Boris Johnson did not deny that a “boozy” Christmas party was held in Number 10 during the lockdown but insisted that no rules were broken.
The Prime Minister was accused by Sir Keir Starmer of “taking the British public for fools” as the Labour leader insisted that any festive event would have been against the rules that applied in 2020.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson was challenged about reports that he and his Downing Street staff broke Covid rules by attending two parties in the run-up to last Christmas.
The Daily Mirror said the Prime Minister gave a speech at a packed leaving do for a senior aide last November when the country was in the midst of the second lockdown.
The newspaper said members of his No 10 team then held their own festive party days before Christmas, while London was under Tier 3 restrictions.
In each case, the paper reported, there were 40 or 50 people crammed “cheek by jowl” into a medium-sized room.
Sir Keir directly asked Mr Johnson: “As millions of people were locked down last year, was a Christmas party thrown in Downing Street for dozens of people on December 18?”
Mr Johnson told Sir Keir: “All guidance was followed completely.”
Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, said: “The defence seems to be ‘no rules were broken’. Well, I’ve got the rules that were in place at the time, Prime Minister, of this party, they are very clear: you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party.
“Does the Prime Minister really expect the country to believe that whilst people were banned from seeing their loved ones at Christmas this year it was fine for him and his friends to thrown a boozy party in Downing Street?”
The Prime Minister replied: “I have said what I said about Number 10 and the events of 12 months ago.”
The Prime Minister has lived his life never facing consequences for breaking the rules. But when you occupy Number 10 during a pandemic that's not just wrong, its dangerous.— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) December 1, 2021
We can't have one rule for him and another for everyone else anymore.
The Labour leader responded: “The Prime Minister does not deny there was a Downing Street Christmas party last year. He says no rules were broken.
“Both of those things can’t be true, Prime Minister. He is taking the British public for fools”.
The Scottish National Party’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, asked: “How are people possibly expected to trust the Prime Minister when he thinks it’s one rule for him and one rule for everybody else?”
But Mr Johnson told him he was “talking total nonsense”.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “The Prime Minister has lived his life never facing consequences for breaking the rules.
“But when you occupy Number 10 during a pandemic that’s not just wrong, it’s dangerous. We can’t have one rule for him and another for everyone else anymore.”
Mr Johnson sought to highlight divisions within the shadow cabinet by responding to questions about the Number 10 event with a reference to Sir Keir’s own Christmas party scheduled for December 15, “to which, unaccountably, he has failed to invite the deputy leader”.
Sir Keir told him: “Nice try, but that won’t work.”