A picture of Boris Johnson attending a Christmas quiz in Downing Street during lockdown last year is amplifying criticism of the U.K. prime minister.
Johnson already had to apologize this week for a video showing Downing Street officials joking about a staff party held during the height of Britain’s coronavirus lockdown last December. Latest reports say he hosted a quiz for Downing Street staffers on December 15, three days before the alleged party.
The prime minister was pictured reading out questions while aides with computers sat next to him and conferred on the answers, the Mirror reported late Saturday.
At the time, London was under strict lockdown restrictions banning social mixing between households. Guidelines stated: “You must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted.”
“Despite repeated denials, it now transpires that there were numerous parties, gatherings and the Prime Minister even took part in a festive quiz,” Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, wrote on Twitter. “Boris Johnson presided over a culture of disregarding the rules at the heart of government.”
The party revelations appear to be hurting Johnson in the polls. Even before the Christmas quiz picture was published, a poll by the Observer on Saturday showed Labour had surged to a nine-point lead over the governing Conservative Party.
A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office confirmed the quiz had taken place but said it was “virtual” and the PM was involved only “briefly.”
“This was a virtual quiz. Downing Street staff were often required to be in the office to work on the pandemic response so those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks,” said a statement from No. 10 quoted by the Mirror. “The prime minister briefly took part virtually in a quiz to thank staff for their hard work throughout the year.”
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi also insisted Johnson was “respecting the lockdown rules.” He told Sky News: “What do we see in that picture? We see a prime minister on a virtual quiz night for 10 to 15 minutes to thank his staff.”