May 22, 2022

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Hertfordshire Community Foundation apologises for auction of ‘partygate souvenir’

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Conservative party co-chairman, Oliver Dowden

A charity has apologised after it advertised a bottle of champagne signed by the prime minister at an auction as a “souvenir of partygate”.

The item was donated to a Hertfordshire Community Foundation (HCF) fundraising event by the Conservative party co-chairman, Oliver Dowden.

A spokesman for the Hertsmere MP said he had “no prior knowledge” of its description and it was “not his view”.

HCF confirmed this and apologised for “any offence caused”.

An image of what appeared to be a catalogue advertising the item to bidders at the Hertfordshire event was shared by the food critic Jay Rayner, who presents The Kitchen Cabinet on BBC Radio 4, on social media.

It showed a picture of a descriptive label, which said the bottle was a “signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson… Hugely valuable as a souvenir of partygate and the exemplary behaviour and morality of our dear leader”, noting that the donation was made by Mr Dowden.

The term “partygate” is a reference to gatherings held in and around Downing Street during Covid lockdowns, for which 50 fines have since been issued by police, including ones to Mr Johnson, his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Mr Rayner tweeted: “Perhaps you thought the Conservative Party took partygate seriously”.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Mr Dowden’s spokesman 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 is understood Mr Dowden’s team believed the description was written by somebody involved with the charity, and was not cleared by the Conservative Party.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

In a statement, HCF said the champagne was donated 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,” it said.

“On behalf of the charity, we apologise for any offence caused.”

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