since been briefing that the party never happened, it has been claimed.
Jack Doyle, then the PM’s Deputy Director of Communications, is said to have made a ‘thank you’ speech to up to 50 people who attended the bash on December 18 last year.
The hugely criticised event is now the subject of an internal investigation by the Cabinet Office.
Reports say that Mr Doyle, now Number 10’s most senior spin doctor, thanked staff working at No10 ‘like he does every week’.
However ITV News have claimed that he also handed out paper certificates to members of the communications team as part of a ‘joke awards ceremony’.
Mr Doyle has been overseeing the response to claims about the party, which has seen Number 10 deny for a week that it ever happened – although the Prime Minister has given mixed messages about it when asked.
The Cabinet minister told LBC: ‘If the rules were not broken, then a party could not take place.
‘But having this investigation, having the Cabinet Secretary look into this, is the right response because this is the individual who can talk to anyone, can get the data, the evidence together and establish the facts.’
In the mock news conference video, Mr Oldfield asked: ‘I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas Party on Friday night – do you recognise those reports?’
Ms Stratton initially replied: ‘I went home..’ then laughs, adds, ‘hold on’, to which Mr Oldfield adds: ‘Would the Prime Minister condone having a Christmas Party?’
She laughed and said ‘What’s the answer?’ to which Mr Oldfield, also laughing, replies ‘I don’t know’, and another staffer suggests ‘It wasn’t a party… it was cheese and wine’.
The row over last year’s ‘illicit’ Downing Street Christmas party has rocked Westminster over the last week and led Ms Stratton to announce her resignation yesterday.
But it has now emerged that the December 18 event may have been only one of as many as six Whitehall bashes held in the run-up to Christmas – at a time when the country was under stringent Covid restrictions.
Ministers this morning set out the scope of the investigation which is being carried out by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.
Paymaster General Michael Ellis confirmed the probe will look at allegations of a Christmas party being held in Number 10 on December 18 last year.
But he told MPs it will also examine reports of a leaving do in Number 10 on November 27 which the Prime Minister is said to have delivered a speech at.
A gathering at the Department for Education hosted by then-education secretary Gavin Williamson on December 10 will also included in Mr Case’s review.
The Department for Education has already admitted that event, which included food and drink, did take place.
Ed Oldfield, a 23-year-old former public schoolboy, kept his head down as he strode purposely through Whitehall pursued by a press pack
Journalists shouted questions including, ‘Was there a party at Downing Street?’, ‘Are you planning to resign?’ and ‘Have you got anything to say about the party’ before giving up and letting him walk off’
It was alleged there was a leaving do where the PM reportedly gave a speech, a quiz night and even a celebration in the Downing Street flat on the night Dominic Cummings left No10. There were also said to have been other parties in Whitehall departments and at Tory headquarters.
The ‘raucous’ dos, at which several officials were said to have been seen ‘rat-a**ed’ on copious amounts of wine, have certainly left Whitehall with a lasting hangover as the events are probed by the Cabinet Secretary and the Met Police.
Here the Mail details just what is known about what went on in Whitehall while the rest of Britain faced swingeing virus rules.
Revealed: No10 special advisor heard joking with Allegra Stratton is a former public schoolboy and son of Vice Lord Lieutenant of Kent
Ed Oldfield, 23
By Nick Craven for MailOnline
The Downing Street special adviser heard joking on the now-notorious video about a lockdown-busting party at Number 10 is a former public schoolboy and son of the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Kent, MailOnline can reveal.
Ed Oldfield, 23, was heard sharing a giggle with Boris Johnson’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton in a mock news conference in the shameful leaked footage that prompted Ms Stratton to resign from her £125,000-a-year government job this afternoon.
Mr Oldfield was heard on the tape saying ‘I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas Party on Friday night – do you recognise those reports?’
Ms Stratton initially replies: ‘I went home..’ then laughs, adds, ‘hold on’, to which Mr Oldfield adds: ‘Would the Prime Minister condone having a Christmas Party?’
Ms Stratton laughs and says ‘What’s the answer?’ to which Mr Oldfield, also laughing, replies ‘I don’t know’, and another staffer suggests ‘It wasn’t a party… it was cheese and wine’.
Mr Olfield, a former pupil at £34,000-a-year the King’s School in Rochester, Kent, comes from a family whose recent history has been marred by tragedy, MailOnline has learned.
The Downing Street whizzkid is the son of an investment banker and his elder half-brother Henry died of a drug overdose, aged 25, four years ago.
The Downing Street Special Advisor is also the son of the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Kent (right)
And Ed’s father Richard, 66, a former Vice Lord Lieutenant of Kent, was in a car accident involving the death of a young motorcyclist a few months after Henry’s death.
