Four photographs of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson drinking at a Downing Street gathering when the country was under Covid-19 lockdown orders have surfaced, as his government braces for the release of a report on the partygate scandal.
The photos, published by ITV News, show Mr Johnson proposing a toast with a group of at least nine people next to a table with several bottles of alcohol and party food. The pictures were taken at an event for Mr Johnson’s former communications chief, Lee Cain, on November 13, 2020, ITV said.
While Mr Johnson was not fined for this particular event, it adds to a long-running controversy that has overshadowed his administration for months.
Civil servant Sue Gray, who led an internal investigation into the events, is due to hand her full findings to Mr Johnson for publication this week.
Eight days before the photos were taken, Mr Johnson imposed England's second national lockdown, which lasted four weeks. People were banned from social mixing, other than to meet one person outside.
Mr Johnson was not fined by the Metropolitan Police over the event seen in the images.
Downing Street declined to defend the scene portrayed, saying the prime minister will comment after Ms Gray's report on partygate is published in the coming days.
“The Cabinet Office and the Met Police have had access to all information relevant to their investigations, including photographs,” a No 10 spokeswoman said.
“The Met have concluded their investigation and Sue Gray will publish her report in the coming days, at which point the prime minister will address Parliament in full.”
Mr Johnson told MPs in December that “the rules were followed at all times” when asked during Prime Minister's Questions about Mr Cain's leaving party.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner accused Mr Johnson of lying over rule-breaking parties at Downing Street.
“While the British public were making huge sacrifices, Boris Johnson was breaking the law,” she said.
“Boris Johnson said repeatedly that he knew nothing about lawbreaking — there's no doubt now, he lied. Boris Johnson made the rules, and then broke them.
“The prime minister has demeaned his office. The British people deserve better. While Labour has a plan for tackling the cost-of-living crisis, Tory MPs are too busy defending the indefensible actions of Boris Johnson.”
On December 8, Labour MP Catherine West asked Mr Johnson in the Commons whether there had been a party in Downing Street on November 13 2020.
The prime minister replied: “No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”