A photo has emerged, allegedly from May of last year appearing to show Mr Johnson enjoying cheese and wine with his then-girlfriend, now wife, Carrie Johnson n?e Symonds and at least 17 staffers on the terrace at Number 10 Downing Street while the rest of the country was in lockdown, The Guardian reported.
Downing Street has insisted that the event depicted in the photo was not a party and instead was a “work meeting”.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab defended the gathering, saying on Monday: “If you think how hard [people in Downing Street] are working under the pressure of the week, they sometimes have a drink, and that's what's happening there.”
The pro-lockdown governing party of Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP), have branded the event a “sleaze and wine” party and called again for an investigation into the government's alleged multiple breaches of lockdown rules.
The latest leak comes just over a week after former Vaccine Minister Nazhim Zahawi insisted that a Christmas quiz hosted by Mr Johnson last December — when work Christmas parties were banned — was not in fact a party as there was “no alcohol” at the event.
When the photo was said to have been taken, government lockdown rules only permitted two people from different households were to mix socially, and even then only when outdoors and two metres apart. The COVID guidelines also stated that in-person workplace meetings should only take place if “absolutely necessary”.
On the 22nd of March 2020 — just under two months prior to the cheese and wine event — Mr Johnson had also threatened to impose “tougher measures” on British citizens if they did not follow social distancing guidelines.
In the same month that the cheese and wine party is said to have taken place, Breitbart's James Delingpole and Kurt Zindulka were threatened by police with fines and arrest for covering an anti-lockdown protest in London's Hyde Park, despite journalists being exempt from lockdown restrictions.
Attendees of the protest were threatened with arrest and given tickets for supposed offences such as distributing stickers, holding placards, and “staying here for longer than 45 minutes”.
The government's claim that the gathering was a work meeting is questionable in light of the attendance of Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson's then-partner, now wife. Symonds has been the subject of increased public scrutiny after Britain's oldest Conservative think tank, the Bow Group, called for a judicial review into her influence over the government following the appointments of Symonds' political allies to senior government roles and the removal of her political rivals, such as Dominic Cummings, from the government.
Number 10 has previously denied that Ms Symonds has any role in governing the country.
Speaking to Breitbart London about the government's latest scandal, research fellow at the Bow Group, Benjamin Loughnane commented:”Whilst people sat in cells, received criminal records, and were fined ruinous sums [for breaking COVID restrictions], the people making the rules were breaking them.
“Of course it is ridiculous that it's a national scandal that the prime minister enjoyed a drink with his staff after a long day's work, but it's a scandal only because they made it so.
“It should never be weird to sit in the garden in summer with a bottle of wine, but they made even the most normal, harmless, and everyday activities punishable in the extreme… Hypocrisy is not a strong enough word.”