Henry, a trained pilot, had been battling drink and drugs for ‘many years’, a witness into his death heard in early 2018. He checked into rehab in February 2017, but fled after two months and boarded a plane to Bogota, Colombia.
The court heard he called his father the day before he died, sounding ‘clear-headed’, and Mr Oldfield, who lives at the plush 85-acre Dodding Place Gardens estate near Sittingbourne, Kent, offered to fly out to see his son.
But the next day he was found dead in his Bogota hotel room, with a post-mortem examination revealing he had died from a ‘cocktail of drugs’, including psychotic substances and cocaine.
The short hearing was told Mr Oldfield’s son had told him he was ‘coming home soon’.
Coroner Allison Summers, recording a verdict of accidental death, said: ‘This is a profoundly sad case.
‘Unfortunately, it is too often the case that drug-users who relapse after a period of abstinence can inadvertently overdose because their bodies’ tolerance to the drugs has lowered.’
TABLE GROANING WITH BOTTLES OF WINE AND THE ‘CHRISTMAS PARTY’
At the end of the corridor that leads from the famous black door of 10 Downing Street it had become a tradition.
Every Friday, on a table in the hallway, No10 officials would place bottle of wines to be cracked open at the end of the day.
In the wood-panelled press office – once used as Gordon Brown’s ‘war room’ during his time as PM – staff would toast the end of the week with drink at their desks.
But yesterday Boris Johnson was forced to order Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to investigate allegations that on the final Friday before Christmas last year things got rather out of hand.
In WhatsApp messages and emails in the week leading up to December 18, staff had allegedly coordinated plans.
Alongside the impressive line-up of wine bottles, the table was groaning with party food including wheels of camembert cheese and crusty baguettes. In the grand room overlooking St James’s Park, where chandeliers hang from the ceiling, officials gathered to celebrate the end of a difficult year.
As many as 40 people attended the ‘unofficial’ Christmas bash with some wearing festive jumpers, it is claimed. Sources said most of those present were civil servants drawn from the press office and events teams, but special advisers – the PM’s political appointees – were also invited. According to one of those asked to go, staff were told to bring in Secret Santa presents.
As the night went on, officials from other parts of the building came down to join. But the Prime Minister’s press secretary yesterday insisted Mr Johnson was not one of them.
‘He was working all evening,’ she told reporters.
The event took place two days after London was placed into what was the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions at the time, meaning people were not allowed to mix indoors with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
At that time, the Government website stated: ‘Although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.’
Since news of the gathering broke last week, Mr Johnson and his ministers had steadfastly insisted that no party had taken place and no rules had been broken. But by yesterday the denials had become impossible to reconcile with the mounting evidence, after footage emerged of Allegra Stratton joking about what had happened.
THE ‘DOM’S GONE’ BASH IN PM’S No10 FLAT
A party is also alleged to have been held in the Prime Minister’s Downing Street flat on November 13 – the day that Dominic Cummings quit.
The festivities are said to have kicked off earlier, with the leaving do for Lee Cain, the Prime Minister’s departing director of communications. Mr Johnson is said to have given a speech at the event.
Cain resigned alongside Cummings after they clashed and ultimately lost in a battle for control with the PM’s now wife Carrie Symonds. This event is facing questions over whether it breached the rules.
However, the party is believed to have carried on upstairs that evening after Cummings unceremoniously walked out of Downing Street carrying a cardboard box.
On social media yesterday, Mr Cummings asked if the Cabinet Secretary’s investigation into the Downing Street pre-Christmas bash would also look into the ‘flat party on Fri 13 Nov’ as well as ‘the other flat parties, and the flat’s ‘bubble’ policy’.
The bubble reference is thought to refer to the decision to allow the PM’s then fiancee – and now wife – Carrie Symonds’ best friend Nimco Ali at No10 over the festive period ‘to help support and look after’ baby Wilfred.
Asked during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday if a party took place on that date, Boris Johnson said: ‘No, but I’m sure that whatever happened the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.’
Mr Johnson shares the flat with Carrie and Wilfred. It was alleged there were ‘always parties’ in the flat, with a source claiming: ‘Carrie’s addicted to them.’
Insiders yesterday claimed staff in the press office saw guests going up the nearby staircase to the flat on the evening of November 13 and could hear loud music coming from the flat which is directly above. ‘They were making the kind of racket that could only have come from a party,’ said one official.
The Mail has been given the names of as many as six current and former senior Government officials as well as other people known to be close to Mrs Johnson who were alleged to have been present. However, several fiercely denied the claims when approached yesterday.
