Sources point out that picture of staff enjoying cheese and wine was taken from Chancellor’s complex overlooking the No 10 garden.
Downing Street insiders are pointing the finger of suspicion at Treasury officials for the damaging leak of a photograph showing Boris Johnson, his wife, and No 10 advisers enjoying cheese and wine during lockdown.
Sources inside No 10 have pointed out that the photograph was taken from a veranda reached from a first floor function room, which was being used by Rishi Sunak’s team and overlooks the Downing Street garden.
A well-placed source said: “It has to be taken by someone associated with the Chancellor. It is the Chancellor’s bit of the Downing Street complex.”
The No10 source said: “The room is used for receptions but at that point it was being used by No 11 special advisers and officials. The Treasury was closed down and a number of staff were working out of No 11. Anybody could walk into that office with a Downing Street pass but it was used by Rishi Sunak’s people and anybody else going in would have been noticed.”
Ed Balls, the former Labour education secretary who was Gordon Brown’s economic adviser in the Treasury, further fuelled the controversy, posting mischievously on Twitter: “I’m pretty sure this is the view from the 11 Downing Street first floor balcony…”
Treasury source defends officials against claims they might have taken the picture
A Treasury source said it would be wrong to suggest one of its officials might be responsible for taking the photograph and then leaking it more than 18 months later.
The source said: “At the time the picture was taken there was no one occupying that room. It is never locked and anyone working in Downing Street could have accessed the room which was often left empty.”
Insiders familiar with the Downing Street layout said the photograph appeared to be taken from a first floor balcony that overlooks the garden.
The room has been described as a state drawing room for No 11 for use during ceremonial duties. However, it was transformed into offices in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
A separate source said the Downing Street library also overlooked the private terrace where Mr Johnson was photographed, raising the possibility the image was taken from there. A map posted online of the Downing Street layout shows the Chancellor’s private office is also nearby, adjacent to the library.