He has struggled in recent Prime Ministers Questions against a resurgent Labour under Sir Keir Starmer.
But Downing Street was forced to deny a bizarre claim that Boris Johnson received help at the Despatch Box this afternoon via an earpiece.
Labour MPs were among those who suggested he was receiving help in his confrontation the Leader of the Opposition after a shadowy image of his head circulated online.
Social media wags suggested the image showed a communications device in his ear, nestled below his increasingly unkempt lockdown mop.
It was picked up by MPs including Labour’s Bill Esterson, who said: ‘If he was receiving help, it didn’t show.
‘He was as useless as ever in response to calm, sensible scrutiny from Keir Starmer.’
But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman this afternoon said: ‘It is fair to say the Prime Minister was not wearing an earpiece.’
Online wags suggested the image showed a communications device in his ear, nestled below his increasingly unkept lockdown mop
Labour MPs were among those who suggested he was receiving help in his confrontation the Leader of the Opposition after a shadowy image of his head circulated online
The Rachel Swindon account, which was closely linked to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, was among those who shared the claim this afternoon
SO WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE BORIS JOHNSON IS WEARING AN EARPIECE?
The Prime Minister was also forced to deny he was wearing an earpiece back in November, after eagle-eyed viewers noticed a dark patch in his ear when he took part in a BBC debate ahead of the General Election.
He dismissed the claims, saying that he had a ‘weird flap of skin in his right ear that sometimes gets picked up by lights and camera flashes’.
It is not clear what flap of skin he was referring to – but other pictures taken of the PM show he has a prominent crus helix, a thin chunk of cartilage that tends to stretch halfway across the concha, the hollow part next to the ear canal.
Mr Johnson was dear until the age of eight because of ‘glue ear’, a condition where the ear canal fills with fluid that can cause temporary hearing loss.
It is not the first time Mr Johnson has been accused of wearing an earpiece at an important event.
Allegations swept Twitter in November when he took part in a BBC Question Time leaders’ debate ahead of the General Election.
But that was dismissed after it was revealed that he has ‘a weird flap of skin in his right ear that sometimes gets picked up by lights and camera flashes’.
Today’s claim came as Sir Keir today took the gloves off in his battle against Mr Johnson as he battered the Prime Minister over the Government’s test and trace programme, decision to reopen schools and transparency.
Sir Keir tried to use PMQs this lunchtime to score body blows on the PM over key parts of the Government’s coronavirus response.
But a furious Mr Johnson hit back and accused the Labour leader of delivering ‘endless attacks on public trust and confidence’.
Labour had adopted a largely constructive approach to the crisis to date, with the shadow cabinet seemingly reluctant to blast the Government in public.
Today marked a dramatic shift in approach as Sir Keir told Mr Johnson: ‘The Prime Minister is confusing scrutiny for attacks.’
Sir Keir also looked to capitalise on reports that the PM has now decided to take more control of the Government’s coronavirus strategy.
In an apparent reference to Mr Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings, the Labour leader said: ‘The Telegraph is reporting this morning that the Prime Minister has decided to take direct control of the Government’s response to the virus.
It follows a similar claim that was made after his performance in a leadership debate last November that was widely discredited
Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden was among those who took up the meme this afternoon. She later accepted it was not true
Other Twitter users who believed the claim demanded a parliamentary investigation and suggested he was receiving information from Dominic Cummings
Others compared the apparent ‘object’ to a scene from a film where a cockroach enters the ear
Another compared the ‘ear piece’ to a Jack Douglas comedy routine, advising Johnson to improve his commons performance
Another claimed he knew who had been giving Boris Johnson instructions, TV hosts Ant and Dec
Others joked that Jeremy Corbyn had been feeding Boris Johnson lines via the ‘earpiece’
‘So an obvious question for the Prime Minister, who’s been in direct control up until now?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘I take full responsibility for everything this Government has been doing in tackling coronavirus and I’m very proud of our record’.
Despite the bruising exchanges, Tory spirits were likely to have been lifted by Mr Johnson’s robust responses after a number of performances in recent weeks in which pundits suggested Sir Keir had got the better of the PM.
The clashes at PMQs came as the Government faced growing pressure over the roll out of the NHS Test and Trace programme.
Reports suggest that the system is failing to trace the contacts of approximately 60 per cent of people who have tested positive for the disease.
Another joker set up a Twitter for ‘Boris’s earpiece’ with the bio reading ‘Definitely not Dom’
One Twitter user by the name of Twr1 shared a picture of a large historic listening device
Another user joked that he could jump into Boris’s ‘cavernous’ ear space
Twitter user Chris Laity shared a picture of the prime ministers ear that had been edited to show his adviser Dominic Cummings inside the ear canal
What are the rules on electronic devices in the Commons?
Using an earpiece to take instructions from outside the Commons would break rules on the use of electronics in the chamber.
Under guidelines introduced in 2011, MPs are allowed to use handheld devices like phones and tablets – but not laptops – ‘provided that they are silent and used in a way which does not impair decorum’
They can be used during speeches in place of paper notes.
But they must be set to silent, and an earpiece that transmits vocal instructions would appear to fall foul of this restriction.
The official guide to Parliamentary rules and etiquette, Erskine May, notes: ‘The Speaker has regularly deprecated the failure of Members to turn off mobile phones or other devices which may give rise to disturbance, and listening to a message is unacceptable.’