Timeline of parties across government reportedly held during covid-19 restrictions (Contd…2/2)
December 10, 2020: Department for Education party
The DfE confirmed a social event had happened after The Mirror reported that former education secretary Gavin Williamson threw a party and delivered a short speech at an event organised at his department’s Whitehall headquarters.
A spokesman acknowledged that “it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time”.
December 11, 2020: Wine fridge delivered to Downing Street for staff’s ‘wine-time Fridays’
A fridge with the capacity for 34 wine bottles was delivered through the back door of No 10.
According to sources cited by The Mirror, the fridge became necessary for staff’s “wine-time Fridays” which were held throughout lockdown, with the Prime Minister allegedly encouraging the parties to help aides “let off steam”.
The regular social gatherings were reported to be particularly popular among staff between autumn 2020 and spring 2020 when staff were “fatigued” with tough Covid restrictions that banned socialising.
Mr Johnson was said to have attended a “handful” of these gatherings.
December 14 2020: Party featuring Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey and staff
Shaun Bailey apologised “unreservedly” for attending the gathering at Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) organised by staff on his campaign team.
“It was a serious error of judgment at a time when Londoners were making immense sacrifices to keep us all safe and I regret it wholeheartedly,” he tweeted.
He quit his role chairing the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee after The Mirror published a picture showing him at the gathering.
December 15, 2020: Downing Street quiz
The Prime Minister appeared on contestants’ screens at the quiz but insisted he broke no rules.
An image published by the Sunday Mirror showed Mr Johnson flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in No 10.
Downing Street admitted Mr Johnson “briefly” attended the quiz after the photographic evidence emerged but insisted it was a virtual event.
December 16, 2020: Department for Transport party
The Mirror reported that senior civil servants were “boozing and dancing” at the event, allegedly planned by staff from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ office.
A DfT spokesman said: “Fewer than a dozen staff who were working in the office had a low-key, socially distanced gathering in the large open-plan office after work on December 16, where food and drink was consumed.
“We recognise this was inappropriate and apologise for the error of judgment.”
December 17, 2020: Cabinet Office “Christmas party”
A number of outlets reported that a gathering was held in the Cabinet Office on December 17.
The Times reported that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case attended the party in room 103 of the Cabinet Office, that it had been organised by a private secretary in Mr Case’s team, and that it was included in digital calendars as “Christmas party!”.
The Cabinet Office confirmed a quiz took place, but a spokesman said: “The Cabinet Secretary played no part in the event, but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office.”
December 17 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head
The former director-general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce said she was “truly sorry” over an evening gathering in the Cabinet Office for her leaving drinks during coronavirus restrictions days before Christmas in 2020.
Kate Josephs, who is now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, said she gathered with colleagues who were in the office that day and added that she is cooperating with the probe by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
December 18 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street
The claim which kicked off the rule-breaking allegations is that a party was held for Downing Street staff on December 18.
Officials and advisers reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts, although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.
Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, quit after being filmed joking about it with fellow aides at a mock press conference.
The Daily Mirror reported that Mr Johnson attended a leaving do for defence adviser Captain Steve Higham before Christmas 2020.
The newspaper alleged the Prime Minister made a speech but No 10 did not respond to a request for comment and the Ministry of Defence declined.
April 16 2021: Drinks and dancing the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral
The Telegraph reported that advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events on the Friday night.
They were to mark the departure of James Slack, Mr Johnson’s former director of communications, and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers.
Mr Slack, who left his No 10 role to become deputy editor-in-chief of The Sun newspaper, said he was sorry for the “anger and hurt” caused by his leaving do, while Downing Street apologised to the Queen.