British Prime Minister Boris Johnson can now add another item to the list of scandals that have engulfed his administration after the Mirror published a photo that the tabloid claims shows he hosted in a Christmas quiz party last year that appears to have violated COVID-19 restrictions that were in place at the time. The photo from Dec. 15 shows Johnson in his office sitting next to two other people reading out questions. But beyond that, the Mirror hears word that “many staff huddled by computers, conferring on questions and knocking back fizz, wine and beer.” In one office, there were reportedly four teams of six people each. At the time, London was under COVID-19 restrictions that prohibited mixing of households indoors. The rules at the time prohibited any sort of work holiday gatherings.
A government spokesman defended the gathering, saying it was a “virtual quiz” and that Johnson only participated briefly to thank the staff. “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,” a spokesperson said on Sunday. Many, however, aren’t buying the explanation that comes at a time when several other social gatherings that may have violated lockdown rules are already being investigated. The quiz took place three days before an alleged Christmas party at Downing Street. Two other alleged gatherings, one on Nov. 27 and the other on Dec. 10, are also being investigated.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said it seemed pretty clear Johnson had violated lockdown rules when he took part in the Christmas quiz. “We’ll have to look into it, but it’s very hard to see how that’s compliant with the rules,” he said. “He must have known that other groups were in other rooms in his own building.” Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour Party leader, said the numerous events shows how Johnson “presided over a culture of disregarding the rules at the heart of government.”
Even before this latest revelation, news of the multiple parties that seem to have flouted the rules, appeared to be hurting Johnson’s popularity. A recent poll showed Labour now enjoys a nine-point advantage over Johnson’s Conservative Party. The prime minister’s clear plunge in popularity could make it more difficult for him to receive support from lawmakers for new COVID-19 restrictions.