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Tories admit throwing HQ party during Covid restrictions last December

·3 min read

Boris Johnson was facing further questions as it emerged Conservative aides threw a separate party during coronavirus restrictions last December, as the fallout over the alleged rule-breaking Christmas bash in Downing Street continued.

The Tories admitted an event organised by Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign took place in the party’s Westminster headquarters on December 14 while the capital was in Tier 2 restrictions.

According to the Times, the “raucous” party took place in the HQ’s basement, was attended by No 10 aides and featured dancing and wine-drinking into the early hours despite indoor social mixing being banned at the time.

The further damaging details emerged as Labour urged police to open an investigation into allegations staff broke coronavirus rules at the event in No 10, saying it was “implausible” for Scotland Yard to suggest there is insufficient evidence to investigate.

Allegra Stratton became the first casualty of the affair when she emotionally stood down after video emerged of her and other advisers joking about Covid restrictions just days after the gathering in No 10 on December 18 last year.

Watch; They look like they are laughing at us': Newsreader tears into video of Downing Street staff laughing over Xmas party

But the Prime Minister’s attempt to move on from the row by tasking Cabinet Secretary Simon Case with undertaking an investigation appeared to have failed as details emerged of the separate party.

A Tory spokesman said: “Senior CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) staff became aware of an unauthorised social gathering in the basement of Matthew Parker Street organised by the Bailey campaign on the evening of December 14.

“Formal disciplinary action was taken against the four CCHQ staff who were seconded to the Bailey campaign.”

The Metropolitan Police acknowledged it had received “a significant amount of correspondence” relating to the alleged breaches in No 10 in the run up to Christmas last year but said they do not “provide evidence of a breach” of Covid rules.

“Based on the absence of evidence and in line with our policy not to investigate retrospective breaches of such regulations, the Met will not commence an investigation at this time,” it added.

But the force did leave open the possibility of further inquiries by saying it would consider “any evidence” that emerges in the Case inquiry.

Shadow health secretary West Streeting said the Met should be “knocking on doors, taking statements and investigating people in No 10 in the way they would my constituents or anyone else in the country”.

“It seems implausible for the Metropolitan Police to argue there is no evidence that parties took place,” he told reporters.

“They’ve got to pursue this investigation without fear or favour and treat the Prime Minister and his staff as they would treat anyone else. It can’t be one rule for the Prime Minister and another for everyone else.”

Meanwhile, Downing Street did not comment on a separate report in the Times that Dan Rosenfield, then Mr Johnson’s incoming chief of staff, took part in the December 18 party while London was under Tier 3 restrictions.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted the rules were followed that night but apologised over the impression made by leaked footage of No 10 staff joking about Covid restrictions.

It showed Ms Stratton and aides laughing on December 22 about a supposedly “fictional party” having taken place in Downing Street days earlier as she took part in a rehearsal for her subsequently axed role hosting televised press briefings.

She resigned as a Government adviser on Wednesday, saying: “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.”

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson was forced to deny allegations, including from senior Conservative William Wragg, that his announcement of further coronavirus restrictions was a “diversionary tactic” from the scandal.

The Prime Minister also appeared to concede that the Cabinet Secretary would be able to go further than just reviewing the events of December 18 and “look at other things”, with other alleged gatherings in Downing Street over the festive period last year.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said Mr Johnson should quit if he was found to have misled Parliament.

“If he knew there was a party, if he knew it took place, then he cannot come to the House of Commons and say there was no party,” he told Sky News.

Watch: 'Disgusted' - Tearful response of bereaved woman who lost mum to COVID over No.10 'Xmas party'

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