Boris Johnson was under mounting pressure over No. 10 lockdown celebrations last night as more revelations about drunken gatherings in the pandemic came to light.
Downing Street staff held “wintime Fridays” which the Prime Minister regularly witnessed.
Sources told our sister newspaper The Mirror he encouraged his aides to “let off steam” despite the fact that socializing indoors is banned under his Covid rules.
Calls for Johnson to quit over the parties scandal rose last night as Labor advanced in the polls.
The wine event was so popular that workers even invested in a £142 drinks fridge to keep their bottles of white wine, prosecco and beer cool.
A photo has emerged of the delivery through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020. And sources claimed assistants took turns visiting a Tesco Metro in Westminster on Friday with a wheeled suitcase to fill the fridge with 34 bottles.
The events would sometimes last until midnight, while the staff also played games.
A source said: “Boris always stopped by for a chat while they had a drink. It was on the way to his flat and the door was usually open. He knew about it and encouraged it.”
Another added: “He could see everyone sitting there drinking.
“He’d come in and say, ‘Hello everyone, had a rough week? Letting off some steam? Oh great.’
“The idea that he didn’t know there were drinks is complete nonsense. When the prime minister says to ‘let off steam’, he is actually saying that this is fine.’
The revelations come as number 10 apologized to Buckingham Palace yesterday after it was revealed that parties were being held there the day before Prince Philip’s funeral.
The staff reportedly took a suitcase to a supermarket to stock up on booze before two eruptions on April 16 last year. But Friday’s “wine time” seems to show that this was not a one-off.
Opposition MPs, more Tories and grieving relatives captured Johnson, especially regarding the parties on the eve of Philip’s funeral.
Hours after the staff drank booze and danced to music, the Queen was pictured mourning alone at his service.
Labor leader Keir Starmer said: “This shows how severely Boris Johnson has humiliated the office of Prime Minister.
An apology is not the only thing the prime minister should offer the palace today. Boris Johnson should do the right thing and step down.”
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: “Boris Johnson should personally apologize to the Queen for the offense he has done to her and millions across the country when grieving for loved ones. He should also use that opportunity to officially submit his resignation.”
Fran Hall, of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “If your neighbors had behaved like this, you would be disgusted.
“That the people running the country to do it and then lie about it is a complete disregard for the general public.
“We shared the same pain of grieving in isolation as the Queen and she must be just as nauseous as we are hearing this.”
Andrew Bridgen became the fifth Tory MP to publicly demand Johnson’s departure.
He said: “Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s position has become untenable.
“Leadership isn’t just about the job title, or even making big decisions. It’s also about having a moral compass, to not only tell right from the left, but right from wrong.”
Sutton Coldfield Conservative Association withdrew its support for Johnson, saying the move reflected “local views at the grassroots level”.
A Downing Street spokesman said of the farewell celebrations for the funeral: “It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No. 10 has apologized to the Palace.
“The Prime Minister has recognized that No. 10 must be held to the highest standards and take responsibility for things we have not done right.”
One of the farewell events was for former No 10 communications director James Slack.
He said: “I want to apologize unconditionally for the anger and pain caused. This event should not have happened at the time it happened. I am very sorry and I take full responsibility.”
Wine Fridays were scheduled between 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM in the electronic calendars of about 50 No. 10 employees.
They were especially popular from the fall of 2020 to the spring of 2021.
At the time, rules prohibited two or more people from different households from getting together indoors unless “reasonably necessary” for work purposes.
The event has a long tradition of helping staff relax at the end of a busy week. But it continued after restrictions came in.
Johnson is said to have attended a “handful” of the meetings.
These include one on November 13, 2020, the day Dominic Cummings left No10, when he stayed for a glass of wine and a chat.
Sources said Captain Steve Higham, then the Prime Minister’s defense adviser, was a regular participant when strict mixing rules were in place. The Ministry of Defense declined to comment.
Downing Street did not deny the “wine Fridays” claims.
It said: “There is an investigation to establish the facts surrounding the nature of meetings, including attendance, setting and purpose in terms of adherence to the guidelines at the time. The findings will be made public in due course.”
Johnson prepares a list of officials who must resign over the partygate affair in an attempt to save his premiership, dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog” by himself.
Labor opened another 10-point lead over the Tories in a poll by Savanta ComRes last night. The party was on 42 points, the Conservatives on 32.
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