Boris Johnson “will not have lied about any parties” in No 10, the chief whip insisted after it emerged the Prime Minister’s press chief addressed staff at one event last Christmas.
Mark Spencer insisted Downing Street staff “were not drinking alcohol” and partying during Covid restrictions as he claimed the Prime Minister can not know everything going on in Downing Street with its “hundreds of offices and rooms”.
The chief whip’s defence came after it was revealed Jack Doyle, who as No 10’s director of communications helped lead the denials in the scandal, gave out awards at one gathering.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said it showed an investigation being carried out by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and ordered by the Prime Minister is a “sham”.
Mr Spencer said he was “assured that everybody in that building played by the rules” as he sought to explain how Mr Johnson may not know what was going on under his own roof.
“When you describe it as a house, it’s a department of Government, this is a huge, huge building, literally with hundreds and hundreds of offices and rooms,” the Sherwood MP told BBC Radio Nottinghamshire.
“No single person could account for what’s happening in those buildings – they are huge buildings.”
Told people are furious after suffering a miserable Christmas under Covid restrictions, Mr Spencer replied: “And so did the Prime Minister, believe me, he also had a miserable Christmas dealing with all of this and dealing with the coronavirus epidemic as many people did in No 10 working day and night trying to solve the challenges the country was facing.
Asked if Mr Johnson should resign if he lied, the whip said: “The Prime Minister will not have lied about any parties. My understanding is that there was no party but we need to investigate that, the Cabinet Secretary will investigate it and we will establish the facts.”
Mr Spencer was also questioned over the mock press briefing on December 22 during which No 10 aides joked about Covid restrictions and a supposedly “fictional party” days earlier.
Asked why Allegra Stratton, who resigned as a Government adviser after footage of the rehearsal leaked, was unable to say if Mr Johnson condoned a Christmas party, the whip said: “Because there was no party, that’s where the joke was.”
The Cabinet Secretary will investigate multiple allegedly rule-breaking events in Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year, as the Prime Minister also faces questions over the funding of his lavish renovations to his No 11 flat.
Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former chief aide, said on Twitter Mr Doyle was a “gonner” (sic) but predicted Mr Johnson would keep him on staff until after the Cabinet Secretary’s inquiry, then use him “as the sacrifice”.
He said on Twitter: “Also there’s lots of pictures of the parties which will inevitably get out. And invite lists beyond No10, to other departments…”
London was under Tier 3 restrictions at the time, limiting mixing indoors and banning work Christmas lunches and parties where they are “a primarily social activity”.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “There is an ongoing review, and we won’t be commenting further while that is the case.”
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the treasurer of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, said that “the truth must come out” about the various allegations levelled at Downing Street.
He told BBC’s Newsnight: “The truth should have been given and then the appropriate action against those who organised these parties – if that’s what they were, or gatherings… the appropriate disciplinary action should have been taken.
“And I think now as other commentators have said, the Prime Minister needs to get a grip on all of these matters.”