When Boris Johnson became mayor of London in 2008, he claimed he had found a “secret cellar” containing more than 100 bottles of fine wine that his predecessor Ken Livingstone had left in City Hall.
Now, following the latest grisly allegations of late-night partying on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year, it appears Mr Johnson has allowed a drinking culture to emerge at 10 Downing Street.
The evidence is piling up:
• The photo of the Prime Minister, his wife Carrie, his adjutant who is sworn enemy Dominic Cummings and civil servant Martin Reynolds sitting at a table enjoying wine and cheese on May 15, 2020
• Then the email from Mr. Reynolds – now called “Party Marty” – inviting the staff to a “bring your own booze” to “socially distanced drinks” in the yard five days later
But the latest reports, in The Daily Telegraph, aim to make the public and politicians much more shocking and shocking, because of the crude and insensitive timing of this alleged late-night revelry.
Let’s not be squeamish. The earlier revelations were amusing, making the prime minister and his inner self a laughing stock. The latest posts are more serious.
Opposition MPs, led by Sir Ed Davey of the Lib Dems and Angela Rayner of Labour, are already suggesting that the behavior of those at the heart of the government made them guilty of insulting the Queen in her most painful moment of grief.
Renewed call for PM to resign after reports Number 10 staff partied on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral
The latest allegations
Here’s what’s being claimed: On April 16, 2021, the night before Philip’s socially distancing funeral at Windsor Castle, two separate celebrations are said to have taken place, with “excessive booze” being allegedly consumed.
They left parties, it has been reported, for former communications director James Slack and for one of the prime minister’s personal photographers. (Yes, really. Personal photographers!)
Among a series of colorful accusations about the events reported in the Telegraph, it is claimed that someone was sent to the Co-op on the Strand with a suitcase to be filled with bottles of wine.
A ‘little wheelie’ for drink runs
Oh? So they happened to have a briefcase on hand in #10 in case anyone felt like going to the Co-op and throwing a drunken party?
Well, yeah, apparently, looks like they did.
A Downing Street insider revealed to Sky News: “It’s a press agency briefcase that’s been around for years…literally for booze runs. A little wheelie!”
That’s confirmed by former Nick Clegg assistant Sean Kemp, who tweeted: “The case used to take the booze to number 10 for Friday night get-togethers has been around for years. Nice to see it finally having a moment of fame .”
The suitcase that was used to bring the drink into Number 10 for Friday night drinks has been around for years. Nice to see it finally has a moment of fame
— Sean Kemp (@Sean_Kemp) January 13, 2022
And David Clark, an assistant to Robin Cook when he was Secretary of State, tweeted: “I am very proud that thanks to Brexit and the end of metric tyranny we can finally serve wine by the suitcase again.
“These are the old freedoms that Nelson and Wellington tried to defend.”
It is also alleged that after midnight, when the two groups merged, a Downing Street figure attempted and broke the child’s swing in the garden of Wilfred, the Prime Minister’s son. Poor Wilfried! Let’s hope it gets fixed soon.
Cars circle PM but his government is crippled by ‘party gate’
Culture of drinking and impromptu socializing
After these latest allegations, however, the restoration of the prime minister’s reputation will take much longer than a broken swing.
According to The Guardian, the investigation into lockdown parties in Downing Street, conducted by Whitehall enforcer Sue Gray, is expected to uncover a “farcical” culture of drinking and impromptu socializing, with little oversight from senior officials.
Well, after all the revelations over the past few weeks — including the May 20, 2020 meeting that the prime minister ridiculously described as a “work event” — it didn’t take a Whitehall investigation by a top official to flesh that out.
Most people would have already come to the obvious conclusion that Downing Street is or was home to an unheard of drinking culture in the vast majority of other workplaces across the country.
One last thought, however. Perhaps Sue Gray should also be tasked with finding out what happened to the 100 or so bottles of fine wine Johnson claims to have discovered in City Hall.