Question Time audience groans as Tory minister tries to brush off Xmas party scandal

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·Political Correspondent - Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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  • Maggie Throup
    British politician (born 1957)
  • Boris Johnson
    Boris Johnson
    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019

Watch: Minister claims Tory Xmas party backlash is 'rumour and hear'say' in excruciating exchange

This is the moment a Tory minister was heckled on Question Time as she attempted to brush off the Conservatives' reported Christmas parties as 'rumour and hear'say'.

Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup was grilled about reports that a Christmas party was held in Number 10 during lockdown in late 2020.

But in attempting to answer, Throup first insisted that 'all guidance was carefully followed' before not clarifying if she knew whether the festive parties were held at all.

When host Fiona Bruce asked the Question Time audience if Throup's response answered their questions, they responded with a resounding "No". 

maggie throup
maggie throup

Bruce asked Throup whether she would like "another go" at answering given the audiences' dissatisfaction with her answers. 

"My answer's not going to change because the guidance was followed," she said.  

Bruce pointed out that the guidance at the time was that gatherings like Christmas parties were prohibited. 

Throup then stumbled over her words, before saying: "Whatever the event was... and, also, this has been just rumour and hearsay."

Her remarks come after a story in The Daily Mirror which reported staff in Number 10 held a Christmas party during lockdown in December 2020. 

BBCQT
BBCQT

Such social gatherings were illegal, with some members of the public being slapped with £10,000 fines if they broke those rules. 

The prime minister's spokesperson repeatedly dodged questions at lobby briefings this week, claiming that reports about the party were not accounts they recognised.

When asked if there were accounts they would recognise, they declined to answer.

Read more:

No 10 Christmas party claims ‘incredibly insulting’ – Covid bereaved families

PM's alleged party 'blatant disregard' for rules, say Labour

Boris Johnson Does Not Deny 'Boozy Party' Held In Downing Street In Lockdown

Families that lost family members to the virus have slammed the government following the reports of the party taking place. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving number 10 Downing Street, London, before making a statememnt in the House of Commons. Picture date: Tuesday June 16, 2020. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving number 10 Downing Street, London, before making a statememnt in the House of Commons. Picture date: Tuesday June 16, 2020. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics

"To hear that at a time when so many of us lost our loved ones and the rest of the country was enduring long, brutal lockdowns, the Prime Minister was partying with big groups of mates, is horrific," said COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK on Twitter

"You're left wondering about the Prime Minister’s empathy for the rest of us."

It is reported that the prime minister did not attend the Christmas party on 18 December 2020, but may have been present at a leaving party on 27 November 2020. 

mirror front page
The Daily Mirror broke the story on Tuesday night. (The Daily Mirror)

One insider told The Daily Mirror: "While senior civil servants were urging caution and there was one message to the public, Prime Minister gave the impression that it could be very relaxed in No 10.

“He would either turn a blind eye or on some occasions attend himself while everyone else was in lockdown”.

Labour have condemned Johnson and the government over the party, and have called for an investigation into the reports. 

Writing to the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: "You will no doubt understand the seriousness of the allegations made.

maggie throup
Vaccines minister Maggie Throup was heckled by Tory backbenchers on Tuesday as she read out the government's new guidance on new social distancing measures like masks. (parliamentlive.tv)

"The Government is undermining public health messaging with their actions and we cannot let this go on unchecked. 

"It cannot be that the Prime Minister believes there is a set of rules for the public and a totally different set of rules for himself." 

The party would not be the first time that staff in Number 10, and the government, have been accused of breaking the rules.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Boris Johnson's now estranged former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, was found to have travelled from London to Durham while suffering with COVID-19. 

And health secretary Matt Hancock resigned earlier this year after it emerged he was intimate with one of his staff in his offices when COVID guidelines advised against such behaviour. 

The Catch-up sign up
The Catch-up sign up

The vaccines minister was heckled on Tuesday by a group of Conservative backbenchers in the House of Commons while MPs debated new rules on compulsory face coverings in shops and on public transport.

Conservative MP Christopher Chope accused the government of "scaremongering" and said he "[could not] support these oppressive, authoritarian and dictatorial regulations". 

Watch: COVID 19: Boris Johnson rejects chance to address No 10 Christmas party allegations as Labour call for investigation into the matter

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