Outrage Over Boris Johnson's Christmas Party Quiz Is Just 'Hype', Says Cabinet Minister

Boris Johnson is in further trouble after pictures emerged of him taking part in an event with staff last year.
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi says the prime minister respected lockdown rules when he allegedly took part in a virtual Christmas quiz last year.
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi says the prime minister respected lockdown rules when he allegedly took part in a virtual Christmas quiz last year.
DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has dismissed the latest reports that Boris Johnson took part in a Christmas quiz last year as “hype”.

The former vaccines minister came out swinging for the prime minister after images emerged of him sitting beside two colleagues in Downing Street last year while taking part in a virtual quiz.

The images top off a difficult week for the prime minister following the emergence of leaked video footage showing Downing Street staff joking about holding a Christmas party on December 18 last year when London was in Tier 3 restrictions and social mixing was banned.

But Zahawi insisted that the latest party, the No.10 Christmas quiz that reportedly took place on December 15 2020, broke no rules and hit out at what he called media “hype” around the event.

“What do we see in that picture? We see a prime minister on a virtual quiz night for 10 to 15 minutes to thank his staff who, by the way, had no choice but to come in every single day,” Zahawi told Trevor Phillips on Sky News.

“Sitting in his office with the two people who are working closest with him — no alcohol on the table, not drinking, on a zoom call or a teams call or virtual call respecting the lockdown rules.

“Many people would have had similar quiz nights around the country.”

Phillips interjected: “If I had done it, I would be in monster trouble.”

Zahawi hit back at Phillips by saying it was a virtual quiz — but the presenter said: “He was sitting next to two people!”

Zahawi continued: “In many ways I’ve had emails from from constituents because the hype around parties that was going on in the last week and the week before made it sound completely different.”

The latest party, revealed by the Mirror, is separate to the event that is alleged to have taken place on December 18 and that triggered the resignation of Johnson’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton.

The December 18 gathering is one of a handful of parties that are now being investigated by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case under an order from the prime minister.

In a tense meeting of the Commons on Wednesday, Johnson insisted that despite the emergence of the leaked footage, he had been “repeatedly assured” that no party had taken place and that all covid rules had been followed.

According to the Mirror, staff gathered round computers and enjoyed alcohol from the local Tesco for the Christmas quiz on December 15, when London was under Tier 2 restrictions.

Official guidance at the time banned social mixing between households and also prohibited work Christmas parties and lunches where “that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier”.

Pressed on how the prime minister did not break Tier 2 restrictions when he seen sitting next to colleagues, Zahawi told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “These are people who work together.

“There is no drink here. I don’t think there is a rule against recognising Christmas with tinsel or a hat.

“Ten to 15 minutes to thank his team who were working all hours on a virtual screen in a pub quiz – I think people can make their own mind up on that.”

Marr also pressed Zahawi on whether he now accepted that there had been a party in No 10 on December 18 following the leaked footage, to which he replied: “I think that is unfair.

“Allegra Stratton who resigned over this, she resigned because she felt the frivolity and the laughter… the Cabinet Secretary is looking at all allegations.

“I think it is only fair and right, because these are the values that we adhere to in this country, that we should wait for that investigation.”


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