Cabinet secretary ‘to finish Downing St party probe this week’

Investigation expanded to include quiz hosted by Boris Johnson days before No.10 get-together
Photo: Cabinet Office

By Jim Dunton

13 Dec 2021

Cabinet secretary Simon Case is aiming to conclude his investigation into potentially rule-breaking Christmas get-togethers in Downing Street by the end of this week, according to reports.

Case was tasked with conducting a probe into allegations of an event at No.10 on 18 December last year after footage emerged last week of the prime minister’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton trying to defend the gathering at a mock press conference.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, said he shared the public’s anger over the footage defending the event, said to have taken place at a time when coronavirus restrictions prohibited social gatherings involving people not part of the same household or support bubble.

The BBC subsequently reported that Johnson’s director of communications, Jack Doyle, had given a speech at the event. The corporation said sources had told it Doyle offered the PM his resignation but the offer was rejected.

Case’s mission to determine whether rules had been broken came despite days of assurances from No.10that all guidance had been complied with. It has since been expanded to cover a range of departmental events, including one party that the Department for Education acknowledges took place and a virtual quiz hosted by the PM on 15 December last year.

The Times reported today that Downing Street staff have been told to expect the results of Case’s review – understood to be being conducted by Cabinet Office director general for propriety and ethics Darren Tierney – “by the end of this week”.

Whether the findings of the investigation are made public before Christmas is a different question.

Parliament rises for  the festive break on Thursday and No.10’s decision on releasing information is likely to depend on whether Case’s conclusions are seen as helpful.

The FDA union’s recent High Court challenge to Boris Johnson’s decision that home secretary Priti Patel did not breach the ministerial code, even though an inquiry found she had bullied staff, revealed the PM sat on the inquiry findings for five months before making details public.

Over the weekend, the Guardian reported that Treasury staff held an “impromptu” drinks  party to mark the delivery of the Spending Review in late November 2020, while lockdown restrictions were in place.

Read the most recent articles written by Jim Dunton - PM and chancellor draw fire for holidaying as recession warning hits

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