Champagne signed by Boris Johnson labelled 'souvenir of partygate' at auction

Oliver Dowden, the chairman of the Conservative Party, donated the item 'in good faith'

The label featured on the champagne Credit: Jay Rayner

A bottle of champagne signed by Boris Johnson was labelled a “souvenir of partygate” as it was sold off at a charity event in Hertfordshire.

Oliver Dowden, the chairman of the Conservative Party, donated the item “in good faith” several months before the auction on Thursday night.

But it ended up being listed by organisers with 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!”

The bid gained traction after Jay Rayner, a food writer at The Guardian newspaper, posted a photograph of the event brochure on Twitter. This was shared thousands of times and Mr Rayner claimed it showed the Conservative party did not take "partygate" seriously.

But a spokesman for Mr Dowden was quick to distance him from the caption, and 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.”

Mr Dowden is understood to have donated the item many months ago and before the Downing Street parties came to dominate national news headlines.

The event took place on the same day as Scotland Yard issued further fixed penalty notices over 'partygate', taking the total to more than 100 and making Downing Street the most fined address in the country for Covid breaches.

Speaking to the Telegraph before the local elections, Mr Dowden had claimed voters were “fed up with the distraction” of rule-breaking Downing Street parties.

“The further you get from Westminster, the more people are focused on the delivery issues,” he said. “There's this perception in Westminster that every door we're knocking on, parties are coming up on the doorstep. That really is not the case.

“Of course, there are some people who are very annoyed about it. But, on the list of things that have come up on the doorstep, parties actually come up very rarely - and frequently the people who are raising it were people that were never going to support us in the first place.”

Hertfordshire Community Foundation, the charity which the fundraiser, said in a statement: "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 Oliver Dowden MP prior to the event. On behalf of the charity, we apologise for any offence caused."