Staff were told to ‘leave through back’ after Downing Street quiz night

Staff were urged to leave 10 Downing Street ‘through the back’ by a senior official on the night Boris Johnson hosted a quiz last Christmas in apparent breach of lockdown rules.

The Mirror reports on emails seen by the paper which showed organisers had planned days in advance for some staff to enjoy the quiz in person, from the office.

It was revealed on Sunday that the Prime Minister had helped host the quiz – and that some staff had spent the evening huddling and conferring around their office computers rather than dialling in from home.

Staff allegedly knocked back champagne and beer with some staying at Number 10 for hours after the quiz finished at 9.30pm.

London was then under Tier 2 regulations banning 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.”

Number 10 has insisted the event, held on December 15 2020, was a “virtual quiz”, but admitted “those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks.”

But a bombshell email sent to staff four days before the event and seen by the Mirror, proves organisers knew staff would be taking part from inside Number 10, and put plans in place for them.

The email, sent the Friday before to quiz team captains told staff members “planning to stay in the office for the quiz” to follow social distancing rules.

The email told staff not to come in for the quiz if they weren’t due to be working that day.

“Teams in the office should ensure that they arrange themselves behind the perspex screens,” it read, adding: “All staff will be required to leave the office immediately after the end of the quiz.”

But sources said staff had stayed on for two hours or so drinking and chatting.

Most stayed in their offices.

But a few allegedly moved around the building to mingle with colleagues in a further apparent breach of the rules.

And today the Mirror has revealed Number 10’s head of HR told staff taking part in the quiz to leave through the rear exit.

At 9.39pm on December 15, the top official sent a message to the chat group being used for the quiz, which read: “Go out the back.”

Teams from the PM’s private office, the policy unit and press office were among those taking part.

A source said the prize for the winning teams included bottles of “whatever was lying around the office”, while the booby prize was a bottle of Sanctuary body wash.

Team names 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 mask wearing.

Johnson has said he was “sickened and furious” to see video of Downing Street staff making jokes about lockdown rules.

The video, filmed just days after the quiz took place, showed Allegra Stratton, then Mr Johnson’s communications chief, joking with other members of staff about a party in Number 10 on December 18.

Ms Stratton resigned on Wednesday after the clip was made public.

“I apologise for the impression that has been given, that staff in Downing Street take this less than seriously,” Mr Johnson said at Prime Minister’s Questions last week.

“I’m sickened myself and furious about that.”

Mr Johnson surprised attendees of the December 15 quiz by appearing on their screens halfway through to ask questions for 10 to 15 minutes.

Under the Covid regulations at the time, no person could participate in a gathering indoors of two or more people from other households apart from in limited circumstances – including that the gathering was “reasonably necessary for work”.

A source said of staff’s decision to do the quiz in Downing St: “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.”

London’s Met Police said on Monday that despite photographic evidence of the PM potentially breaking Covid rules they still do not intend to investigate party claims at this time.

However, Met chief Cressida Dick in a meeting with MPs confirmed the force is still considering an investigation based on “a framework” used to take retrospective action in other cases.

Scotland Yard will then make a decision on whether to pursue the matter further, possibly after Mr Case’s probe has completed.

The top civil servant was already investigating three dates on which parties were said to have been held.

These are a No10 leaving do on November 27 at which the PM spoke; a No10 Christmas party on December 18 and a Department for Education bash on December 10.

One No 10 source suggested that Mr Case wants to investigate “quickly but it needs to be thorough”, potentially reporting back by the end of the week.

But another insider claimed one week was “optimistic” and that while he hoped to complete the probe this side of Christmas, there was no guarantee.

It was reported on Monday that an email had been sent to No10 staff warning some of them would be contacted by the internal investigations team in the coming days, and ordering them to “not destroy any relevant information” relating to Christmas parties last year.

A Government spokesperson said: “Given there is an ongoing review, it would be inappropriate to comment while that is ongoing.”

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