independent– Boris Johnson has claimed he did not break Covid rules in place during the run-up to last Christmas by hosting a Christmas quiz for staff at Downing Street.
The prime minister is facing claims he breached regulations by attending the virtual event on 15 December while tier 2 rules which banned household mixing were in force in London.
Responding to claims he violated curbs – after he was photographed leading the virtual quiz at No 10 alongside two aides – Mr Johnson told broadcasters: “I can tell you that I certainly broke no rules.”
Despite his denial, the PM confirmed that cabinet secretary Simon Case’s investigation into a series of festive events at No 10 last year would be expanded to include the quiz.
Asked if the top civil servant would be investigating the virtual quiz, Mr Johnson said: “Is that the thing with the Zoom quiz? Yeah.”
Mr Johnson’s former top adviser Dominic Cummings said it was notable that the PM had switched from saying that no Covid rules were broken at No 10 to saying that he personally broke no rules.
“The rat has his fall guys lined up,” tweeted Mr Cummings, predicting that the prime minister will promise any aides forced out of their jobs an eventual return to No 10 so long as they keep to the “omertà” code of silence in relation to the funding of his flat refurbishment.
Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a vaccination clinic in west London, the prime minister said: “The whole thing will be looked into by the cabinet secretary … He’s looking at all these things.”
He added that the results of the probe would come back “as soon as we reasonably can”. Downing Street also confirmed on Monday that the PM’s appearance at the virtual quiz will be included in the Case inquiry.
The head of the civil service was already investigating claims of a December Christmas party and November staff leaving do at No 10, as well as festive drinks at the Department for Education.
An image published by the Sunday Mirror shows Mr Johnson flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in the No 10 library for the festive quiz.
The newspaper quoted a source who said many staff were huddled by computers in their Downing Street offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol while the quiz was taking place.
Labour said the PM “might have misled” MPs after he told the Commons he had been given assurances that social distancing regulations were not broken by No 10 last year.
Sir Keir Starmer said it is “very hard” to see how the tier 2 rules could have been adhered to in the quiz. Official guidance set out there should be no work lunches or parties “where that is a primarily social activity” and they were not exempted for “work purposes”.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said Mr Johnson’s credibility was “in tatters” and said the quiz appeared to be a clear breach of the rules. “He’s not Anne Robinson. He was conducting a quiz at the time you should not have been socially mixing in London.”
Asked on BBC Breakfast why Sir Keir stopped short of calling for Mr Johnson to resign, instead saying he was “unfit to lead”, Mr Lammy said: “Well, that must, in the end, be a matter for the prime minister.”