Scientists have said Boris Johnson’s Plan B to tackle the coronavirus pandemic is at risk over the Christmas parties scandal engulfing the Conservatives.
Reports that the Tories held “up to seven” parties in lockdown – including a “raucous” event at Conservative party headquarters on December 14 last year – have added to the consternation caused by the leaked video of the Downing Street team’s mock press conference. That showed the prime minister’s official spokesperson Allegra Stratton laughing with colleagues over possible questions about a party and resulted in Stratton’s tearful resignation on Wednesday.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, called on Johnson to resign during PMQs yesterday as the debacle rumbles on, while backbench Tory MP William Wragg asked if the imminent announcement of new restrictions to combat the Covid omicron variant were a “diversionary tactic” to shift the focus from the parties-scandal.
‘We need a government that can guide us’
Johnson announced new measures to combat the Covid omicron variant – including working from home guidance, Covid passports for large venues and extended rules for masks – will come into effect in England next week –while Sage members have warned that trust in the government is vital for a “communal response to keep ourselves safe” and that any loss of faith could impact not only on adherence to rules but also the vaccination and booster programmes.
A member of the Sage subgroup on behavioural science, Professor Stephen Reicher, said: “We need a communal response to keep ourselves safe, and for that we really need trust in government.
“In the middle of a national crisis where we need to react quickly and need to know how to react, we need a government that can guide us; a government that we think of as ‘them’, and as dishonest, and as liars, is not the government we need right now.”
Tories admit to hosting ‘raucous’ party at HQ
The Conservative party has admitted a “raucous” party took place in the basement of their Westminster headquarters on December 14, according to the The Times which reports that Tories held “up to seven” parties in lockdown. The paper states the December 14 party – organised by the Shaun Bailey’s London mayoral campaign team – saw drinking and dancing into the early hours at Tory HQ, with Downing Street aides among the guests, despite a ban on indoor social mixing.
A spokesman for the Conservatives said: “Senior CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) staff became aware of an unauthorised social gathering in the basement of Matthew Parker Street organised by the Bailey campaign on the evening of December 14.
“Formal disciplinary action was taken against the four CCHQ staff who were seconded to the Bailey campaign.”
Police won’t investigate No 10’s lockdown breaches
The Labour party has called for police to investigate the parties and said it “seems implausible” for Scotland Yard to claim there is insufficient evidence for an investigation. This followed a statement by the Metropolitan Police acknowledging receipt of “a significant amount of correspondence” about alleged breaches of lockdown rules at No 10. However, these do not “provide evidence of a breach”, the statement claims, adding: “Based on the absence of evidence and in line with our policy not to investigate retrospective breaches of such regulations, the Met will not commence an investigation at this time.”
Elsewhere, the Conservative party has been fined £17,800 for breaking the law over the decoration of Johnson’s Downing Street flat after an investigation by the Electoral Commission found “the laws around the reporting and recording of donations were not followed”.
This latest debacle piles even more pressure just as the prime minister and his wife Carrie Johnson announced the birth of their second child today (December 9).