'The Queen didn’t expect special treatment’: Jess Phillips condemns Boris Johnson over ‘Xmas party’ scandal

·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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The leaked footage has sparked anger with some contrasting it to the dignity shown by the Queen, who sat alone Prince Phillip's funeral as a result of COVID restrictions. (Right: Allegra Stratton, ITV. Left: The Queen, Getty Images)

A Labour MP has said a stark image of the Queen sitting alone in a dignified silence at Prince Phillip's funeral highlights the contempt with which Boris Johnson's government has treated the British public.

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley Wood, said angry constituents were already writing to her after ITV News revealed leaked footage showing Number 10 staff laughing over an alleged Christmas party held in Downing Street last year during lockdown.

Philips shared the image of the Queen on Tuesday night as reports of the footage emerged. "The central issue is how serious our leaders take their jobs," she said.

"She took it deadly serious. The Queen specifically wanted to show that she didn't expect special treatment, and I am certain that the public would have allowed her the same latitude in the circumstances.

"Boris Johnson fundamentally does not get that. People in Yardley are pretty cross about it and writing to me to say as much."

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(Twitter/@JessPhillips)

The Queen attended a public funeral for Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, in April this year. One of the most poignant moments of the ceremony was the image of her sitting alone prior to the service, studiously observing social distancing restrictions.

Many saw the scenes of her sitting alone in a chapel as she said goodbye to her husband as embodying the loneliness, sadness, and isolation of lockdown.

Claims that Downing Street staff held a party were first revealed by the Daily Mirror last week. They have been consistently denied or avoided by Number 10, cabinet ministers, and the prime minister over the last week, with Boris Johnson explicitly saying that he was sure all COVID guidelines were adhered to.

At the time, the Tier 3 rules explicitly banned work Christmas lunches and parties where it is “a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted”.

Anger over the reports came to a head on Tuesday night after leaked video, revealed by ITV, showed the prime minister's then spokesperson Allegra Stratton taking mock journalist questions in the Downing Street press conference.

Ed Oldfield, the prime minister's special adviser, asks Stratton if she has "seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night" and if she recognises them.

"I went home," replied Stratton, laughing.

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The prime minister's then spokesperson, Allegra Stratton, laughed as she held a mock press conference during lockdown last December and practiced denying a Christmas party that reportedly happened several days prior. (ITV)

Oldfield later asks: "Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?" to which Stratton goes on to say "It wasn't a party it, it was cheese and wine".

The video continues in a similar way, with rounds of laughter from those present, ending with Stratton saying: "This is recorded. This fictional party was a business meeting... and it was not socially distanced."

Downing Street continues to insist all rules were followed in Number 10 on Tuesday night following the emergence of the video.

However, senior government ministers took the unusual step of pulling out of key broadcast interviews on Wednesday morning following the emergence of the leaked footage showing government aides joking about a Christmas party last year.

It is unclear whether they were instructed to pull out of the interviews, or refused to do them; several them appeared to publicly defend the prime minister over the last week over allegations the alleged party broke coronavirus restrictions.

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On Monday, Dominic Cummings, the prime minister's estranged former special adviser, warned the prime minister against lying about the party.

"V unwise for No10 to lie about this but PM set the course of lying on covid in spring when he decided to start rewriting history, deny herd immunity plan etc," he said on Monday.

"NB some lobby hacks were also at parties in No10 flat so trying to bury this story...".

Watch: Boris Johnson declines to repeat official denial about staff party at No 10

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