Video has emerged of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg joking about a Christmas party reportedly held at No 10 last year, despite gatherings being forbidden under COVID rules at the time.
Mr Rees-Mogg was speaking at this year’s Christmas party for the Institute of Economic Affairs when he joked about police investigating last year’s event.
In a video published on the Guido website, the Tory MP told the audience: “I see we’re all here obeying regulations, aren’t we?
“I mean, this party is not going to be investigated by the police in a year’s time.
“You are all very carefully socially distanced… we have moved, I am pleased to tell you, from the metric back to the Imperial system: I notice you are all at least two inches away from each other which is, as I understand it, what the regulations require.”
His words come as Boris Johnson’s government faces growing anger due to what is reported to have been a Christmas party at No 10 last December, when most of England was under lockdown as a result of the Alpha variant.
Downing Street insists that the party, reported to have involved between 40 and 50 people in a room at No 10, did not happen, saying that COVID rules “have been followed at all times”.
But their defence was met with anger, especially after a video emerged of No 10 officials joking and laughing about a Christmas party during what was apparently a rehearsal for a TV media briefing.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on Mr Johnson to “come clean and apologise” and COVID-19 Bereaved Families For Justice UK has accused the PM of “set(ting) a culture where breaches of the rules are laughed about and the rules only apply to some”.
Sky News has reported that a number of parties were held in Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year while indoor mixing was banned in London.
It has also been reported that the prime minister gave a speech at a crowded leaving party for a senior aide in November, when the same restrictions applied.
The Metropolitan Police has said officers are considering complaints about the two parties last year, saying: “It is our policy not to routinely investigate retrospective breaches of the COVID-19 regulations, however the footage will form part of our considerations.”
And on Wednesday, the Daily Mirror reported that former education secretary Gavin Williamson threw a party and delivered a short speech at an event on 10 December while London was under the same restrictions.
In response to that allegation, a Department for Education spokeswoman said: “While this was work-related, looking back we accept it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time.”