Boris Johnson on Sunday faced fresh questions about alleged government breaches of coronavirus restrictions after a photo emerged of him at a Christmas event last year.
The British prime minister has faced a barrage of criticism and calls to quit over claims of an illegal Downing Street party on December 18, 2020.
He has repeatedly said he was assured the gathering complied with social distancing restrictions in place at the time and has ordered an internal investigation.
But the Sunday Mirror published a photograph of Johnson said to have been taken three days before that party, at a “virtual quiz” for his staff, in which four teams of six people took part to raise funds for charity.
Christmas lunches and parties that were “primarily social activity” were banned at the time, as Britain -- one of the worst-hit countries by Covid-19 --- battled a surge in cases of the Delta coronavirus strain.
Mixing of more than two people from two households indoors was banned, scuppering Christmas plans for millions after months of tight restrictions, including lockdown.
The left-leaning Sunday Mirror said Johnson took part for up to 15 minutes and asked questions as quizmaster in one round.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi dismissed the latest report, telling Sky News television: “Many people would have had similar Zoom quiz nights around the country.”
But the main opposition Labour party said it showed Johnson presided over “a culture of disregard for the rules at the heart of government”, after a slew of claims that parties were held across Whitehall last Christmas.
An Opinium poll for The Observer put Labour nine points ahead of Johnson’s Conservatives, and suggested 57 percent of people think he should quit -- up nine points from just two weeks ago.
The claims of double-standards have put Johnson’s position under threat at a crucial time.
MPs vote next week on the government’s latest proposed restrictions to curb the spread of the omicron variant, with many Tories unhappy at plans to introduce mandatory vaccine passports.
Johnson also faces a by-election in a safe Tory seat vacated by an MP found to have illegally lobbied ministers on behalf of two companies that had him on their payroll.
A significant rebellion in the House of Commons and either a defeat or substantial loss of majority in Thursday’s by-election could see calls for Johnson to go reach fever pitch.
One commentator said the by-election was effectively “a referendum” on his premiership.
Johnson’s Conservative Party loses UK opinion poll lead after sleaze scandal
UK PM Johnson’s handling of corruption row ‘shameful’: Former PM Major
Boris Johnson’s govt denies graft charges over ennobled Conservative Party donors
Johnson imposes COVID-19 ‘Plan B’ in England to contain OmicronBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher COVID-19 restrictions in ... Coronavirus
Britain’s PM Johnson denies he prioritized animals in Kabul airliftBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the suggestion he intervened in the ... World News
Johnson’s Conservative Party loses UK opinion poll lead after sleaze scandalBoris Johnson’s Conservatives have lost their lead in two opinion polls after a ... World News
UK lawmaker defends lucrative 2nd job as Johnson feels heatA British lawmaker defended his 400,000-pound ($540,000) a year second job on ... World News
Boris Johnson’s govt denies graft charges over ennobled Conservative Party donorsBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government rejected fresh accusations of ... World News
UK PM Johnson’s handling of corruption row ‘shameful’: Former PM MajorFormer British Prime Minister John Major on Saturday attacked fellow Conservative ... World News
Boris Johnson insists UK will have lockdown-free ChristmasPrime Minister Boris Johnson is adamant that the UK will have a Christmas without ... Coronavirus