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UK Tory staffers deleted Twitter accounts after leaked pic showed illegal Christmas party

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The event was organized by staff of Shaun Bailey, who was running for mayor of London at the time, The BBC reported.
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  • A recent leaked photo shows 24 conservative political staffers and activists at a Christmas party.
  • The event was on December 14, 2020, when Londoners weren't allowed to mix households in gatherings.
  • Several staffers and a councillor identified by The Guardian deleted their Twitter accounts.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Several conservative UK political staffers and a borough councillor deleted their social media profiles after appearing in a leaked photo of a Christmas party held last year that breached the country's Covid-19 rules.

The photo, reportedly taken at the London Conservative campaign headquarters on December 14, 2020, was first published by The Mirror on Wednesday and shows around two dozen people gathered next to a table laden with canapes and what appears to be a buffet spread. 

According to the BBC, the event was organised by the staff of Shaun Bailey, who was running for London mayor at the time, 

London's pandemic restrictions last December barred households from mixing, with the official UK government's Twitter directly telling residents: "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."

After the photo leak, Bailey stepped down as chair of a police and crime committee in the London Assembly, as per the BBC. He remains on the committee and the London Assembly.

"I want to apologise unreservedly for attending a gathering held by some of my staff in my campaign office last December," he tweeted on Thursday.

"It was a serious error of judgement at a time when Londoners were making immense sacrifices to keep us all safe, and I regret it wholeheartedly," he wrote. Bailey did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The Guardian identified a few political activists in the image, such as Adam Wildman — a conservative councillor for the London borough of Bexley whose Twitter account has since been deleted.

A statement online representing the Bexley conservative councillors said they were "shocked and very disappointed" by reports of the party. "We understand this event is currently being investigated, so are unable to comment further, but can confirm that following our selection process earlier this year, Councillor Wildman took the decision not to stand for the Conservatives again at the election in May 2022," the statement read.

Wildman did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Ben Mallet, Bailey's campaign director, was also identified by The Guardian as the man lying on the floor at the front of the photo raising a glass of wine. His Twitter account was also deleted. Mallet declined to respond personally and shared with The Guardian an apology from the campaign.

The outlet also reported that it contacted four unnamed junior campaign aides and staffers, three of whom deleted their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.

On Bailey's right, in a gray jacket with a glass of wine, is billionaire Nick Candy, a luxury property developer and conservative donor. A spokesperson for Candy told The Mirror that the tycoon was present for an "end of year review."

"He gave a short thank you speech to the team and spent some time with Shaun Bailey to discuss campaign matters before leaving shortly afterwards," the spokesperson said. Candy Capital, a private office managing Candy's interests, did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The leaked photo comes amid UK opposition pressure for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign over jokes that his staff made about an illegal Christmas party at his 10 Downing Street office last year. Another set of leaked images apparently shows Johnson hosting a Christmas quiz on December 15 that sources said was planned to be virtual but was attended in person by some staff.

Johnson denied that Covid-19 rules were broken at the party. "What I can tell you is that all the guidelines were observed," he said. "I have satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times."

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