Charlie Stayt did not let Oliver Dowden off the hook over the allegations that there was a Downing Street Christmas party last year which broke Covid rules.
Dowden, the Conservative Party chairman, became the latest minister to struggle to answer questions about the alleged party on December 18, 2020 during an interview on BBC Breakfast on Friday.
Sources told the Mirror that around 40 or 50 people gathered in No.10 for festivities last year at a time when London was in tier 3 restrictions – meaning people couldn’t meet anyone outside their own support bubble.
As he dodged questions repeatedly, Stayt accused Dowden of “withholding information” about the supposed gathering.
The BBC Breakfast host asked: “Can you describe that party for us?”
Dowden replied: “I was not working in Downing Street at the time, nor do I work in Downing Street now.
“What I can tell you is that the prime minister has been very clear that the rules were followed at No.10 Downing Street.”
Stayt continued to press the cabinet minister, and said: “Have you had that conversation with anyone that does know [what happened]?”
″I have not been having conversations about what may or may not have happened over a year ago, I’m actually focused on getting on with the job and delivering on the big concerns of people,” the Tory chair replied.
Stayt then said: ”I think a lot of people think, in the spirit of openness, they would expect you, as chairman of the Conservative Party, to ask the questions we can’t ask.
“If you’re not prepared to tell me what you know about that evening, you’re withholding information. It’s not that you don’t know, it’s that you’re withholding it.”
“Charlie, I’m not withholding information,” Dowden hit back. “I don’t want to speak for your viewers, but I think I would be interested to know what your viewers are really concerned about.”
The BBC Breakfast host replied saying they cared about “really straightforward answers”, while Dowden claimed that he believes the public want him to focus on the pressing issue of the pandemic.
“My focus is not on having conversations about what may or may not have happened in Downing Street,” he repeated.
Stayt concluded that section of the interview by saying: “People will draw their own conclusions from the way you’ve answered those questions, which is absolutely fair – you’ve said what you want to say.”