No 10 cancels Christmas party due to Omicron concerns | Politics

No 10 has cancelled its Christmas party because of worries about Covid, despite encouraging people to go ahead with workplace functions.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said the decision was taken to shelve plans for a No 10 Christmas gathering this year after the move to implement plan B, but stressed other people were still free to go ahead with theirs.

He denied it was anything to do with the furore over the party held in Downing Street on 18 December last year when restrictions on socialising were in place. This party and other gatherings of No 10 staff during lockdown are now under investigation by Simon Case, the cabinet secretary.

Asked whether No 10’s party was still going ahead this year, Johnson’s spokesperson said: “I think we’ve made clear since the latest situation with Omicron, obviously that’s taking up a great deal of time at the moment. There’s no plans for that in No 10.” Asked when the decision was taken, they said: “Following the decision on plan B and the latest data that we’ve got.”

However, Downing Street said it was up to individual businesses to decide whether Christmas parties should go ahead. The spokesperson said: “We do not think there is a need to cancel people coming together in hospitality venues like that.”

Asked whether it was therefore the wrong message to cancel Christmas drinks, he said: “It’s down to individual businesses and indeed departments to make a decision on what’s right. We’re simply saying as a matter of fact there’s nothing in the guidance or the regulation that requires individuals to do so. We want people to keep using hospitality. We know that’s important, and we’re confident people will.”

It comes as No 10 faced continuing pressure over gatherings held during lockdown last year, with the Good Law Project saying it was considering legal action against the Metropolitan police for declining to investigate whether the law was broken.

The organisation, which has taken legal action against the government over multiple issues including the award of contracts during the pandemic, wrote to the Met asking it to justify its failure to investigate reports of an unlawful party being held at No 10 Downing Street on 18 December 2020 – and threatening court proceedings if it failed to do so.

The pre-action protocol letter also asked the Met to provide details of its policy not to investigate retrospective breaches of the Covid regulations.

Jo Maugham, the director of the Good Law Project, said: “Now we know what Boris Johnson and his advisers think about the awful sacrifices people up and down the country have made. They think sacrifices are for the ‘small’ people – but not for ‘great’ people like them. But the law says we are all equal … and the Metropolitan police need to apply it.”

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said the cabinet secretary’s investigation into Christmas parties could be ended quickly if the prime minister admitted what happened. “We’ve got the cabinet secretary investigating whether a party happened in the prime minister’s own building. He could end that investigation now by admitting that it happened to get the cabinet secretary back doing the work of the government,” he said.

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