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Charity that auctioned Boris Johnson champagne as ‘Partygate souvenir’ apologises ‘for any offence’

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A charity has apologised after auctioning off a champagne bottle signed by Boris Johnson “as a souvenir of pPartygate”.

Tory MP Oliver Dowden donated the item to Hertfordshire Community Fund for an event at the Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter in Leavesden, Watford.

An image posted on Twitter showed the bottle listed in an auction catalogue alongside the description: “A bottle of champagne signed by Boris. Hugely valuable as a souvenir of partygate and the exemplary behaviour and morality of our dear leader! Donated by: Oliver Dowden CBE.”

Mr Dowden, who has been the MP for Hertsmere since 2015 and co-chairman of the Conservative Party since 2021, is said to have donated the bottle several months ago and had no knowledge of the description.

Hertfordshire Community Fund has now apologised “for any offence caused”.

The charity said: “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 image was originally tweeted by food critic Jay Rayner on Friday morning, who wrote: “Perhaps you thought the Conservative party took partygate seriously.

“Last night a champagne bottle signed by @BorisJohnson was donated to a charity event in Hertfordshire by local MP and Tory party chairman @OliverDowden. Read the description.”

A spokesperson for Mr Dowden, who has been the MP for Hertsmere since 2015 and co-chairman of the Conservative Party since 2021, confirmed he donated the item.

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.”

Paul Morris, a Conservative councillor for Bushey Heath who attended the event, told The Independent he thought the charity had made an “error of judgement”.

He said: “Unfortunately, what I do know, because I did actually look at the bottle as it happens at the time, if anybody has made an error I think it’s probably the charity for the wording they used in the brochure.

“I’m not going to comment one way or the other on the rights or wrongs of any individual in their conduct.

“I think to criticise an individual for a charitable donation that raised many, many thousands of pounds is inappropriate.

“I think it was an error of judgement by the charity in the wording that they used.

“It’s a charity I personally support helping those particularly in need of support in Hertfordshire. I think it’s a wonderful charity.”

The Metropolitan Police on Thursday announced the number of fines handed out to government staff for law-breaking parties held during the Covid-19 pandemic had doubled to more than 100.

Scotland Yard said last month that 50 referrals had been made to the criminal records office for fixed penalty notice (FPN) fines over parties in Downing Street and Whitehall when the country was under strict social-distancing rules.

In an update, the Met said its Operation Hillman team had now recommended 100 fines. The force said its investigation into 12 separate events remained ongoing.

Number 10 said Johnson had not been issued with another fine after he was punished last month over his rule-breaking birthday party in June 2020.

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