Boris Johnson’s media head, Jack Doyle, tied to government party during lockdown
Doyle is the latest senior aide named in the saga over a gathering on December 18 2020, after Johnson’s former spokesperson, Allegra Stratton, quit on Wednesday
Boris Johnson’s director of communications handed out awards and gave a speech at a Downing Street party last Christmas when London was under strict Covid-19 restrictions, the BBC reported.
Jack Doyle, who was then deputy director, is the latest senior aide to be dragged into the row over a gathering on December 18 2020, after the prime minister’s former spokesperson, Allegra Stratton, resigned on Wednesday.
The incident has sparked fury among Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party and spurred questions about his leadership. At a time when further Covid-19 restrictions are being implemented, MPs worry that people will now be reluctant to adhere to new measures to tackle the Omicron variant.
Johnson’s spokesperson, Max Blain, declined to comment on whether Doyle addressed the December 18 event, but told reporters on Friday that the premier had full confidence in his senior aide.
Blain also said Johnson himself did not attend any social gatherings in Downing Street during lockdown or when other curbs were in place.
The Christmas party row follows months of self-inflicted crises for Johnson, with morale in Tory ranks at rock-bottom ahead of an expected major rebellion over stricter Covid-19 measures in parliament on Tuesday. They are also nervous about a special election on Thursday, despite the parliamentary district long being considered to be staunchly Conservative.
A YouGov poll for The Times newspaper on Friday found that the Tories have slumped to their worst poll rating in 11 months, with Keir Starmer’s main opposition Labour Party now enjoying a four-point lead.
“The prime minister is not fit for office, and people are paying the price for this,” Starmer told the BBC. “The government is up to its neck in dishonesty.”
In what would be another significant blow to Johnson, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Christopher Geidt, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, could resign over allegations the prime minister lied to him over how the refurbishment of his official residence was funded.
“We’re liaising with Lord Geidt to answer any further questions he may have,” Blain said, after an Electoral Commission report referenced WhatsApp messages from Johnson that Geidt appeared not to have seen during his probe into the apartment refit. “At all times he has had access to information he requires.”
The alleged Christmas party on December 18 is one of three events in Whitehall in 2020 now being investigated by the UK’s top civil servant, Simon Case. That includes a gathering on November 27 where Johnson reportedly made a speech.
But the probes don’t include another party that Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former senior adviser, said took place in the prime minister’s Downing Street residence on November 13, when there was a national lockdown.
“The prime minister has followed the rules,” Blain said at a regular briefing. “I’ve been clear on that, and the prime minister has.”
During an online question and answer session on Friday, Cummings — who resigned on the day he alleges the party took place — predicted Johnson will be out of office before the next general election due by 2024, and that his administration would remain chaotic.
Johnson “is not loyal to those who work for him, he throws everybody under the bus when he feels he has to for himself”, Cummings said.
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