Boris cancels Xmas party amid fury over lockdown bash but says gatherings can go ahead

9 December 2021, 21:07

Boris Johnson outside No10 Downing Street.
Boris Johnson outside No10 Downing Street. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Downing Street has cancelled its Christmas party this year amid fury over an alleged breach of Covid regulations at No10 in 2020, as it reassured people that gatherings can go ahead under Plan B.

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The Government said it is "up to individual businesses and people to decide what works for them" in the run-up to Christmas, as further restrictions are brought in to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant.

It comes amid a storm of allegations that the Prime Minister's staff broke lockdown rules last Christmas in order to hold gatherings of up to 50 people at No10 - one of which on December 18, when London was under Tier 3 restrictions.

An investigation has been launched into the allegations after footage was leaked of some of the PM's senior aides joking about the event.

Read more: PM brings back work from home guidance and more face mask rules in 'Plan B' Covid measures

A Government spokesman has since reassured people that Christmas parties "can continue to go ahead", despite No10 cancelling its own.

"No10 is focused on tackling the rise of the new Omicron variant and the ongoing pandemic, and there are therefore no plans for a party while this intensive work is ongoing," the spokesman said.

“As the Prime Minister said Christmas parties can continue to go ahead under Plan B.

"Everyone should continue to behave cautiously and we recommend people take lateral flow tests before meeting others socially in high-risk settings, but it is up to individual businesses and people to decide what works for them."

Read more: No10 Xmas party probe: Who is Simon Case and what will he investigate?

An inquiry, led by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, will investigate three separate allegations of Conservative staff parties which are said to have taken place during lockdown last year.

The Cabinet Secretary will scrutinise two reported Downing Street parties held on November 27 and December 18 alongside one party held at the education department on December 10.

Labour has called for the PM to resign if he is found to have misled MPs about the parties.

Mr Johnson, who said he was "furious" to see the leaked footage, said if any rules were broken those responsible will face action.

Dame Cressida Dick is facing mounting pressure over the force's handling of the No10 Christmas party storm after MP Barry Gardiner told LBC she should have demanded evidence into the allegations from the very beginning.

The Met announced on Wednesday it will not examine the alleged Downing Street Christmas party despite receiving "a significant amount of correspondence" relating to the alleged breaches in No 10 in the run up to Christmas last year.

But the force did leave open the possibility of further inquiries by saying it would consider "any evidence" that emerges in the Case inquiry.

Under Plan B people are being advised to work from home where possible, with mandatory face masks reintroduced in some indoor settings - such as theatres and cinemas.

The NHS Covid pass will also be needed in nightclubs and venues with large crowds.

This includes unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and venues with more than 10,000 people

Pubs and restaurants are exempt from this.