Fuming Tory MPs threaten revolt over Covid rules that order WFH but allow Xmas parties

8 December 2021, 15:41 | Updated: 9 December 2021, 11:28

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under fire from his own party
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under fire from his own party. Picture: Parliamentlive.tv/Alamy

By Will Taylor

Conservatives have turned up the heat on Boris Johnson and spoken of their anger over the introduction of 'non-sensical' new Covid rules and his handling of the Downing Street Christmas party scandal.

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Plan B was triggered last night, meaning millions of office staff will be urged to work from home from Monday, masks will be required in theatres and cinemas, and Covid passports will be introduced for nightclubs and large venues.

But Mr Johnson said office Christmas parties should go ahead, sparking a backlash from critics.

Mr Johnson said the new restrictions were a 'proportionate and responsible' response to the Omicron variant. 

Tory MP Marcus Fysh described the plans to introduce Covid passports as a requirement to enter some venues as “draconian” and “a disgrace”.

Mr Johnson is being accused of accelerated the move to Plan B in order to shift the public gaze away from outrage over claims that No10 staff held a Christmas party on December 18 last year in defiance of lockdown rules.

Leaked footage showing No10 staff laughing about a party in December 2020 sparked a national backlash after repeated denials one took place – and continued insistence that the Covid rules were followed.

The alleged get-together would have taken place when London was in strict Tier 3 Covid restrictions.

An investigation into what happened has been launched but Conservatives have already spoken out.

MPs expressed fury at the clip, which was leaked to ITV, while Tories described reported Covid measures as "diversionary".

Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, last night told Boris Johnson he should resign if he is found to have misled Parliament.

"If he knew there was a party, if he knew it took place, then he cannot come to the House of Commons and say there was no party," he said.

Read more: PM issues grovelling apology as he’s accused of ‘taking public for fools’

Read more: Met Police to examine leaked footage of No10 aides joking about Christmas party

Tracey Crouch, the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, told Kent Online: "I am fuming! My constituents have every right to be angry.

"Their memories of lost loved ones are traumatised knowing that they died alone.”

Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon, said: "It's horrendous that there were rumours of a party and now a video has emerged that appears to confirm that one did take place."

Mr Johnson faced Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, after days of insisting that Covid guidance was followed.

"I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing No10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures, and I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules because I was also furious to see that clip.

"I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.

"But I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken, and that is what I have been repeatedly assured."

The clip features his spokesman Allegra Stratton joking with advisers in the Downing Street briefing room about a party taking place, in what looks like a rehearsal for her then-planned press conferences.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Conservative William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove, hit out at potential “Plan B” Covid measures and said: "Very few will be convinced by this diversionary tactic."

Baroness Warsi, a former co-chair of the Tories, said anyone at the alleged party should go.

"Every minister, parliamentarian & staffer at the Downing Street Party must resign NOW."

Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson, the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: "None of this is remotely defensible. Not having busy, boozy not-parties while others were sticking to the rules, unable to visit ill or dying loved ones.

"Nor flat-out denying things that are easily provable. Not taking the public for fools.

"And today's "we'll investigate what we've spent a week saying didn't happen and discipline staff for rules we continue to say weren't broken" was pathetic.

"As a Tory, I was brought up to believe in playing with a straight bat. Believe me, colleagues are furious at this, too."