Labour accused Boris Johnson of demeaning the office of prime minister after a media report said he played a key role in a Downing Street party held during coronavirus restrictions to mark the departure of one of his key advisers.
The Sunday Times cited government insiders as saying Johnson instigated the Downing Street event to say goodbye to Lee Cain, the prime minister’s head of communications, in November 2020.
It came as Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon was reported to the police after footage emerged of her appearing to breach Scotland’s coronavirus rules by not wearing a mask.
Johnson last week became the first British prime minister to have committed a criminal offence while in office after the Metropolitan Police issued him with a fine for attending a surprise Downing Street birthday in June 2020 during England’s first Covid-19 lockdown.
Senior Tories fear Johnson could face more fines over partygate because he attended several events during Covid restrictions, including a “bring your own booze” gathering in the Downing Street garden in May 2020.
The Sunday Times said the event that could be most problematic for the prime minister was the party to mark Cain’s departure in November 2020.
The newspaper said what began as a press office drinks turned into an event to mark Cain’s exit after Johnson arrived and gave a brief speech.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “If the latest reports are true, it would mean that not only did the prime minister attend parties, but he had a hand in instigating at least one of them . . . The prime minister has demeaned his office.”
Downing Street declined to comment. The Sunday Times said a Number 10 insider denied Johnson had organised the event for Cain.
Johnson is preparing to make a House of Commons statement this week after the Met issued him with the fixed penalty notice over the June 2020 birthday party.
Opposition parties are discussing how they can try to secure a parliamentary vote over their claim that he deliberately misled the Commons about lockdown parties. Johnson’s allies have suggested he did not knowingly mislead MPs.
Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green party, said she had written to the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to request that he “facilitate a process” whereby MPs can hold Johnson to account.
Meanwhile, in a video clip on Twitter, Sturgeon is seen without a face mask in a barbers in East Kilbride, which the Scottish National party leader was visiting while campaigning for the May local elections.
According to coronavirus rules in Scotland, all individuals aged 12 and over must wear face coverings in many indoor public places. The rules are due to be relaxed on Monday.
Police Scotland said on Sunday it was looking into the matter. “We can confirm that we have received a complaint which is currently being assessed,” said a spokesperson.
The SNP said Sturgeon only removed her mask for a short period in the East Kilbride barbers before putting it back on.
“The first minister was invited into the barbers during an outdoor visit on the street,” said an SNP spokesperson. “Within a few seconds, she realised she hadn’t put her mask back on and immediately put it on.”
The Scottish Conservatives accused Sturgeon of “hypocrisy” and demanded an apology.