A fresh image has emerged in the ongoing ‘partygate’ scandal, which shows Boris Johnson standing next to an open bottle of wine, crisps and a member of his team wearing tinsel at a 2020 Christmas quiz in Downing Street.
The Mirror published the image during Prime Minister’s Questions today. The photo was taken in December 2020, when London was under Tier 2 restrictions banning social mixing between two or more people from different households.
Official guidance issued by the government at the time of the social gathering stated: “You must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.”
Labour MP Fabian Hamilton raised the issue in parliament this afternoon, saying it “looks a lot like one of the Christmas parties he told us never happened”. Johnson replied: “In what he has just said, I’m afraid he is completely in error.”
Hamilton asked whether the Prime Minister would be referring the incident to the police. The event is not one of those currently being investigated by the police, but Scotland Yard is now facing fresh calls to investigate the quiz.
Update, 5.15pm: In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Service said: “The Metropolitan Police Service previously assessed this event and determined that on the basis of the evidence available at that time, it did not meet the threshold for criminal investigation. That assessment is now being reviewed.”
Shadow minister Chris Elmore tweeted shortly after PMQs: “Staggering. Asked to confirm if a photograph of him and a room full of people adorned in tinsel along with tables laden with alcohol and food constituted a party, the Prime Minister refused. He is simply incapable of telling the truth.”
The police are looking into four events that took place in Downing Street, three of which the Prime Minister is thought to have attended, following the publication of a report by Sue Gray into the partygate scandal last month.
The 12-page report by the senior civil servant was described as an “update” throughout the document. It found that “there were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times”.
Gray wrote that the Downing Street garden was “used for gatherings without clear authorisation or oversight” and that this “was not appropriate”. She added: “Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did…
“Some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”
Of the events the police are currently investigating, three involve the Prime Minister and one his Downing Street flat. The police are investigating allegations surrounding his birthday party in June 2020 and a ‘BYOB’ garden party in May.
The police have received “well over 500 pieces of paper” and “over 300 photos” since the publication of Gray’s report. The civil servant described her investigations as “extremely limited” because the police advised her only to make “minimal reference” to the gatherings being investigated by them.
EXCL: New bombshell image shows Boris Johnson with open bottle of bubbly at No 10 Christmas quiz https://t.co/2eK8mNvjdu
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) February 9, 2022
The Mirror released a picture late last year appearing to show the Prime Minister hosting a Covid rule-breaking Christmas quiz in Downing Street in December 2020. Angela Rayner said at the time that it showed he is “unfit to lead this country”.
Johnson can be seen in the earlier image sitting beneath a portrait of Margaret Thatcher as he read out questions between two members of his team, one wearing a Christmas hat and the other draped in tinsel.
On the decision to hold a quiz in Downing Street, a source told The Mirror: “Everybody decided it would be more fun. It would be difficult to take part in such a large virtual quiz from home. No work was discussed, it wasn’t a business event. Nobody was working that evening, it was purely a social event.”
Johnson said during a Prime Minister’s Questions session in December that no rules were broken, but did not deny that the party had taken place on December 18th. Keir Starmer told parliament that “both of those things can’t be true”.
The Prime Minister was accused of lying after footage emerged of senior Downing Street staffers joking about the alleged party, in which Johnson’s then spokesperson Allegra Stratton joked that it “was not socially distanced”.
The allegations relating to the Christmas gathering captured in this latest image involved No 10 staff grouped around computers as they conducted a quiz on December 15th, just three days before the party that Stratton was seen joking about.
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