UK inquiry to look into 2 more alleged government gatherings

Dec 8, 2021, 2:32 PM | Updated: Dec 9, 2021, 7:01 am
People walk across Westminster Bridge in London, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. British Prime Minister Bor...

People walk across Westminster Bridge in London, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced tighter restrictions to stem the spread of the omicron variant. He is again urging people to work from home and mandating COVID-19 passes to get into nightclubs and large events. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — The British government confirmed Thursday that an inquiry into an alleged lockdown-breaching Christmas party at the offices of Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson nearly a year ago will also look at two prior gatherings involving government officials.

In a statement to lawmakers, Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis laid out the terms of reference for the inquiry Johnson ordered Wednesday following a week of allegations that officials had flouted coronavirus rules that they imposed on everyone else.

The primary charge relates to a Dec. 18, 2020, event at the prime minister’s 10 Downing St. offices, where officials are said to have enjoyed wine, food, games and a festive gift exchange at a time when pandemic regulations banned most social gatherings.

A leaked video showed senior staff members joking about the alleged party, prompting the resignation of one of Johnson’s advisers on Wednesday and piling pressure on the prime minister, who had for days insisted no rules were broken.

Ellis said the investigation, which will be led by the U.K.’s top civil servant, Simon Case, will also look into a gathering allegedly held at Downing Street on Nov. 27, 2020, and another at the Department for Education on Dec. 10.

“The primary purpose of the Cabinet secretary’s investigation will be to establish swiftly a general understanding of the nature of the gatherings, including attendance, the setting and the purpose, and with reference to adherence to the guidance in place at the time,” Ellis said.

“If required, the investigation will establish whether individual disciplinary action is warranted,” he added.

Ellis said the findings may be referred to the police.

There are concerns that the apparent flouting of rules at the heart of government will undermine public adherence to restrictions set to take effect in coming days to curb the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Johnson urged people in England to again work from home when possible and to wear face masks in more indoor settings. He also backed the introduction of vaccine passes for crowded venues such as nightclubs and large gatherings including big sports events.

The Christmas party claims are the latest in a string of allegations of rule-breaking and ethics violations by Johnson and government officials. On Thursday the Conservative Party was fined 17,800 pounds ($23,500) by Britain’s electoral watchdog for failing to keep a proper record of money from a donor that was used to refurbish Johnson’s official residence.

Johnson has denied knowing the source of money for the Downing Street renovations, which cost more than 100,000 pounds ($132,000), and a separate probe cleared him of serious wrongdoing. But the Electoral Commission found WhatsApp messages suggesting Johnson was aware the money came from a wealthy Conservative donor.

The commission said the money had been variously described by the party as a donation, the repayment of a loan and a “gift to the nation.”

“Our investigation into the Conservative Party found that the laws around the reporting and recording of donations were not followed,” said Electoral Commission director of regulation Louise Edwards.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said Johnson has to answer questions over whether he misled a separate investigation into the donation.

“Boris Johnson has taken the British public for fools,” she said. “He’s not only broken the law but made a mockery of the standards we expect from our prime ministers.”


Jill Lawless contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks during a visit to Wheat Ridge Poultry and Meats, a lo...
Associated Press

US plans wildfire fight where forests, neighborhoods collide

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Biden administration plans to significantly expand efforts to stave off catastrophic wildfires that have torched areas of the U.S. West by more aggressively thinning forests around areas called “hotspots” where nature and neighborhoods collide. As climate change heats up and dries out the West, administration officials said they have crafted […]
1 day ago
FILE - A demonstrator holds up "GUILTY" signs at the Hennepin County Government Center, Dec. 23, 20...
Associated Press

Do Minnesota cases show it’s getting easier to convict cops?

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — First, it was Mohamed Noor — convicted of murder for shooting an unarmed woman who approached his police SUV. Then it was Derek Chauvin, found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin George Floyd to a Minneapolis street as he gasped for air. Last month, it was Kim Potter, guilty […]
1 day ago
FILE - Attorney General William Barr speaks during a news conference in Washington on Dec. 21, 2020...
Associated Press

Former AG William Barr’s memoir to be published March 8

NEW YORK (AP) — Former Attorney General William P. Barr has a memoir coming out March 8 titled “One Damn Thing After Another,” and billed by his publisher as a “vivid and forthright book” of his time serving two “drastically different” presidents, Donald Trump and George H.W. Bush. “Barr takes readers behind the scenes during […]
1 day ago
School children that were taught by Ashling Murphy holds pictures of their teacher outside St Brigi...
Associated Press

Irish mourn slain 23-year-old teacher who was out jogging

LONDON (AP) — Hundreds of mourners turned out Tuesday in Ireland for the funeral Mass of a 23-year-old elementary school teacher whose slaying has reignited debate about how to tackle violence against women. Police said Tuesday they arrested a man in his 30s on suspicion of murder in the case of Ashling Murphy, a musician […]
1 day ago
Jim Obergefell speaks during the National LGBT 50th Anniversary Ceremony, July 4, 2015, in front of...
Associated Press

Jim Obergefell, face of gay marriage, to run for Ohio House

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Gay rights advocate Jim Obergefell, whose name was atop the U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, announced Tuesday that he’s running for a seat in the Ohio legislature. Obergefell, a Democrat, said he wants Ohio to be a place where people feel they have equal opportunity. He was the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Europe narrows hunt for next astronauts, eyes crewed flights

BERLIN (AP) — The European Space Agency has narrowed down the candidate list for its next generation of astronauts, including dozens who have a physical disability. The agency announced last year that it had received a record number of 22,589 applicants from people hoping to become the continent’s next generation of space travelers. ESA said […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
UK inquiry to look into 2 more alleged government gatherings