The former Conservative London mayoral candidate has apologised for attending a party with his campaign team at a time of heightened coronavirus restrictions in the capital last year.
Shaun Bailey, who lost to Labour’s Sadiq Khan in London’s mayoral election in May, wrote on Twitter: “I want to apologise unreservedly for attending a gathering held by some of my staff in my campaign office last December.
“I gave a speech to my team to thank them for their efforts, before leaving shortly afterwards.
“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.”
‘Unauthorised social gathering’
It comes after the Daily Mirror published an image of Mr Bailey surrounded by more than 20 people at an event it said was held at the Conservative Party’s headquarters in Westminster on 14 December 2020.
At the time, London was under Tier 2 restrictions that banned the mixing of households indoors.
In the photo, some of those pictured are raising glasses while standing next to a buffet, with others also wearing festive headgear and clothing.
A Conservative Party 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.”
A Bailey campaign spokesperson told the newspaper: “On the evening of 14 December 2020, at the end of the working day, the campaign hosted a post-work event to thank campaign staff for their efforts over the course of the year.
“This was a serious error of judgement and we fully accept that gathering like this at that time was wrong and apologise unreservedly.”
Mr Bailey has since quit as chairman of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee.
Focus on a number of gatherings in December 2020
Questions have been raised about a number of gatherings in the run-up to Christmas in 2020 and whether COVID rules in place at the time were broken.
Boris Johnson has tasked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case with investigating.
At the weekend, an image was published of the prime minister on a screen in his office flanked by two colleagues and reading out quiz questions for Number 10 staff.
Downing Street said Mr Johnson took part in the “virtual quiz” for a “brief” period on 15 December.
The Daily Mirror has since reported that some staff had stayed in Number 10 socialising and drinking for hours after the quiz finished at 9.30pm.
The newspaper also reported that a senior official urged staff to leave Number 10 through a back door after the event.
Downing Street sources said they could not comment on fresh allegations while investigations were ongoing.
Mr Case is investigating an alleged Christmas party in Number 10 on 18 December, along with gatherings in Downing Street on 27 November and at the Department for Education 10 December.
According to sources who have spoken to Sky News, the event on 18 December was a party which took place with around 40 people in attendance.
The crisis deepened when footage emerged of Number 10 aides laughing and joking about a Christmas party.