The Tory party may have hoped to draw a line under Partygate, but newly released footage has fanned the flames again, ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports
Footage has emerged appearing to show Tory Party staff dancing and joking about Covid restrictions during the height of the pandemic at a Christmas party.
In the video, obtained by the Mirror, one attendee can be heard saying: “As long as we don’t stream that we’re, like, bending the rules,” before laughing while a man and woman hold hands and dance.
The pair crash into a buffet table stacked with food and wine glasses at one point, while other guests walk past wearing paper crowns and clutching alcoholic drinks.
At least 24 people were reportedly at the party which took place at Conservative Party headquarters on December 14 2020, when indoor socialising was banned under Tier 2 restrictions.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told ITV News: "We are aware of the footage and are considering it."
Scotland Yard launched an investigation after the Daily Mirror published a picture of the gathering, but concluded that the photo by itself was not sufficient evidence to find an offence had been committed.
The Metropolitan Police has since announced it is "assessing" new material and will launch a fresh investigation if there appears to be evidence of a "serious and flagrant breach".
CCHQ said “formal disciplinary action” was taken against four staff members, who were seconded to the London mayoral campaign of Shaun Bailey, over the “unauthorised” event.
The failed candidate – who was handed a peerage by former prime minister Boris Johnson in his controversial resignation honours list – has apologised "unreservedly" since the video was leaked, and said he was "very upset" to see it.
'It obviously turned into something once I had left', says Shaun Bailey, after video footage shows his staff members partying at an event he was at during the pandemic
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has described the video appearing to show Tory Party staff dancing and joking about Covid restrictions during the height of the pandemic at a Christmas party as “terrible”.
The minister told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show: “I want to apologise to everyone who, looking at that … will think these people are flouting the rules designed to protect us all.”
Mr Gove said the video was “terrible” and “unacceptable” but that it would not be right for him to say whether police should investigate.
The footage is likely to cause problems for Rishi Sunak, who is already battling to hold his party together amid a fallout over the report that found Mr Johnson lied about partygate, after drawing condemnation from opposition parties.
It has already reignited criticism over his position on his predecessor-but-one’s resignation appointments, with Tory aide Ben Mallett – awarded an OBE on the list – also visible in the video.
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Michael Gove also said that Shaun Bailey and Ben Mallett should keep the honours they were awarded in Boris Johnson’s resignation list, despite the video.
“On a personal level, I would like to apologise to people for this behaviour. It’s unacceptable and indefensible,” he told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show.
Asked whether Mr Bailey and Mr Mallett should have their peerage and OBE respectively blocked, he replied: “No, I don’t think that and I have to explain the context for that so I hope that you and viewers will allow me to do so.
“The decision to confer honours on people was one that was made by Boris Johnson as an outgoing prime minister. Outgoing prime ministers have that right.
“Whether or not they should is a matter of legitimate public debate, but they do at the moment.”
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the footage shows Tories “openly mocked the rules the British people followed” while Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said it should make ministers “sick to their stomachs”.
“Revellers at this lockdown Tory booze-up openly mocked the rules the British people followed. The Tories think it’s one rule for them and one rule for everyone else,” Ms Rayner said.
“Instead of forcing them to face the consequences, Rishi Sunak has caved into Boris Johnson’s demands and chosen to reward them with honours. It’s a sickening insult.
“This Prime Minister is failing to deliver the integrity he promised and showing he’s too weak to turn the page on 13 years of Tory scandal.”
Ms Cooper said: “Conservative MPs and ministers should be sick to their stomachs seeing this new Partygate footage.
“While families grieved and NHS staff worked on the front line, Conservative Campaign Headquarters partied.
“What’s worse is the current Prime Minister granted Boris Johnson’s request to give some of these people honours.
“There are thousands of families out there who deserve an apology for this scandal – Rishi Sunak should give them one immediately.”
Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf shared the video on Twitter and added that Scottish Tory MPs should vote to sanction Boris Johnson on Monday.
He tweeted: "They are literally mocking us.
"People had to miss funerals of loved ones, all the while, Johnson and many of his Tory Party colleagues thought the rules didn't apply to them.
"Douglas Ross should grow a backbone and demand his Scottish Tory MPs vote to sanction Boris tomorrow."
A CCHQ spokesman said: “Senior CCHQ 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 2020.
“Formal disciplinary action was taken against the four CCHQ staff who were seconded to the Bailey campaign.”
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