When we initially covered reports of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s staff taking part in a pre-Christmas party last year when they were supposed to be in lockdown mode, I wasn’t sure how much of a direct impact it would have on Johnson himself. After all, even though his opponents from the Labour Party were calling on him to resign, there were no indications that he attended the party personally. Also, the only person confirmed to have been flaunting the lockdown rules and making jokes about it, his former Press Secretary, had already resigned as soon as the video came to light, so there was some accountability being enforced. But that situation may be changing this weekend. The party in question took place on December 18 of last year, but now more evidence has emerged that BoJo participated in a “Christmas quiz” social event at Number 10 Downing Street three days earlier on the 15th. And there was no social distancing to be seen. (The Mirror)
Boris Johnson was last night accused of personally breaking Covid laws by hosting a Christmas quiz in No10 last year.
The Prime Minister was pictured on screen, sitting underneath a portrait of Margaret Thatcher as he read out questions.
A source said many staff huddled by computers, conferring on questions and knocking back fizz, wine and beer from a local Tesco Metro.
In one office, the insider said, there were four teams, each made up of six people.
The Mirror’s unnamed source is described as a staffer at Number 10 herself, and someone who now has regrets and realizes “what we were doing was so severely wrong.” Normally we might raise an eyebrow at using an anonymous source in a story like this, but pictures of the Prime Minister hosting a portion of the quiz were provided.
In the photos you can see Johnson at his desk, reading out some of the quiz questions while teams of up to six people gathered around laptops in other offices in what’s described as a “cheek to jowl” fashion to submit answers. In Johnson’s office, there are clearly at least two other people with him dressed in festive fashion without face masks and they are clearly not six feet apart. The source said that this was “a purely social event” and no work was being done. After the quiz was over, Johnson reportedly checked out but most of the staff hung around for an additional couple of hours drinking and partying, though BoJo himself was not seen drinking.
All of that is important because on the 15th of December, London was in a Tier 2 lockdown. That meant no gatherings of two or more people from different households were supposed to take place except for purposes of the most essential work activities that could not be performed remotely. The government rules also specifically stated that people “must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.”
Compounding Johnson’s issues is the fact that when the first report of the December 18th party emerged, he denied any wrongdoing. He said, “I have satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.” This now appears to be obviously untrue.
I will grant that as scandals go, this may not be on the level of selling off Great Britain’s military assets and secrets to the Russians, but it’s still pretty bad. While Johnson’s administration was issuing orders locking the entire city (and most of the country) down and forcing everyone to mask up and cancel their Christmas celebrations, he and his staff were holed up inside of Number 10 partying the night away without following any of the rules. That’s not just bad optics. It’s more of a betrayal and people have the right to be outraged.
Of course, we’ve had multiple American politicians be caught doing basically the same thing, including Governor Gavin Newsom, among others, and none of them have paid a political price for it. Or at least not yet. But British politics aren’t the same as what you see in America. Their leaders are expected to fall on their own swords without being forced out when they’re caught in a scandalous breach of etiquette or the law. Johnson is hunkering down for now, but this might wind up being far more serious than it initially looked.