Downing Street staff drank alcohol into the wee hours at two farewell events the night before Prince Philip’s socially distancing funeral, The Telegraph can reveal.
On Friday evening, April 16, 2021, Britain found itself in a period of public mourning. Union flags on government offices in Westminster flew at half-mast on the occasion of the death of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, last week.
With the country in step two of a strict lockdown roadmap, which rules out indoor mixing, mourners were told not to leave flowers due to the Covid threat. A register of condolence has been set up online to reduce “the risk of transferring” physical signatures.
The Prince’s coffin lay overnight in a private chapel in Windsor Castle. The next day, the Queen, her face covered by a black mask, was to say goodbye to her 73-year-old husband. With the applicable social distancing rules, she was alone.
However, the atmosphere in Downing Street that Friday night was very different. Advisors and officials gathered after work for two separate events to mark the departure of two colleagues.
One was James Slack, Mr Johnson’s communications director. He had served two Tory Prime Ministers, a rare carryover from the Theresa May days, but left after four years to become deputy editor at The Sun newspaper. The other was one of Mr Johnson’s personal photographers.
Eyewitnesses spoke to The Telegraph about what happened. It is alleged that excessive alcohol was consumed, with guests dancing at some points. The gatherings lasted well into the night, well past midnight, according to a source.
According to one of those present, they were unmistakably party parties.
The revelation of the gatherings at the heart of the government the night before the Duke’s funeral is problematic, not only because of the context of public grief, but also because of the clearly defined Covid restrictions in place at the time.
The government’s own guidelines read: “You should not socialize indoors, except with your household or support bubble. You can meet outside, also in gardens, in groups of six people or two households.”