Twenty-three people posed in a picture, taken on 14 December 2020, at a time when London was subject to tier two restrictions. One of them, Shaun Bailey, was the then Tory mayoral candidate for the city – an election which, at the time of the photo, was five months away. As Bailey posed for the camera, hoping to become the capital’s lead political official, what were the rules on socialising in tier two? As the Evening Standard put it twelve days before the picture was taken: “No mixing is allowed with other people indoors apart from your household or bubble.”
Yet here Bailey is, pictured with Tory colleagues at the party’s headquarters in Westminster. The lighting is dismal: over-head and over-bright. The surroundings are underwhelming: cheap floors and cheap counters. The windows are covered by thin grey metallic blinds; the clearly pre-prepared but mostly uneaten food looks decidedly unappetising. The space is cramped, although the overwhelmingly millennial crowd seems merry enough not to mind. Only Bailey and Nick Candy, a waistcoat-wearing Tory donor, appear to be older than 40.
Was this party really worth risking a mayoralty over?
Without any live footage, we are left to speculate. Yet at the rate these Tory parties are being exposed, an iPhone video of an attendee openly mocking the rules in the manner of Allegra Stratton and company may well be imminent.
Nearly one million Londoners (977,601 – 45 per cent of the capital) backed Bailey for mayor in May. News of this party – and the others held in No 10 and Whitehall late last year – did not, to the Tories’ good fortune, break before the elections, when the party’s success piled pressure on Labour and Keir Starmer throughout the summer. Now the Conservatives’ fortunes have reversed as the Labour Party has taken a slim lead in the polls. Starmer also has a 13 point poll lead on Johnson as the nation’s favoured prime minister.
Bailey sought to follow Johnson as a Tory mayor of London. He came up short. After the release of this picture by the Mirror, he has also resigned from his role at the London Assembly, following Stratton’s departure from government last week. But Bailey and Stratton are, at least, now finally free to skirt regulations in future without anyone paying any attention. They’re already yesterday’s news.