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

12 December 2021, 11:07

By Asher McShane

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi told LBC that a photo of Boris Johnson leading a Christmas quiz during lockdown was just the prime minister "thanking his staff" and tried to play down the party scandal as "hype."

Speaking to Tom Swarbrick on Swarbrick on Sunday, Mr 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."

Tom replied: “He wasn’t just thanking his members of staff. “The question is was that quiz ‘reasonably necessary for work?’

Mr Zahawi said: “Again, the cabinet secretary will be looking at all the allegations.

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

“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.”

The latest revelation is that the PM hosted a virtual quiz before Christmas flanked by colleagues.

The embattled prime minister is already facing huge anger over claims staff at No10 held a festive party despite London having been plunged into Covid restrictions that banned most socialising - and later forced many to scrap their plans to see loved ones.

The Sunday Mirror obtained a photo showing Mr Johnson reading questions on a screen, flanked by two staff members, on December 15 last year.

The capital was in Tier 2 restrictions at the time, which told households not to mix indoors, while the Gov.uk Twitter account told a user on the social media service that "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".

Reports claimed many staff were huddled by computers in Number 10 as they conferred on questions and drank alcohol.

A Downing Street spokesman 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."