No 10 staff told to ‘go out the back’ after Downing Street quiz, report claims

It comes as Cabinet Secretary Simon Case investigates alleged parties and gatherings held during Covid restrictions.

Geraldine Scott
Tuesday 14 December 2021 21:47
The front page of The Sunday Mirror (Aaron Chown/PA)
The front page of The Sunday Mirror (Aaron Chown/PA)

No 10 staff who stayed in Downing Street to take part in a Christmas quiz were told to “go out the back”, it has been alleged.

The Daily Mirror reported that the quiz on December 15 – which the Prime Minister helped to host – had been held virtually, but with many taking part from the office.

No 10 previously said that Downing Street staff were “often required to be in the office to work on the pandemic response” during the various lockdowns.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

And therefore “those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks”.

But the Mirror said a message sent by No 10’s head of HR on the night advised that those who had stayed behind to take part “go out the back” when they left.

A Government spokesperson said: “Given there is an ongoing review, it would be inappropriate to comment while that is ongoing.”

An image published by the Sunday Mirror showed the Prime Minister flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in the No 10 library.

The newspaper quoted a source who said many staff were huddled by computers in their Downing Street offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol while the quiz was taking place.

Tier 2 restrictions in London on December 15 said there could be no mixing of households indoors, apart from support bubbles, and a maximum of six people outside.

It comes as the former Conservative mayoral hopeful Shaun Bailey quit as chairman of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee on Tuesday.

Conservative Shaun Bailey (Victoria Jones/PA)

His resignation as chairman of the committee came shortly before The Mirror published a photograph of him and other staff at a party in Conservative headquarters.

The image showed 24 people with drinks, and buffet food laid out.

The Tories previously admitted the party had taken place on December 14, when London was in Tier 2 restrictions, and said that staff had been disciplined.

And the GLA Conservatives confirmed on Tuesday that Mr Bailey had stepped back from the role.

In a statement, they said: “Shaun Bailey AM has today stood aside as chairman of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee.

“He does not want an unauthorised social gathering involving some former members of the London mayoral campaign team last December to distract from the committee’s important work holding the Mayor of London to account.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is looking into reports of a staff gathering held in Downing Street just days before Christmas (Aaron Chown/PA)

“He will continue to speak up for Londoners who no longer feel safe in our city and push for a strategy to tackle the disproportionate level of crime in London’s black community.”

A Tory spokesman previously 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.”

But on Tuesday, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Daisy Cooper said the newly-revealed photo showed “just how rotten Johnson’s Conservative Party has become”.

She said: “The image of Bailey and his mates living it up at Conservative HQ while the British public were locked down and the NHS was saving lives, is another punch to the stomach to everyone who followed the rules.

“From No 10 to Tory HQ, the slew of rule-breaking revelations show that Boris Johnson has set a very low bar for standards within his party and his presence in Downing Street is eroding public trust.”

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case has been tasked with investigating alleged gatherings or parties held in Government buildings during restrictions.

It has been suggested he could come back with his findings as early as this week.

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