Downing Street staff held regular ‘wine Friday’ drinks during lockdown

New allegations of rule breaking in Downing Street have emerged as it has been reported that Boris Johnson is seeking to restart his leadership after a bruising week.

The Prime Minister’s administration was forced to apologize to Buckingham Palace on Friday after it emerged that two staff parties were held on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

Sue Gray, the senior civil servant investigating the litany of allegations about anti-lockdown parties in government, was said to have been “completely blindsided” by the latest revelations, the Times reported.

READ MORE: Downing Street apologizes to Queen for partying the day before Phillip’s funeral

The newspaper said the manager feared Downing Street staff were hiding information about the parties from him after it was claimed on Friday that staff met after work for two events on April 16, 2021, which started separately and then merged.

Witnesses said the booze was drunk and guests danced to music, with one person sent to a local store with a suitcase to buy wine, according to The Telegraph, which first reported the allegations.

Meanwhile, further allegations emerged on Friday night of regular ‘wine Friday’ gatherings at No 10 amid coronavirus rules in place, with Boris Johnson regularly witnessing the gatherings.

The mirror said weekly events are a ‘long-standing Downing Street tradition’, including under previous administrations, but continued after the introduction of Covid restrictions prohibiting indoor mixing between households .

A photo has emerged of a wine fridge being delivered to Downing Street

Sources said the Prime Minister encouraged aides to ‘let off steam’ despite indoor socializing being banned under lockdown rules.

The newspaper said staff had invested in a £142 drinks fridge to keep their bottles of alcohol cool and the Prime Minister was aware of the socialising.

Reports that staff took a suitcase to a supermarket to stock up on alcohol ahead of a party on the eve of Prince Phillip’s funeral were not unique.

Sources said aides took turns visiting the local Tesco Underground in Westminster on Fridays with a wheeled suitcase to fill the 34-bottle capacity fridge.

An extraordinary image emerged from the cooler delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020.

The refrigerator has a capacity of 34 bottles of wine
The refrigerator has a capacity of 34 bottles of wine

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “An investigation is underway to establish the facts regarding the nature of the gatherings, including attendance, setting and purpose by reference to compliance with the guidelines at the time.

“The findings will be made public in due course.”

It comes as reports suggested Mr Johnson was mounting a response after a tumultuous week, with the Times and Daily Telegraph both saying he had been in contact with Lynton Crosby, the political strategist who helped get himself elected mayor from London.

Mr Johnson will seek to move on from so-called partygate by lifting Plan B measures, such as guidance to work from home, at the end of the month, the Telegraph reported.

The restrictions, which were intended to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, are due to expire on January 26, subject to review.

Leveling Secretary Michael Gove hinted there could be sackings as part of a reshuffle at the top of the government, but dismissed the suggestion that Mr Johnson should be one of those leaving .

The Cabinet Minister, referring to the need for Ms Gray’s investigation to establish what happened, told ITV News: ‘If there is a specific need for disciplinary or accountability action to be taken , let’s do it, let’s do it quickly, but let’s also do it with all the facts in front of us.

A group of men dressed as Boris Johnson stage a humorous lockdown party protest outside Downing Street as they sing "Boris loves a party".
A group of men dressed as Boris Johnson stage a humorous lockdown party protest outside Downing Street as they chant ‘Boris loves a party’.

Mr Johnson continued to face criticism, including from those in his front row, after he admitted attending a ‘bring your own booze’ garden party at No 10 on May 20, 2020, which he insists he understood as a “work event”.

Pensions Minister Guy Opperman said the Prime Minister ‘needs to change his ways’ recalling how, in the same month, when some at No 10 ‘were not behaving properly’ he was not able to support her children before their death.

He and his wife Flora’s newborn twins, Teddy and Rafe, died the following month.

Speaking to the BBC’s Politics North programme, the Tory MP said: ‘I am quite emotional about this because in May 2020 my wife and children were sick and they went to hospital.

“I couldn’t go there to support them.”

Meanwhile, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer is expected to use a speech on Saturday to put more pressure on the under-fire Prime Minister.

He is expected to tell the Fabian Society conference: ‘We are witnessing the shattered spectacle of a prime minister mired in deceit and deceit, unable to lead.

Sir Keir will deliver his speech with his party enjoying a surge in the polls, with a survey recording that Labor has achieved its highest predicted vote share in nearly a decade.

A survey by Savanta ComRes, its first survey of voting intentions since party allegations broke, put Labor at 42 points, up five, with Boris Johnson’s Tories at 32, down a.

The Daily Mail published an image of Sir Keir – who first appeared in the spring of last year – drinking a bottle of beer while talking to party staff in an office while on the trail local elections last year when indoor mixing was not allowed unless it was for work.

Labour, who were approached for comment, previously said the photo was from a workplace event, with Sir Keir and ‘a local MP’ ‘breaking for dinner as the meeting was taking place In the evening”.

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