London party

Education Department admits staging a Christmas ‘rally’ last December when London was at level 2

A ministry admitted it held a Christmas ‘rally’ last December, when London was subject to level 2 coronavirus rules.

The education ministry said the party took place in its office building, at a time when social mixing between households was prohibited and the number of people in an indoor space was limited to six by law.

The department’s admission came after former education secretary Gavin Williamson was reported by The mirror throwing a party and giving a short speech at the event on December 10 last year.

A spokesperson for the DfE said: “On December 10, 2020, a gathering of colleagues who were already in the office – and who had worked together throughout the pandemic, as they could not work from home – took place. in the DfE office building in London at a time when the city was under Level 2 restrictions.

“The rally was used to thank these employees for their efforts during the pandemic. Drinks and snacks were brought in by attendees and no outside guests or support staff were invited or present.

“While this is work-related, looking back we accept that it would have been better not to meet like this at this time.”

The DfE statement came hours after a video broadcast by ITV showing Downing Street staff joking about hosting a banned Christmas party days earlier, one they subsequently had denied having.

In the video from last December, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton said the Downing Street party “was not socially distanced” and added: “It was not a party, it was ‘was just cheese and wine’.

On Tuesday, Downing Street insisted again that there was no Christmas party and that Covid rules had been followed at all times.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer urged Mr Johnson to “be frank and apologize”.

He added that for the assistants “to lie and laugh at these lies is shameful”.

Images obtained by ITV News showed Ms Stratton responding to a question from fellow Special Advisor Ed Oldfield during a mock press conference on December 22 last year about a Christmas party in Downing Street on Friday previous.

Mr Oldfield asked him: “I just saw reports on Twitter that there was a Christmas party in Downing Street on Friday night, do you recognize those reports?”

Mrs. Stratton replied “I have come home” before she wondered what the correct answer should be.

Mr Oldfield then asked: “Would the Prime Minister agree to throw a Christmas party?”

Mrs Stratton asked “what’s the answer” and the staff in the press room appeared to suggest ideas, one of them saying “it wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine”.

“Are the cheese and the wine okay?” It was a business meeting, ”replied Stratton, laughing out loud in the room.

Ms Stratton then noted “this is on tape,” adding, “This fictitious party was a business meeting… and it was not socially distanced.”

London and much of the South East were subject to stricter Level 4 rules a day after the mock press conference in the 9 Downing Street media room, which was refurbished at a cost of $ 2.6million of pounds in preparation for Covid TV updates ahead of the project’s abandonment.

In Level 4 areas, residents were only allowed to celebrate Christmas with their own household members and Support Bubbles, and were not allowed to travel to other areas to see their families and their friends.

Metropolitan Police have confirmed officers are reviewing the leaked video for “suspected violations” of coronavirus regulations.

Responding to the ITV report, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules were followed at all times. “