Pressure mounted on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after a video emerged showing key aides joking about a party in Downing Street last Christmas at a time when such gatherings were banned.

A backlash has been growing over whether Johnson’s own officials held a party in Downing Street last year in breach of the government’s own coronavirus rules, and the episode has cast further doubt over the integrity of Johnson’s administration after a rocky period.

The saga has echoes of the Barnard Castle controversy of 2020, when Johnson’s then chief aide, Dominic Cummings, broke lockdown rules and triggered weeks of negative media coverage and cries of hypocrisy, fueling the perception that it was one rule for the government and another for the governed.

 “Covid rules have been followed at all times. The incident may also undermine the UK’s response to the pandemic: Though Johnson’s administration has resisted introducing stricter social restrictions to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, it may wish to do so in the coming weeks. Public compliance with rules may deteriorate amid another uproar over the government not following the rules.

Johnson told broadcasters earlier Tuesday when asked about the alleged party ,“I have satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times,”.Pandemic rules in place at the time stated: “Although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity.”

Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said the government’s actions were “shameful” at a time when the rules separated people from their families.“The Prime Minister now needs to come clean, and apologize,” he said. “It cannot be one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else.”

Johnson is also already facing criticism from his own backbenches about the affair. Conservative MP Roger Gale said the incident “has all the hallmarks of another ‘Barnard Castle’ moment.”

Separately, the Daily Mirror reported late Tuesday that former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also held an illegal Christmas party last year in his government ministry, another blow for Johnson’s administration.

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