Number 10 staff celebrated “Wine Time Fridays” during the Covid pandemic, another damaging revelation – staff even invested in a £142 fridge to keep their drinks chilled.
Boris Johnson is believed to have witnessed the gatherings, scheduled between 4pm and 7pm each week on the electronic calendars of around 50 No 10 staffers and even encouraged aid workers to “let off steam”.
This came despite indoor socializing being banned under lockdown rules.
A picture shows the 142 pound cooler, used to store white wine, prosecco and beer, being delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020. The mirror reports.
Sources said gatherings occasionally lasted until midnight, with up to two dozen helpers drinking wine and beer and playing games such as Pictionary.
The PM is said to have attended a “handful” of the gatherings when indoor socializing was banned under lockdown rules.
This includes an event on November 13, 2020, the day Dominic Cummings left the number 10 as he stayed for a glass of wine and chatted with the team.
There have been reports that on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, staff took a suitcase to a supermarket to stock up on alcohol ahead of a party.
Sources claimed aid workers took turns visiting the local Tesco Metro in Westminster on Fridays with a trolley case to stock the 34-bottle capacity fridge.
Today (Friday 14 January) Downing Street apologized to Buckingham Palace over the revelations that two farewell parties had been held at Downing Street on 16 April, the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.
One was for Mr Johnson’s top spin doctor James Slack and another for the Prime Minister’s photographer.
“Weeping Fridays” are a Downing Street tradition, The Mirror said, and took place under previous governments, but they continued even after lockdown restrictions were put in place.
It was organized by Press Office No. 10, but was periodically joined by advisers from other parts of the building.
Sources said a regular attendee when strict mixing rules were in place was Captain Steve Higham, then the Prime Minister’s defense adviser.
The Royal Navy officer now commands the new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, Britain’s largest warship.
The Department of Defense declined to comment.
The “wine season” is said to have been particularly popular from autumn 2020 to spring 2021, sources said.
No 10 insiders said the Prime Minister often experienced “wine time on Fridays” on his way to the Downing Street flat.
A source said: “Boris used to stop by to chat while they had a drink.
It was on the way to his apartment and the door was normally open. He knew about it and encouraged it.”
Another added: “He could see everyone sitting there drinking as he walked up to him.
“He came in and said, ‘Hello, everyone’s had a rough week? Let off some steam? Oh cool’.
“The idea that he didn’t know drinks existed is total nonsense. When the PM tells you to ‘let off steam,’ he’s basically saying that’s fine.”
Whitehall Ethics Enforcer Sue Gray is leading an inquiry into Downing Street parties.
A No. 10 spokesman said: “There is an ongoing investigation to establish the facts of the nature of gatherings, including attendance, setting and purpose in relation to compliance with guidance at the time. The results will be published in due course.”
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