The image shows the Prime Minister flanked by three staff members, one wearing tinsel and the other a Santa hat, during the December 15, 2020 event
Met Police are facing fresh calls to investigate a No 10 ‘virtual’ Christmas quiz after a new photo of Boris Johnson with an open bottle of champagne emerged.
The image shows the Prime Minister flanked by three staff members, one wearing tinsel and the other a Santa hat, during the December 15, 2020 event.
On the desk in front of him – from where he read the quiz questions to teams across the building – is what appears to be champagne and a half-eaten bag of crisps.
Mr Johnson has been accused of personally breaking Covid laws by hosting the festive event after the Mirror revealed last year that it had taken place.
At the time, London was subject to Tier 2 regulations prohibiting any social mixing between two or more people from different households.
The official guidelines also said, “You must not host a Christmas lunch or party at work, where it is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by your level rules.”
Just two days after the initial Mirror story, the Prime Minister said: ‘I can tell you once again that I have certainly not broken any rules.
But the Christmas quiz is not one of the dozen or so No 10 rallies under police investigation.
This was despite considering a smaller festive quiz held at the Cabinet Office two days later.
An expert on Covid laws has said Scotland Yard should now add the Downing Street Christmas quiz to the list of events it is investigating.
Barrister Adam Wagner told the Mirror: “The prime minister’s previous photo showed what might have been a meeting briefly interrupted by a Zoom call.
“However, the new photo shows four people with alcohol and food, along with a Christmas hat and tinsel, suggesting a Christmas party.
“It came at a time when indoor social gatherings of two or more people were banned and the government had told people they ‘must’ not have a Christmas party.”
The top lawyer added: “In light of the new evidence, it no longer makes sense that this gathering is not being investigated by the police given that an almost identical gathering in the Secretary’s office Cabinet Simon Case two days later is under investigation.”
In the new image, Mr Johnson appears to put a badge on his suit jacket.
Later that evening No 10 pins were distributed to Downing Street staff as a Christmas present from the PM.
Downing Street insisted the event was a “virtual quiz”, but admitted that “those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks”.
Labor MP Fabian Hamilton lifted the picture in PMQs – and jubilantly pitted a voter who was unable to have family visits during her cancer treatment.
He said: ‘For the sake of my constituent and the sacrifices she has made, will the Prime Minister refer this party to the police as it is not one of the parties subject to investigation?”
But the prime minister hit back, saying: ‘He is completely wrong.
He later said the event “has been submitted for investigation”.
Former Number 10 assistant Dominic Cummings warned: ‘There are better pictures than those floating around, including in the flat.
No10 pointed out that the event itself had already been considered by Scotland Yard, who decided not to investigate further.
But the Prime Minister’s press secretary could not say whether the newly revealed photo had been sent to the Met, saying: ‘I am not aware of this and it would not be appropriate for me to comment’ .
Of Sue Gray, the press secretary added: ‘She had access to all relevant and necessary information.
When asked what’s going on in the photo, she replied, “We’ve talked about it before, it’s a virtual quiz.”
The Mirror revealed last year that dozens of staff spent the evening huddled around their office computers rather than logging on from home.
In one office, the insider said, there were four teams, each consisting of six people.
Sources said staff pushed back bubbly, wine and beer – and some stayed at Number 10 socializing and drinking for hours after the quiz ended at 9.30pm.
The names of the teams included “Professor Quiz Whitty”, “Next Slide Please”, “We’ve Been Clear”, “The 6 Masketeers” and “Hands, Face, First Place” – a reference to the slogan introduced to encourage social distancing and the resistant mask.
AFP via Getty Images)
The Mirror also revealed an email showing organizers had planned days in advance for some staff to enjoy the quiz in person, from the office.
A senior official even urged staff, including the Prime Minister’s Private Office, Political Unit and Press Office teams, to leave Number 10 by the backdoor at the end of the night.
Mr Johnson has spent the past few days trying to build support after No 10’s mass resignations last week raised fresh questions about his authority.
Downing Street is hoping its ‘defensive’ mini-reshuffle to promote loyalists – and the promise of a bigger reshuffle early in the summer – will be enough to keep mutinous Tory MPs at bay.
But many Tories say privately they are awaiting the outcome of the Met’s inquiry and Sue Gray’s full report to decide whether or not to trigger a confidence vote.
The Prime Minister’s allies have claimed he will not quit even if he is fined by the Metropolitan Police for breaking Covid rules.
A former Cabinet minister told the Mirror: “If Sue Gray finds out that he lied unequivocally to Parliament, or according to police action, that’s it.
“Either of those two things would be terminal.”