An extraordinary image has emerged of a “raucous” Conservative Christmas bash at the party’s Westminster HQ, thrown by Tory aides during coronavirus restrictions last year, while the public wasn't allowed to mingle.
The photograph, revealed by the Mirror, shows 24 people crowded together in blatant breach of lockdown rules, in a medium-sized room full of nibbles, with attendees wearing festive gear.
It comes as a bombshell email, also revealed by the Mirror, shows No10 staff were told to leave their now infamous Christmas quiz "by the back door."
The event at the Tory's Westminster HQ was organised by senior party member Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign and took place on December 14 last year, when London was in Tier 2, which banned any social mixing between households indoors.
After he was approached by the Mirror tonight, Mr Bailey dramatically quit as chair of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee.
One of the revellers in the jovial snap was a senior figure on Boris Johnson's leadership election campaign.
It emerged last week that Tory staff danced and drank wine late into the night and revellers damaged a door at what was described as a “raucous” event.
The party took place the day before the No 10 festive quiz, where Boris Johnson was pictured as quizmaster, and four days ahead of the Downing Street Christmas bash.
Hours before the party then health secretary Matt Hancock announced that the capital would move into tougher Tier 3 restrictions.
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The Mirror revealed on Sunday that the Prime Minister had helped host the quiz – and that some staff had spent the evening huddling and conferring around their office computers rather than dialling in from home.
Sources said staff had knocked back fizz, wine and beer – and some stayed in Number 10 socialising and drinking for hours after the quiz finished at 9.30pm.
Number 10 has insisted the event, held on December 15 2020, was a “virtual quiz”, but admitted “those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks.”
But a bombshell email sent to staff four days before the event and seen by the aforementioned title, proves organisers knew staff would be taking part from inside Number 10, and put plans in place for them.
The email, sent the Friday before to quiz team captains told staff members "planning to stay in the office for the quiz" to follow social distancing rules.
And Number 10’s head of HR told staff taking part in the quiz to leave through the rear exit.
At 9.39pm on December 15, the top official sent a message to the chat group being used for the quiz, which read: “Go out the back.”
Teams from the PM’s private office, the policy unit and press office were among those taking part.
In relation to the party attended by Shaun Bailey's team, The Conservatives have said that “formal disciplinary action” had been taken against four CCHQ staff seconded to the campaign.
A spokesman said: “Senior CCHQ staff became aware of an unauthorised social gathering in the basement of [CCHQ] organised by the Bailey campaign on the evening of 14th December.
“Formal disciplinary action was taken against the four CCHQ staff who were seconded to the Bailey campaign.”
Scotland Yard has until now refused to investigate the Christmas gatherings citing a lack of evidence.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “This is damning new evidence of a party, with a buffet, drinks, Christmas attire and absolutely no social distancing held at Conservative Party HQ."
Mr Bailey, who does not drink alcohol, is said to have left the party early in the evening, shortly after the picture was taken.
A Shaun Bailey campaign spokesperson said that they "apologise unreservedly”.
The Met Police said on Monday that despite photographic evidence of the PM potentially breaking Covid rules during the Downing Street quiz, they still do not intend to investigate party claims at this time.
However, Met chief Cressida Dick in a meeting with MPs confirmed the force is still considering an investigation based on "a framework" used to take retrospective action in other cases.
Scotland Yard will then make a decision on whether to pursue the matter further.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was already investigating three dates on which parties were said to have been held.
These are a No10 leaving do on November 27 at which the PM spoke; a No10 Christmas party on December 18 and a Department for Education bash on December 10.
A video, filmed just days after the quiz took place, showed Allegra Stratton, then Mr Johnson’s communications chief, joking with other members of staff about a party in Number 10 on December 18.
Ms Stratton resigned on Wednesday after the clip was made public.
"I apologise for the impression that has been given, that staff in Downing Street take this less than seriously," Mr Johnson said at Prime Minister’s Questions last week.
"I'm sickened myself and furious about that."
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