As the fallout from the Downing Street Christmas party continues, the Conservatives have admitted that a second party took place in the same month.
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 paper said that a door was damaged during the party, which led to staff being disciplined.
Two days before the No 10 party allegedly took place, Boris Johnson tweeted on 16 December: “This Christmas it is vital that everyone exercises the greatest possible personal responsibility.
“Think hard and in detail about the days ahead and whether you can do more to protect yourself and others.”
'Unauthorised social gathering'
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.
Former press secretary 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 18 December last year.
Watch: Allegra Stratton delivers tearful apology after resigning
But the PM'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 14 December.
“Formal disciplinary action was taken against the four CCHQ staff who were seconded to the Bailey campaign.”
Claims of several more parties being held – including a Christmas quiz in December – while England was in lockdown last year have also been made. A total of seven parties reportedly took place in November and December.
The PM’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings claimed a party was held in Boris and Carrie Johnson’s Downing Street flat on 13 November – which has been denied by Johnson.
A separate event on the same night for outgoing head of communications Lee Cain is also said to have took place, while a leaving party for outgoing No 10 aide Cleo Watson reportedly took place on 27 November, during the firebreak lockdown.
Downing Street said that there was not a party and that “COVID rules were followed at all times”.
Meanwhile, the Department for Education admitted it held a social gathering of staff on 10 December last year, in contravention to coronavirus social-distancing rules.
Police won't act – yet
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.
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 Stratton and aides laughing on 22 December 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
Watch: 'No excuse' for video showing No 10 aides joking about alleged lockdown party – PM