The Prime Minister is facing questions over a virtual Christmas quiz he hosted while London was under lockdown. A source said many staff members sat around computers, discussing quiz questions — from the history of Downing Street to lyrics of Christmas tune — and enjoying fizz, wine and beer from a local Tesco Metro. Mr Johnson and his top aides were not drinking.
The Mirror has published a picture of Mr Johnson on screen, sitting underneath a portrait of Margaret Thatcher, as he read out questions.
The insider told the paper in one No10 office there were four teams, each made up of six people.
It happened on December 15 — three days before one of the gatherings currently being probed — and the Prime Minister was in company of two members of his top team.
One was wearing a Santa hat and the other, festively, tinsel around his neck.
The picture appears to show Mr Johnson breaking Covid laws, as mixing with aides was not allowed under Tier 2 regulations, which banned any social mixing between households.
Official guidance also 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.”
Mr Johnson said last week no rules were broken last Christmas. He said: “I can tell you guidelines were followed at all times. I’ve satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.”
The revelations of the quiz seriously undermine the claims that no parties took place.
A source claimed: “It was just part of the culture.
“The PM turned a blind eye. He seemed totally comfortable with gatherings.”
A No10 spokesman said of the new revelations: “This was a virtual quiz. Downing Street staff were often required to be in the office to work on the pandemic response so those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks.
“The Prime Minister briefly took part virtually in a quiz to thank staff for their hard work throughout the year.”
One of the questions he asked was: “At her press conference, how many Covid tests did Priti Patel say had been conducted?”
Sources told The Mirror the quiz finished at about 9pm, but staff stayed on for around two hours drinking and chatting.
Most people stayed in their offices, but a few allegedly left and went to other parts of the building to see colleagues in what would be a further breach of the rules.
A source said: “Nobody ever questioned whether this was against the rules or if we shouldn’t be doing this. We all just went ahead and did it.
“At the time we didn’t even click that what we were doing was so severely wrong. I’ve realised now that it was actually pretty outrageous.
“We felt like we were working extremely hard and working a lot of hours. Looking back, I accept we shouldn’t have done that.”
The accusation comes just days after Mr Johnson announced the probe in response to a leaked video showing his staffers joking about reports of a party in Downing Street during last winter’s lockdown.
Amid laughter, the Prime Minister’s then-press secretary Allegra Stratton appeared in the clip saying: “This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.”
Minister Michael Ellis, in an update to MPs, said Simon Case’s investigation will also include in his review a confirmed gathering at the Department for Education’s (DfE) headquarters on December 10 and a reported leaving event for a No10 aide on November 27 that Mr Johnson allegedly also attended.
Mr Ellis said the cabinet secretary has been tasked with establishing “swiftly a general understanding of the nature of the gatherings, including attendance, the setting and the purpose”.
He added: “If required, the investigation will establish whether individual disciplinary action is warranted.”