“I myself am convinced that the guidelines have been complied with at all times,” said the Prime Minister on Tuesday before another insistence.
However, on Wednesday morning AEDT, commercial broadcaster ITV News aired video footage of Johnson’s then-spokeswoman joking about the party in a mock press conference just four days after the event while she practised answering questions about the event being illegal.
Allegra Stratton, herself an ITV presenter, was poised to become a prominent face for the UK government. Like the White House press secretary, she had been hired to provide live and on-camera briefings.
Footage of her practising the role shows staff mocking the congregation and how the press might ask about it.
Ed Oldfield, the advisor to the Prime Minister who pretends to be a journalist, asks Stratton, “I just saw reports on Twitter that there was a Christmas party on Downing Street Friday night. Do you recognize those reports?”
Stratton replied, laughing, “I went home”.
As if to question herself, she said “hold on” and then made noises like “um, errr, ahh” that were seemingly meaningless.
“Would the Prime Minister tolerate a Christmas party?” Oldfield says.
“What’s the answer?” Stratton wonders. Her colleagues then coach her with a possible answer that suggests she would reply that “it wasn’t a party”, just “cheese and wine”.
“Are the cheese and wine okay?” Asks Stratton.
A colleague replies, “No kidding.”.
The footage was shot in a media briefing room specially designed for her future press conferences, but the idea of making her a public press officer was later abandoned.
Stratton was called to the government while working for Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer. James Forsyth, a journalist for the UK viewers Magazine and Sunak’s friend from Winchester College, was her best man at her wedding.
Despite the leaked footage clearly showing Oldfield and Stratton how they relate to a “Christmas party”, Number 10 insisted that “there was no Christmas party”.
“COVID rules were observed at all times.”
Opposition leader Keir Starmer said the lies were shameful.
“People across the country followed the rules, even if it meant being separated from loved ones,” Starmer said.
“You had a right to expect the government to do the same.
“To lie and laugh at these lies is shameful.
“We have a prime minister who is socially distant from the truth,” said Starmer.
After Johnson’s botched handling of an ethics investigation by a Conservative MP, as well as his chaotic speech at a business conference, this latest controversy threatens to further damage his polling reputation. According to a survey conducted by Savanta ComRes, Johnson’s popularity declined steadily throughout his tenure and reached its lowest level in November of 2021.