Journalists 'went to No.10 Xmas parties and want to bury story', claims Cummings

File photo dated 25/5/2020 of Dominic Cummings who claims that Boris Johnson's Downing Street is now a branch of the
Dominic Cummings has said political journalists attended lockdown Christmas events at Downing Street. (PA)

Political journalists attended alleged Christmas parties at Number 10 Downing Street during the coronavirus lockdown last year and are trying to “bury the story”, it has been claimed.

Dominic Cummings, prime minister Boris Johnson’s former chief advisor, said on Monday night it was “very unwise” for Number 10 “to lie” about the alleged Christmas parties.

He tweeted: “V unwise for No10 to lie about this but PM set the course of lying on COVID in spring when he decided to start rewriting history, deny herd immunity plan etc.

“NB some lobby hacks were also at parties in No10 flat so trying to bury this story”.

It is the latest accusation levelled at the government by Cummings since he left his job last November.

Last month, he accused Johnson of not understanding the customs union and not taking women seriously.

Read more: Downing Street intends to hold Christmas party amid COVID rules row

Ornaments and baubles hang from the Christmas tree outside 10 Downing Street, Westminster, London. Picture date: Saturday November 27, 2021.
This year's Christmas tree outside 10 Downing Street. (PA)

The Daily Mirror reported that two events took place in Number 10 last year in the run-up to the festive season, including Johnson giving a speech at a leaving do during November’s lockdown.

The other was reported to be a staff party in December, where party games were played, food and drinks were served, and revelries went on past midnight.

At the time, the Tier 3 rules in place in London explicitly banned work Christmas lunches and parties where it is “a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted”.

The Mirror said the leaving do took place on 27 November while the unofficial Christmas party, which was not attended by Johnson, was on 18 December.

Watch: Dominic Raab piles pressure on PM to come clean over Number 10 Christmas party

Justice secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Tuesday: “Number 10 have been very clear: there was no party and there were no rules breached.”

On Monday, the prime minister’s spokesman insisted “there was not a party”, while government ministers attempted to play down the claims.

In the House of Commons, health secretary Sajid Javid was responding to questions on the Omicron variant of coronavirus when he was challenged about the alleged party on 18 December.

Labour MP Karl Turner said people would be “more enthusiastic” about any new measures if the health secretary “accepts there was a knees-up in No 10”.

Javid responded: “I thought it was going to be a serious question.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said people in his Ilford constituency were being prosecuted for holding an indoor gathering on the same day.

He said: “Isn’t it time that the government comes clean about the event in Downing Street on that same day, admit they broke the rules and apologise – or does the secretary of state believe, as the prime minister appears to, that it’s one rule for them and another rule for everyone else?”

Javid replied: “In terms of rules, of course they should apply to everyone, regardless of who they are.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said he knew “nothing about” the reported gatherings but said he believed no rules were broken.

He suggested there may have been circumstances such as distancing between attendees that would have permitted the gathering – despite London being in Tier 3, banning social mixing indoors at the time.

Number 10 was resisting growing pressure to explain what happened in Downing Street last year, as the Metropolitan Police considered complaints submitted by two Labour MPs.

Malthouse told Sky News: “I know nothing about it – I’ve been assured by Number 10 that no rules were broken if there was a gathering of any kind.

“Number 10 are reassuring everybody that all rules were complied with during that period and I take that reassurance at face value, but no doubt if the police are alerted they will have a look and they will form a view and we’ll learn more about it in the days to come.

“The police should be investigating anything that is a historic crime to them.”

But on Sunday, Raab said a “formal party” would have been “clearly contrary to the guidance”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Justice, arrives at BBC studios for The Andrew Marr Show on December 5, 2021 in London, England. Andrew Marr, the veteran broadcaster, recently announced he would leave the BBC after 21 years. BBC presenter Sophie Raworth will become the interim host of the show, temporarily titled
Justice secretary Dominic Raab backed Number 10 by saying there was no Christmas party. (Getty Images)

Read more: Downing Street intends to hold Christmas party amid COVID rules row

Raab told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One that police have been clear “they don’t normally look back and investigate things that have taken place a year ago”.

But Downing Street said he was referring to Scotland Yard’s statement saying officers do not routinely investigate “retrospective” breaches of the COVID-19 regulations specifically.

However, court records showed police were prosecuting a 36-year-old man for holding a gathering of two or more people in Ilford, east London, on the same day as the alleged event in Downing Street.

The court list showed he is one of two people facing hearings before magistrates in Westminster on Wednesday, charged with breaching Tier 3 restrictions in December, while many more were being prosecuted for allegedly falling foul of Tier 4 rules introduced on 20 December.

The prime minister’s official spokesman declined to say whether an internal investigation had been carried out, but told reporters: “There was not a party, and COVID rules have been followed at all times.”

He said Downing Street was still considering holding a staff party this year, despite Raab ruling out one for the Ministry of Justice.

The spokesman said: “We haven’t confirmed any dates at the moment. I think there is an intention to have a Christmas party this year.

“There is nothing in the limited restrictions that we’ve introduced that would prevent Christmas parties from taking place.”

Watch: Boris Johnson insists 'we followed the guidance' over Christmas party row