Labour tells PM to 'fess up' over whether he "lied to country" over No10 events

12 December 2021, 23:08 | Updated: 13 December 2021, 06:22

Boris Johnson has been told to "fess up" by Labour
Boris Johnson has been told to "fess up" by Labour. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has been told to "fess up" about whether he "lied to the country and broke the law" over an online Downing Street quiz.

No10 said the prime minister had "briefly" attended the game, in which he was seen in an image leaked to the Sunday Mirror appearing virtually over a video call, flanked by two aides.

The paper reported claims that staff huddled over screens to take part, drinking alcohol and conferring on questions, when London was in Tier 2 Covid restrictions which limited mixing.

Guidance tweeted from the Twitter also warned against holding work Christmas parties when they were the "primary" social activity.

Read more: Under-fire PM hosted Downing Street Christmas quiz last year during lockdown

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Mr Johnson told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday that he had been assured "there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken" after allegations emerged one was held days after the quiz last December.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC it "looks as though" Mr Johnson contravened law when he took part in the quiz, with the ex-director of public prosecutions adding it was "very hard" to see how it was "compliant with the rules".

Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted he has been told guidance was followed and a spokesperson said: "This was a virtual quiz. Downing Street staff were often required to be in the office to work on the pandemic response so those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks.

"The Prime Minister briefly took part virtually in a quiz to thank staff for their hard work throughout the year."

Tier 2 restrictions banned household mixing indoors with the exception of support bubbles, while a maximum of six people could meet outside.

Labour suggested Mr Johnson "might have misled MPs" with past statements.

The PM has faced a massive backlash over the allegations about Government staff holding events in December, with the focus of rage at the alleged party last year.

An investigation into what happened is taking place, led by the cabinet secretary, Simon Case.

Read more: 'Shut up the lot of you!': Caller stands in support of Boris Johnson

Read more: Education Secretary claims there's too much 'hype' around No10 Christmas party scandal

Allegra Stratton, the PM's Cop26 spokesperson, quit in a tearful resignation speech after being recorded joking about a party during a rehearsal press conference.

Footage of that was leaked to ITV News.

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "Despite repeated denials of parties in Number 10, it has now transpired that there were numerous parties, gatherings and the Prime Minister even took part in a festive quiz.

"It appears that Boris Johnson lied to the country and broke the law.

"It is increasingly clear that the Prime Minister presided over a culture of ignoring the rules that he told everyone else to follow. It's time to fess up.

"Boris Johnson and the Conservatives really believe it's one rule for them, another for everyone else."

Speaking on Swarbrick on Sunday, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: "The cabinet secretary is going to be looking at all the allegations… and will report back swiftly.

"On that front page, I think your listeners will look at that and see a PM in his office, with the two close people that work with him, with no alcohol, taking 10-15 minutes to thank and motivate his staff, who have been coming in because they can’t work from home."

He added: "The PM is on a screen, on Zoom or Teams talking to his team, his staff, who couldn't stay at home.

"The hype, the number of emails I've had from constituents, as have other MPs, around parties or what people perceive to be parties, I think they'll look at that and make their own mind up."