Staff at No. 10 celebrated ‘Wine Hour Friday’ amid the Covid pandemic, but it has seen further damaging revelations – staff have even invested in £142 fridges to keep drinks cool.
Boris Johnson is believed to have witnessed the gatherings, scheduled in the electronic calendar of around 50 No 10 staff between 4pm and 7pm each week, and even encouraged aides to “vent”.
This came despite indoor social activities being banned under lockdown rules.
According to the Mirror, an image shows the £142 chiller – used to store white wine, prosecco and beer – being delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020.
Gatherings sometimes stretched into midnight, with as many as two dozen assistants drinking wine and beer and playing games like Pictionary, sources said.
The prime minister was said to have attended a “small number” of rallies when lockdown rules banned indoor social gatherings.
That included an event on November 13, 2020, the day Dominic Cummings left No. 10, where he stayed for a drink and a chat with the team.
There have been reports of staff taking a suitcase to the supermarket to stock up on alcohol ahead of a party on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.
Aides took turns travelling to the local Tesco Tube station in Westminster on Friday, sources said, carrying a trolley case to fill the 34-bottle fridge.
Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace today (Friday 14 January) following reports that two exit parties were held in Downing Street on April 16, the day before the Duke of Edinburgh was buried.
One was for Mr Johnson’s top spin doctor, James Slack, and the other was for the Prime Minister’s photographer.
The Mirror says “Wine Hour on Fridays” is a Downing Street tradition and has taken place under previous governments, but has continued even after lockdown restrictions were imposed.
It is organized by the Press Office 10, but consultants from other parts of the building are regularly joined.
When the strict mixing rules were in place, a source said a regular was Captain Steve Higham, who was then the prime minister’s defence adviser.
The Royal Navy officer now commands the new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, Britain’s largest warship.
The Defense Department declined to comment.
It is understood that “wine time” will be particularly popular from fall 2020 to spring 2021, sources said.
No 10 people familiar with the matter said the prime minister regularly witnesses “Friday wine hour” on his way to his Downing Street apartment.
A source said: “Boris used to stop and chat while they were drinking.
It was on the way to his apartment, and the door was usually open. He knows and encourages it. “
Another added: “When he walked up, he could see everyone sitting there drinking.
“He’d come in and say ‘Hello, everyone’s having a tough week? Get some steam out? Oh, that’s great’.
“The idea that he doesn’t know there’s a drink is complete nonsense. If the prime minister tells you to ‘take it easy’, he’s basically saying it’s fine.”
Whitehall Ethics Enforcer Su Grey is leading the investigation into all parties in Downing Street.
A No. 10 spokesman said: “An investigation is ongoing to determine facts about the nature of the gathering, including attendance, setting and purpose, and compliance with then-current guidance. The results of the investigation will be published in due course.”
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