But a spokesman for Mrs Johnson gave an emphatic denial, saying: ‘This is total nonsense. Mrs Johnson has followed coronavirus rules at all times and it is categorically untrue to suggest otherwise.’
The PM’s spokesman later confirmed that the alleged November 13 party would not be looked into.
Mr Cummings quit following a power struggle, and has since been highly critical of the Government.
A new poll published by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found almost two thirds of Brits believe Mr Johnson should resign if it is confirmed the party took place
‘CRAMMED CHEEK BY JOWL’ AT LEAVING DO
Up to 50 people packed into Downing Street for a leaving do on November 27 last year where Boris Johnson gave a speech for an outgoing aide, it is claimed.
No10 staff reportedly crammed ‘cheek by jowl’ into a medium-sized room in what was described as a ‘Covid nightmare’ – while England was in its second lockdown.
A source told the Daily Mail that the event had been an impromptu leaving do for Cleo Watson, an adviser who had effectively been Mr Cummings’ sidekick during his time in Downing Street. The aide is nicknamed the ‘gazelle’ because of her long legs.
‘It wasn’t a party as such, certainly not a Christmas party. It was a whole bunch of people who work in the same building coming together to say goodbye to a very popular member of staff,’ said the source.
‘Was drink taken? Yes. Did the PM drop in? Yes. Did people think they were doing anything wrong? No, but in hindsight it’s not a great look.’
Today, Dominic Cummings insisted the November 27 gathering was a ‘red herring’, tweeting: ‘A staff member left their job. Walked to press office to say bye, PM bumbled in & started babbling, everyone embarrassed, dispersed.’
A source told the Daily Mail that the event had been an impromptu leaving do for Cleo Watson (pictured with Cummings on December 17, 2019), an adviser who had effectively been Mr Cummings’ sidekick during his time in Downing Street
A BROKEN DOOR AS TORY STAFF PARTY ON AT HEADQUARTERS
Outside of the confines of Downing Street there have been reports of parties in government departments, as well as at Tory HQ.
The Times reported last night that advisers at Conservative campaign headquarters held an event with Shaun Bailey, the party’s unsuccessful candidate for mayor of London this May.
Bailey himself attended the party – at which people wore festive hats and he received a Lego set as a Christmas present from a donor.
On December 14, with London in Tier 2 restrictions, about 25 people gathered in the basement of the party’s Matthew Parker St offices in Westminster.
Attendees at the ‘raucous’ bash are said to have worn ‘festive hats’ and danced and drank which resulted in a door being damaged.
Hours before the party Matt Hancock, the then Health Secretary, gave a press conference announcing that the capital would move into Tier 3.
A Conservative spokesman last night confirmed the ‘unauthorised social gathering in the basement of Matthew Parker Street’ and said that ‘formal disciplinary action was taken against the four CCHQ staff who were seconded to the Bailey campaign’.
A FESTIVE QUIZ IN THE CABINET OFFICE
A Christmas quiz was reportedly held in the Cabinet Office for No10 staff at another point in December, although the specific date is not clear.
Emails were sent out to everyone in No10 inviting them to the quiz and to form teams, a source told the BBC.
Staff were said to have arrived at the office wearing Christmas jumpers ahead of the event, and were unaware ‘how ridiculous’ it was to hold a quiz while the country was in lockdown.
While some people joined the quiz via Zoom, the BBC reported that those who attended in person sat in groups of six.
One source said that Dan Rosenfield, the Prime Minister’s newly-appointed chief of staff, took part, telling The Times that ‘it was the first time many of us met him’.
Downing Street yesterday insisted the quiz was ‘virtual’.
PS… DON’T FORGET WILLIAMSON’S PARTY
In the Department for Education’s canteen, then-Cabinet minister Gavin Williamson gathered officials for a Christmas party on December 10 last year.
Mr Williamson is said to have given a short speech at the ‘drinks and canapes’ event before officials ‘mingled’ and knocked back wine. One source described it as ‘reckless’.
Susan Acland-Hood, the permanent secretary, yesterday admitted that she attended the event where ‘drinks and snacks’ were served.
In an appearance before MPs, she told how around ‘two dozen’ people had joined the gathering that was instigated by the then education secretary as he wanted to ‘thank staff’ for their work during the pandemic. But she insisted ‘no outside guests’ were present.
When asked if it was an organised event, she said: ‘While this was a work-related gathering, looking back we accept it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time.’
A spokesman for the department said: ‘On December 10 2020 a gathering of colleagues who were already present at the office – and who had worked together throughout the pandemic, as they couldn’t work from home – took place in the DfE office building in London at a time when the city was subject to Tier 2 restrictions.’
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