A former London mayoral campaign manager has reportedly been put forward as a local election candidate by the Conservatives despite him being pictured at a lockdown-breaching party in December 2020.
Ben Mallet has been put forward by a local Conservative group as its hopeful for this year’s borough council and local authority elections being held across the UK on 5 May, according to Guido Fawke.
His name was spotted on a declaration form listing candidates for the Kingston-upon-Thames ward, in southwest London, a copy of which was shared on the right-wing political blog.
It also published an image appearing to show Mr Mallet holding a campaign flyer with his own name on it.
Mr Mallet, ex-London mayoral campaign manager for Tory hopeful Shaun Bailey, was part of a group that made headlines at the end of last year when a photo surfaced of 24 people at a lockdown-breaching party in the Westminster-based Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCQQ).
The event, said to have been organized by the team Mr Mallet led, took place on 14 December 2020 when London was in tight Tier 2 restrictions.
In the extraordinary image, which went viral after it was leaked to the DailyMirrorMr Mallet can be seen lying on the ground in front of the group, holding a glass of wine and wearing braces.
So damaging was the image that Mr Bailey dramatically resigned as chair of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee. He later also stepped down as chair of the Assembly’s economy committee.
While furore around the Partygate scandal – in which it was discovered that more than 10 potentially illegal parties had been thrown by Downing Street and Whitehall staff – largely calmed down as the war in Ukraine kicked off, Boris Johnson has been back under the spotlight in recent weeks due to the ongoing police investigation.
The Metropolitan Police announced at the end of last month it was issuing its first batch of fines for Covid-related offences, but declined to name the individuals involved or the size of the fines, which ranged between £100 and £10,000 in the period covered .
They were the first penalties to be imposed in relation to a series of 12 gatherings in 2020 and 2021 and the first police confirmation that coronavirus laws were in fact broken.
Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner called on Mr Johnson to resign over the breaches, saying: “The buck stops with the prime minister.”
Top Tory figures such as Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, after claiming the public no longer care about the fallout from Partygate. Mr Rees-Mogg, the former Commons leader, dismissed the row as “fluff” – but was slapped down by other MPs, including Conservatives.
The news that Mr Mallet has secured a place as the Kingston Conservatives’ candidate secretary comes just two days after health Sajid Javid refused to answer questions on whether the prime minister presided “over widespread criminality” during lockdown – an allegation made by Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer.
“When you ask me about matters of the law this is rightly in a democracy… it is a matter for the independent police,” he told Sky News in relation to presenter Kay Burley’s line of questioning.
The Independent has contacted CCHQ for comment on Mr Mallet’s candidacy in the local elections.