A charity has apologised after a bottle of champagne that was signed by Boris Johnson and donated as an auction prize as a "souvenir of Partygate."
The bottle of fizz - donated by Tory chairman Oliver Dowden - was put up as a prize for the Hertfordshire Community Fund for an event at the Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter in Leavesden, Watford.
It comes as the prime minister faces continued allegations of breaking COVID rules by attending parties in Downing Street during lockdown.
The description of the bottle read: "A bottle of champagne signed by Boris. Hugely valuable as a souvenir of partygate and the exemplary behaviour and morality of our dear leader".
Dowden has said the note was not written by him and that the bottle was donated months ago.
Despite that, the picture sparked a renewed wave of criticism of the prime minister's rule-breaking after being posted on Twitter by TV personality Jay Rayner.
He wrote: "Perhaps you thought the Conservative party took partygate seriously. Last night a champagne bottle signed by Boris Johnson was donated to a charity event in Hertfordshire by local MP and Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden. Read the description."
Hertfordshire Community Fund has now apologised “for any offence caused”.
The charity said in a statement: “Statement from HCF about our fundraising event last night: This item was donated in good faith several months ago as part of a charity auction raising funds to support some of the county’s most vulnerable residents.
“The description was not drafted or seen by MP Oliver Dowden prior to the event.
“On behalf of the charity, we apologise for any offence caused.”
The post was met with incredulity by some who said it was "disrespectful" to those who lost their lives during the COVID pandemic and those who lost the chance to say goodbye to loved ones as they followed the rules.
Journalist and Lib Dem councillor Liz Jarvis said: "Wow. Unbelievably tasteless and disrespectful to all those who lost loved ones and followed the rules."
Another person added: "Surely a cruel hoax? Tories would never demean themselves by laughing at our Covid dead like this? Surely."
Greg Jones said: "Openly laughing at us because they can."
However, a spokesperson for Dowden said the bottle was donated "in good faith" a few months ago and he had no prior knowledge of what the description would say.
They said: "This item was donated in good faith several months ago for a local charity auction.
"Oliver Dowden had no prior knowledge of the description and this is obviously not his view."
It was announced on Thursday that the Met Police had made around a further 50 fixed penalty notice referrals as part of its investigation into possible lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall.
It brought the number of fines to more than 100 – with Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak hit with fixed penalty notices in April over a birthday party held for the prime minister in No 10’s Cabinet Room in June 2020.
Partygate has had lasting effects on the Conservative Party, after they lost almost 500 seats in the local elections this month.
Senior Tories, including Johnson himself, have been keen to move on from the controversy.
There have been ongoing calls for the PM to resign over the saga from opposition MPs, as well as his own backbenches, but he has repeatedly said he is determined to get on with the job.
Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to quit if he is fined for breaking COVID rules, but Johnson has continues to swerve answering questions if he'd do the same if hit with another fine.
Asked in Finland on Wednesday if he'd quit, Mr Johnson told ITV News: "I'm going to get on with making sure that we try to fortify the defences of Europe against the clear potential of Russia to launch unprovoked aggression."