Second Downing Street Christmas party to be probed as Boris Johnson faces calls to resign

A probe into alleged covid rule-busting parties in the UK Government has been widened to include another festive celebration and a reported staff leaving party

Tory minister Michael Ellis told MPs that a top civil servant will look into two other alleged events.

He will include in his review a confirmed gathering at the Department for Education on December 10 last year and a reported leaving event for a No 10 aide on November 27.

The two December dates coincide with when mixing between households in London was restricted.

The Prime Minister suggested Case could choose to extend his investigation beyond the main allegation that a Christmas party took place in Downing Street only 24 hours before the Government announced Christmas was cancelled.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure over the Christmas parties
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure over the Christmas parties

The finding means that some claims, including that there was a party in Mr and Mrs Johnson’s No 11 flat on November 13 – the night the Prime Minister’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings departed – is not currently included in the scope of the review.

Answering an urgent question in the Commons, Ellis said: “The primary purpose of the Cabinet Secretary’s investigation will be to establish swiftly a general understanding of the nature of the gatherings, including attendance, the setting and the purpose, and with reference to adherence to the guidance in place at the time.

“If required, the investigation will establish whether individual disciplinary action is warranted.”

The Paymaster General said that any evidence of potentially criminal behaviour “will be referred to the police and the Cabinet Office’s work may be paused”.

Ministers, special advisers and civil servants will be “expected to co-operate with this investigation”, said Ellis, who added it would be for Case to determine how long his inquiry lasts.

MPs were told the Cabinet Secretary was “not at any relevant gathering” included in the review.

It comes as the SNP stepped up its calls for the PM to resign. Nationalist Westminster leader Ian Blackford called on Johnson to quit at PMQs yesterday, while Nicola Sturgeon told thee Tory leader to go over the scandal.

Downing Street had refused on Wednesday to explicitly declare that Case had not been at the December 18 event, where staff and aides are said to have drunk together, eaten cheese and swapped Secret Santa presents.

Case’s inquiry was ordered by the Prime Minister after a leaked video emerged showing Downing Street aides laughing about a “fictional” party at No 10 in December 2020.

The leaked footage, obtained by ITV News, showed aides laughing about an alleged social event while rehearsing for subsequently ditched televised press briefings in No 10’s £2.6 million media room.

Allegra Stratton, a former spokeswoman for the Prime Minister who featured in the rehearsal, has since resigned while Ed Oldfield, a Downing Street media aide who is heard asking a practice question about a rumoured party, refused to answer questions when approached by Sky News.

According to the Times, the “raucous” party took place in the HQ’s basement, was attended by No 10 aides and featured dancing and wine-drinking into the early hours despite indoor social mixing being banned at the time.

Four party staff members have been disciplined, the party said.

Meanwhile, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has confirmed to MPs that the Commons is still scheduled to rise for Christmas on December 16, amid reports the recess could be brought forward in order to allow Johnson to avoid next week’s final Prime Minister’s Questions before the festive break.

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