ITV eviscerated Boris Johnson’s scandal-hit government on Wednesday night, declaring “they’re laughing at us” as leaked footage emerged of his aides joking about a Christmas party.
The prime minister’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield, along with other aides, were filmed joking about a “fictional” party in December 2020.
On Tuesday, Downing Street again insisted there was no Christmas party and coronavirus rules had been followed at all times.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on Johnson to “come clean and apologise”, adding that for aides “to lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful”.
Cheese and wine
The footage obtained by ITV News showed Stratton answering questions at a mock press conference on December 22 about a Downing Street Christmas party the previous Friday – the date of the alleged rule-breaking gathering.
Oldfield asked her: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”
Stratton replied “I went home” before appearing to consider what the correct answer should be.
During the rehearsal, filmed as part of a subsequently-abandoned plan for Stratton to lead televised press briefings, Oldfield pressed her for an answer.
“Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?” he asked.
Stratton asked “what’s the answer” and staff in the press room appeared to suggest ideas, with one saying “it wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine”.
“Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting,” Stratton replied, to laughter in the room.
Stratton then noted “this is recorded”, adding: “This fictional party was a business meeting … and it was not socially distanced.”
‘They’re laughing at us’
And ITV did not hold back in its criticism of the government, with anchor Tom Bradby launching a withering broadside against Johnson at the start of the 10pm news broadcast.
“They literally look as if they are laughing at us: you, me, all of us,” he said. “Remember last Christmas? London was in Tier 3… Christmas all but cancelled.”
Bradby added: “One thing is for sure. Not many people are going to be laughing tonight.”
Watch his stinging intervention here.
Related: Gavin Williamson hosted boozy Christmas party amid Brits’ Covid misery