How Boris Johnson will spend Christmas and last year’s childcare ‘loophole’ scandal

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One thing we do know is true about Boris Johnson is that he is a big fan of Christmas – well for himself at least.

With the nation fearing the festivities will be cancelled for a second year running, there’s no doubt that the Prime Minister is gearing up for another celebration.

However, Mr Johnson will be hoping his Christmas 2021 plans don’t cause as much controversy as they have over the last two years.

From a childcare ‘loophole’ scandal to an outrageously expensive Caribbean holiday – the Mr Johnson’s Christmas plans have come under immense scrutiny and generated a lot of anger during his time in the top job.

Traditionally, British prime ministers spend the 25 December at their office residence Chequers, a lavish 16th century mansion with a heated indoor swimming pool, tennis court and 1,500 acres of grounds.

Mr Johnson spent time at the Buckinghamshire estate in July this year when he was “pinged” by Test and Trace over a meeting with Covid sufferer Sajid Javid , chairing meetings and even a No10 press conference from the splendour of its wood-panelled halls.

Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds inside No10 with a Christmas tree
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Image:

Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)

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Built in 1565 and costing taxpayers almost £1m a year, the sumptuous estate will be where the Prime Minister, wife Carrie Symonds and their two children will be spending the holiday season.

The Grade I-listed manor has walled gardens, a vast art collection and a half-kilometre driveway through a valley, lined by beech trees donated by Winston Churchill.

Chequers is situated 41 miles from Downing Street, which is where Mr Johnson and his family spent last Christmas amid Tier 4 Covid restrictions in London.

It was a stark contrast to Christmas 2019, where Mr Johnson jetted off to a £20,000-a-week Caribbean villa to mark his election victory.

The Prime Minister and wife Carrie saw off the New Year in a luxury resort on the island of Mustique – a haunt of celebs and the royal family.

Their Moroccan-style stone villa had six double bedrooms, three private swimming pools, two bars, a library and four dedicated staff – a butler, chef, gardener and housekeeper.

It is understood the Prime Minister and his then girlfriend paid for their own British Airways flights and arrived on Boxing Day.

Prime Minister’s usually spend Christmas day at Chequers
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Image:

Getty Images)

Their Caribbean Christmas came back up in the news earlier this year amid a row over how exactly the luxury trip to the private paradise island was funded.

The holiday may have been worth more than double the £15,000 Mr Johnson declared in the Commons register, Parliament’s standards watchdog was reported to believe in May.

In the Register of Members’ Interests, the Prime Minister declared the trip with fiancee Carrie Symonds as a “benefit in kind” from the Carphone Warehouse founder who has a villa on the island.

Downing Street insisted the Prime Minister “transparently declared the benefit in kind” of the luxury Caribbean holiday, and noted that Tory donor David Ross confirmed the declaration was “correct”.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The PM transparently declared the benefit in kind in the Commons Register of Interests. The Cabinet Office was aware of the declaration and was content it was appropriate.

“A spokesman for Mr Ross confirmed the PM’s declaration is correct and the accommodation was facilitated as a donation in kind.”

A spokesman for Mr Ross said in a statement: “Mr Ross facilitated accommodation for Mr Johnson on Mustique valued at £15,000.

“Therefore this is a benefit in kind from Mr Ross to Mr Johnson, and Mr Johnson’s declaration to the House of Commons is correct.”

Downing Street cat looks towards the Christmas tree
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Getty Images)

Last year will certainly go down as Mr Johnson’s most controversial due to a number of scandals – some of which are only just emerging.

While Christmas was cancelled for millions living in tier four restrictions, a loophole in the Government guidance meant the Prime Minister was still legally allowed to meet with his family.

One of the limited reasons to form a support bubble was having a child aged under one as part of your household, with Mr Johnson and wife Carrie parents to seven-month-old Wilfred at the time.

Downing Street faced questions over whether Mr Johnson and his wife broke Covid rules by spending Christmas with a friend in Downing Street as it’s understood political campaigner Nimco Ali joined them for the 2020 festive period.

The couple were also said to have been in a bubble at the same time with Carrie’s mother, Josephine McAfee.

But, Mr Johnson’s spokesman explicitly denied Carrie Johnson’s mother stayed for Christmas.

He said: “For the avoidance of doubt, I’m happy to confirm that the Prime Minister’s or Mrs Johnson’s mother were not there over the Christmas period.”

Unlike support bubbles, households were told they could only mix in childcare bubbles for childcare reasons – not for Christmas dinner .

The government guidance added: “You must avoid seeing members of your childcare and support bubbles at the same time.”

Carrie with Wilfred when he was born
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Image:

Internet Unknown)

Nimco Ali spent Christmas with the Johnson household last year

Yet No10 have confidently insisted the Prime Minister and his then-fiancee did NOT break the Covid rules.

A spokesman indicated Ms Ali was in the Johnsons’ “childcare bubble” – which would have been technically allowed at the same time as a “support bubble” with Carrie’s mother.

But Ms Ali and Ms McAfee must not have been staying at Downing Street at the same time, because this was not allowed.

“You must avoid seeing members of your childcare and support bubbles at the same time, unless otherwise permitted by gatherings limits in your tier.” the guidance said.

No10 have denied the two women both stayed for Christmas, though a spokesman refused to get into details of Ms Ali’s stay.

This month, we have seen Mr Johnson been accused of personally breaking Covid laws by hosting a Christmas quiz in No10 last year.

The Prime Minister was pictured on screen, sitting underneath a portrait of Margaret Thatcher as he read out questions.

A source said many staff huddled by computers, conferring on questions and knocking back fizz, wine and beer from a local Tesco Metro.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosts a quiz for No 10 staff members on December 15
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Image:

mirrorpix.com)

In one office, the insider said, there were four teams, each made up of six people, on December 15 – three days before a gathering now being probed.

London was then under Tier 2 regulations banning any social mixing between households, which Mr Johnson appeared to have breached by mixing with the aides.

Official guidance also stated: “You must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.”

A source said of staff’s decision to do the quiz in Downing St: “Everybody decided it would be more fun. It would be difficult to take part in such a large virtual quiz from home.

“No work was discussed, it wasn’t a business event. Nobody was working that evening, it was purely a social event.”

A No10 spokesman said of the revelations: “This was a virtual quiz. Downing Street staff were often required to be in the office to work on the pandemic response so those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks.

“The Prime Minister briefly took part virtually in a quiz to thank staff for their hard work throughout the year.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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