Three UK government parties to be investigated by top civil servant3 min read

Three government parties that took place last year when London was under stringent coronavirus restrictions are to be investigated by the UKs top civil servant.</p>

After a leaked video showed his aides joking about Christmas parties during lockdown, Boris Johnson on Wednesday said cabinet secretary Simon Case would probe claims that a festive gathering was held in Number 10 on December 18, when such events were banned.

Paymaster general Michael Ellis on Thursday told the House of Commons the probe would also look into media reports of a party in Downing Street on November 27, and a gathering at the education department on December 10, which could also have breached Covid-19 restrictions.

Ellis confirmed to MPs that any potential criminality uncovered would be reported to the police.

Meanwhile, Labour accused Johnson of lying over the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat after the UK electoral watchdog imposed a fine of £17,800 on the Conservative party for failing to properly declare a donation behind the work.

And health secretary Sajid Javid rejected the case for mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations, in an apparent attempt to minimise what is expected to be a major rebellion by Tory MPs against Johnson’s new coronavirus restrictions for England.

Case’s investigation will examine a leaving party in Downing Street for Cleo Watson, a Johnson aide, on November 27. The prime minister gave a speech at the event, according to one Number 10 official who was present. At that time people from different households were banned from meeting indoors or in private gardens.

The Conservatives also confirmed that a gathering was held at their headquarters on December 14 last year by those working on the campaign for the party’s candidate for London mayor, Shaun Bailey. They said “formal disciplinary action” had been taken against four staff.

Allegra Stratton, Johnson’s former spokesperson, resigned from her Downing Street post after the leaked government video showed her joking about a Christmas party last year.

The Metropolitan Police has announced it will not investigate the party allegations because of an “absence of evidence” and the force’s policy not to probe retrospective breaches of Covid-19 regulations.

At least 30 Tory MPs have expressed public dismay at Johnson’s so-called plan B restrictions for England to counter the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, including vaccine passports and work from home guidance.

Conservative business managers in the Commons may have to rely on Labour backing for the measures to secure parliamentary approval because of the potential scale of the Tory rebellion.

Johnson hinted on Wednesday that the government may look at introducing compulsory Covid-19 vaccine jabs if a small but significant proportion of the population refuse them.

But when asked on Thursday if mandatory vaccines could be introduced, Javid told Sky News: “Well no. I’ve got no interest in mandatory vaccination, apart from the high risk settings in the NHS and social care which we’ve already set out that we will legislate for.

“Other than that if you’re talking about universal mandatory, I think ethically it’s wrong. But also at a very practical level, it just wouldn’t work. Getting a vaccine has to be a positive decision.”

Peter Bone, a longstanding Conservative MP, told the BBC that he would submit a letter of no confidence in Johnson if the government opted for mandatory jabs.

Mark Harper, chair of the Covid recovery group of lockdown sceptic Conservative MPs, said the combination of new Covid restrictions and allegations of Downing Street parties had weakened Johnson’s standing.

“Why should people listen to the prime minister’s instructions to follow the rules when people inside Number 10 Downing Street don’t do so?”

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