Boris Johnson 'Furious' at Video of Staff Joking About Lockdown Party, Probe Underway

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for a probe after video showed some of his senior staff members attending a 2020 Christmas party that breached lockdown regulations at the time.

The recently leaked footage has become the subject of major controversy, sparking conversation on how government officials enforced strict lockdowns on citizens while not abiding by them themselves.

Johnson said that he was "furious" at the video.

"I apologize unreservedly for the offense that it has caused up and down the country," the prime minister said at the House of Commons, "and I apologize for the impression it gives."

He also announced that a formal inquiry into the event was underway. Simon Case, the country's top civil servant, will be heading the investigation into who organized and attended it.

One participant, press secretary Allegra Stratton, has already resigned from her position after being seen in the video.

"I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days and I offer my profound apologies to all of you at home for them," she told reporters outside of her home on Wednesday.

The party allegedly took place on December 18, 2020. At the time, Britain had tight lockdown restrictions as a result of increasing cases. It also occurred one day before Johnson imposed further restrictions that caused Christmas celebrations to be all but canceled, with families not being allowed to visit each other. Throughout the pandemic, thousands of people were fined for holding illegal gatherings.

Other politicians have expressed fury at the video. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has questioned Johnson's leadership as a result of the party.

"Millions of people now think the prime minister was taking them for fools and that they were lied to. They're right, aren't they?" he asked during the House of Commons session.

Starmer also brought up how Queen Elizabeth II had to sit alone during the funeral for her late husband, Prince Philip, due to the restrictions Johnson placed around the country. Rather than defy the rules, he argued, she demonstrated "the moral authority to lead" by adhering to the restrictions.

Advocacy groups are also taking stances against Johnson and the Conservative Party for seemingly allowing the party to be unknown for almost a year. Support and pressure group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice compared the party to British citizens dying away from their families from the virus. Dr. Saleyha Ahsan described the footage as "a bullet to the chest" and how it was "an example of how the government have run this from the start: One rule for them and the rest of us have to adhere to different rules."

Johnson Video
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face covering to stop the spread of coronavirus, leaves from 10 Downing Street in central London on December 8, 2021, to take part in the weekly session of Prime Minister Questions (PMQs) at the House of Commons. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced intense pressure Wednesday after a video emerged of his senior aides joking about holding a Christmas party at Downing Street last year when social gatherings were banned under Covid-19 rules. Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

The video, aired late Tuesday by broadcaster ITV, shows Stratton appearing to joke about an illicit party at the prime minister's Downing Street office.

The recording appears to be a mock news conference, held as a rehearsal for televised daily government media briefings.

Another aide, playing a journalist, says: "I've just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognize those reports?"

As laughter is heard, Stratton, the press secretary, says: "I went home" and asks colleagues: "What's the answer?" Another voice can be heard saying: "It wasn't a party, it was cheese and wine."

"Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting," a laughing Stratton says.

The Christmas party claims are the latest in a string of allegations of rule-breaking and ethics violations that are stirring discontent against Johnson's Conservative government, even among some of the party's own lawmakers.

Last year, Johnson resisted pressure to fire his then-top aide, Dominic Cummings, for driving across England to his parents' house while he was falling ill with COVID-19, in breach of a nationwide "stay-at-home" order. Cummings has since left the government.

In June, Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned after leaked video showed him kissing an aide in a government office while both of them were married to other people, at a time when restrictions forbade hugs and other physical contact with people outside one's own household.

With over 145,000 COVID-19 deaths in the pandemic, Britain has the second-highest virus death toll in Europe after Russia.

The party allegations come as the British government considers whether to reimpose some restrictions, including a recommendation to work from home, to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The government wouldn't confirm reports that the "Plan B" restrictions could be introduced this week.

While many questions remain about the new variant, and Delta remains the dominant strain around the globe, Johnson said Omicron is "spreading much faster than any variant we have seen before."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Allegra Stratton Response
Allegra Stratton speaks outside her home in north London, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologized and ordered an inquiry after a leaked video showed senior members of his staff joking about holding a lockdown-breaching Christmas party. The video has poured fuel on allegations that government officials flouted coronavirus rules they imposed on everyone else. The video, recorded on Dec. 22, 2020 and aired late Tuesday by broadcaster ITV, shows then-press secretary Allegra Stratton appearing to joke about an illicit party at the prime minister's Downing Street office. Jonathan Brady/PA via AP