Minister pulls out of key interviews in fallout over leaked 'Xmas party' clip

8 December 2021, 08:11 | Updated: 8 December 2021, 08:17

By Asher McShane

The government backed out of a round of morning interviews today as they scrambled to respond to a clip appearing to show No10 special advisers joking about a Christmas party last year that ministers have so far denied took place.

Broadcasters, including LBC, had expected to speak to the Health Secretary this morning to mark one year since Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive a Covid-19 jab outside of a clinical trial.

Mr Javid was also due to appear on other major news outlets, but the appearances were all axed.

The video below was obtained by ITV News

As well as Health Secretary Sajid Javid pulling out of national interviews in the wake of the Downing Street party video, vaccines minister Maggie Throup is understood to have pulled out of a planned round of regional television interviews.

Mr Javid's planned appearances did not take place. There are also questions as to whether a No 10 COVID news conference is still going ahead.

The newly surfaced video shows No10 special advisors taking part in a fake press conference just days after the alleged December 18 event last year.

Members of the public, many of whom lost loved ones to Covid at around the time the party was supposed to have taken place, told LBC today that no apology would be enough and called for the Prime Minister to step down by the end of the week.

The clip, discovered by ITV news, shows Allegra Stratton, then the PM's press secretary, and Ed Oldfield, No10's head of digital, rehearsing a question and answer session in the No9 briefing room.

Oldfield asks a question about 'a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night', to which Ms Stratton laughs and replies: 'I went home.'

When he asks if the Prime Minister would condone such a party, Ms Stratton appears unsure how to respond and asks the room: 'What's the answer?'

The development has been called a "bullet to the chest" of families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS trusts, said the news of the Downing Street Christmas party was a "blow to morale" among those working in the NHS.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock suggested he hadn't heard about the alleged lockdown-busting Christmas party in No 10 until last night.

In an interview with ITV's Good Morning Britain programme, Mr Hancock repeatedly denied that he had any knowledge of what may or may not have happened at the event, said to have taken place on December 18 last year.

"I don't know anything about the party," he said.

"I've read the papers. But I don't know anything else about it. I wasn't invited. I wasn't there."

On whether he had messaged anyone in Downing Street about the allegations, Mr Hancock said: "No, because I only found out about it late last night and then I got up pretty early this morning."

He added: "What I know is that the Prime Minister said that no rules were broken. And nobody's suggesting that he was at this party."