No 10 Christmas party scandal prompts flood of memes online

Social media awash with gags after aides seen joking in video about party, but stories of grief also go viral

    The unfolding government crisis over an alleged Christmas party at Downing Street during lockdown last year has gripped social media watchers, especially after the emergence of a video showing aides laughing and joking about it. But beyond the jokes, there have been searing messages comparing the idea of a No 10 staff party with the experiences people were having by following lockdown rules.

    Many were keen to point out that it was the first time the new No 10 briefing room, constructed with much fanfare and at a cost of £2.6m, had provided real value to the taxpayer.

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    Once used by the prime minister to watch the latest James Bond movie, the media suite had been intended to host daily press briefings featuring Allegra Stratton, who will now mostly be remembered for starring in a pretend one.

    One review of her performance featured Kathryn Hahn as Agnes Harkness in the Marvel TV show WandaVision, which rapidly became internet shorthand for when someone isn’t telling the truth, and knows that you know they aren’t telling the truth.

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    This image from Succession cropped up a lot too. No spoilers – but if you know, you know.

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    There was speculation about what it would mean for Boris Johnson’s leadership, given the Conservative party’s history of removing leaders they fear have become a liability.

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    And there were also plenty of suggestions on how the Labour party should capitalise on the row.

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    It was already clear on Tuesday evening that the story had changed from a Westminster bubble” issue to one that had cut through as soon as it featured in a segment from Ant and Dec on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … last night.

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    The video has been watched about 5m times on social media, not including the audience of the ITV show. And it allowed people to point out what an unlikely turn of events it was.

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    On Wednesday, ITV continued to pile on the social media pressure, with the Good Morning Britain presenter Adil Ray making an appeal for any Conservative MP to come and fill the vacant Westminster studio seat on the show after the health secretary, Sajid Javid, cancelled his media appearances on Wednesday morning.

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    From Dictionary Corner, Countdown’s Suie Dent can always be relied on to provide her oblique commentary on the events of the day.

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    On a more serious note there were photographic comparisons of Downing Street staff laughing at the mock press conference with medical staff in the PPE they were wearing at work that day.

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    One image appeared again and again, with people comparing the Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral and observing social distancing rules, to the alleged behaviour of staff at Downing Street.

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    In Scotland, there were comparisons with how the Scottish Tories had reacted to a breach of Covid regulations from the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, two days after the Downing Street party was apparently held last year.

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    The stories are unverified, but they speak to grief and the disruption in people’s lives that the video and the party – not just at No 10 as alleged, but also a gathering at the education department – belittled.

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    And there were many, many more.

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