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December Review: Partygate and Plan B

December Review: Partygate and Plan B

The ink was barely dry on the Sleazegate saga before another scandal hit Westminster. In the first week of the month, reports claimed Boris had broken lockdown rules by hosting – or attending – a series of parties in Downing Street last Christmas. After fierce denials from No. 10, including from Boris at the despatch box, the story blew up when ITV revealed footage of Allegra Stratton and Downing Street aides joking on-camera about the very parties Number 10 claimed never happened. Questions over whose head would roll for all this were quickly answered when Allegra Stratton resigned the very next day…

Details of more parties emerged, including a photo of Boris taking part in a Zoom quiz with multiple aides, and Shaun Bailey resigned after hosting a large gathering at CCHQ while London was in Tier 2. Guido’s footage of Jacob Rees-Mogg joking about the allegations soon went viral, racking up millions of views across several publications in just three days. Meanwhile the fallout from the sleaze row culminated in the staggering loss of North Shropshire to the LibDems with a 34% swing…

However, arguably the most damning moment came when Guido exclusively revealed that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case – the man trusted to investigate all this – had himself known of at least one party hosted in his 70 Whitehall office last Christmas. The story got worldwide coverage from almost all major outlets, and Simon was taken off the case in favour of Whitehall bulldog Sue Gray. A woman much more feared by Whitehall’s partiers than Simon Case…

Covid returned to the headlines once again as Omicron cases surged across the UK. Although mounting evidence appeared to show that the new strain is less deadly than previous variants – albeit more transmissible – nerves fluttered in both Whitehall and the devolved administrations. Guido revealed that Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford was so keen to ruin Christmas that he privately called for a total lockdown between the 25th and the New Year. Ultimately, the four countries of the UK each opted for different approaches. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all saw the loathed restrictions return, while England soldiered on under ‘Plan B’, which introduced pointless vaccine passports and a mask mandate, although at least kept everything open. All it took was 102 Tory Covid rebels – Boris’s largest yet…

Meanwhile there was massive end-of-year churn in the media; with Andrew Marr, Adam Boulton, Jon Snow all leaving; Laura Kuenssberg confirming her departure as BBC PolEd in April and Stephen Bush departing the New Statesman for the FT. Darren Grimes also announced he is joining GB News.

It wasn’t all bad news on Covid, though. December saw Labour MP Zarah Sultana finally overcome her debilitating fear of maskless crowds when attending the glitzy MOBO Awards with thousands of fellow unmasked guests. It was an admirable turnaround for Zarah, who just weeks earlier had revealed how unmasked Tories make her “feel unsafe” in the Commons, and claimed that the mask debate was “purely ideological“. Guido’s inclined to agree on that one.

Happy New Year, and here’s to 2022…

Honourable mentions:

Headline of the month: Voters Deservedly Punishing Tories

* This article was originally published by Guido Fawkes

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