'Hold his hands up and apologise' — Suffolk MPs on Christmas party video
- Credit: PA/HOUSE OF COMMONS/OFFICE OF JAMES CARTLIDGE
One Suffolk MP has called for the prime minister to apologise after video of Downing Street staff joking about an alleged Christmas party emerged — while another has called for those who attended the party to resign, if the allegations are proven.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous called on the prime minister to "hold his hands up and apologise" after footage emerged on Tuesday night which showed Downing Street staff in December 2020 laughing about a possible party which would have breached London's coronavirus restrictions at the time.
Boris Johnson told MPs he was "furious" after the video emerged and pledged there would "disciplinary action for all those involved" if the allegations were true.
The prime minister went on to apologise "unreservedly", but continued to insist he had been repeatedly assured that “there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken”.
Despite this Allegra Stratton, the prime minister's former press secretary, has since apologised for her remarks and resigned from a her role as COP26 spokeswoman.
In the wake of the footage, Mr Aldous said: "This story has been rumbling away over the last few weeks and my inclination was to accept what the prime minister had said that no rules had been broken and give them the benefit of the doubt.
"The news overnight and the release of the video does cast the situation in a different light.
"It does look very bad and gives the impression there is one rule for them and another for the rest of us.
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"In my view it is a re-run of the Dominic Cummings saga and it does make it very difficult, especially if there were to be further restrictions with the emergence of Omicron, to enforce those rules - probably impossible."
Mr Aldous said he did not believe Mr Johnson should resign over the saga, but said immediate clarification, and an apology, needs to be given.
He said: "What is needed is an explanation of what happened from the Prime Minister and for him to hold his hands up and apologise and say he got it wrong.
"I don't think he should resign. We have enormous challenges coming our way in this country. Over the last few weeks we have seen different issues such as social care and standards, and there is a clear need for the government to quickly get a grip on this issue."
The Waveney MP said there was "absolutely" no Christmas party for his staff last year.
Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said any staffers or politicians who attended the party — or gave permission for it go ahead — should resign if the allegations were proved.
The Daily Mirror, which first broke the story about the alleged Christmas party, said around 40 or 50 members of the prime minister's "top team" attended the party on December 18, but said the prime minister himself did not attend the party.
Dr Poulter said: "I was not present at Downing Street last Christmas and cannot pass comment as to the accuracy or otherwise of the Christmas Party story.
"It is now for the Metropolitan Police to decide if there is sufficient evidence to open an investigation.
"Whilst it is understandable that people sometimes do make mistakes about the Covid rules, a Christmas party would have been be a flagrant breach and if it proves to be the case that a party took place which was in breach of the Covid rules that were in place at that time, then it would be appropriate for the individuals concerned to resign their positions.
"It would be incompatible with having a position as a senior Downing Street official with a major role in devising and implementing Covid rules and restrictions and at the same time break those very same rules. However, at this stage the facts about whether a party took place remain unclear.”
James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, said he had not seen the footage of Downing Street staffers laughing about the party during a practice press briefing.
"I just don't watch stuff like that anymore," he said. "I genuinely haven't read the story."
Mr Cartlidge said it was "impossible" for him to comment on the alleged party as he had "no idea what the position is".
He added: "All I know is, this year could be quite challenging with Omicron and I think we should just focus on the booster programme. As to what happened at a party a year ago, I personally have no way of commenting because obviously I don't know what happened."
A spokeswoman for Matt Hancock said the West Suffolk MP was not available to comment.
All seven Suffolk MPs were contacted for comment.