politics

Inside No10 'wine time' Fridays – boxing gloves and breaking Wilfred's garden swing


Sources said the ‘wine time’ Friday gatherings on occasion went on as late as midnight with up to two dozen aides drinking wine and beer and playing games like Pictionary

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson encouraged aides to ‘let off steam,’ a source said

The Prime Minister is battling for his political life after a wave of outrage at the latest revelations about parties in Downing Street when the country was living under Covid curbs.

A leaked email from the PM’s principal private secretary, published by ITV on Monday, showed No 10 staff were invited to “make the most of the lovely weather ” with a garden party on May 20, 2020.

Boris Johnson apologised this week for the Downing Street lockdown garden party – and finally admitted that he was present at the event.

The Prime Minister told MPs that he “went outside for 25 mins” to thank staff but admitted “with hindsight I should have sent them back indoors”.

The Mirror has since exclusively revealed that Downing Street staff held ‘wine-time Fridays’ throughout the pandemic with Mr Johnson regularly witnessing the gatherings.

Sources said that the Prime Minister encouraged aides to “let off steam” despite indoor socialising being banned under lockdown rules.

Here we look at everything we now so far about the latest scandal that threatens to finally bring Johnson down.







The PM was said to have attended a “handful” of the gatherings (file photo)
(

Image:

POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

What were Wine Time Fridays?

Downing Street staff held ‘wine-time Fridays’ throughout the pandemic with Boris Johnson regularly witnessing the gatherings.

Sources told the Mirror that the Prime Minister encouraged aides to “let off steam” despite indoor socialising being banned under lockdown rules.

The regular event was so popular that staff even invested in a £142 drinks fridge to keep their bottles of white wine, Prosecco and beer cool.

Sources said the gatherings on occasion went on as late as midnight with up to two dozen aides drinking wine and beer and playing games like Pictionary.

They were particularly popular from autumn 2020 to the Spring of 2021 when staff were “fatigued” with the tough Covid restrictions, sources said.

However, their popularity waned as the country began opening up and staff no longer had to rely on them for social interaction.






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

When did they take place during the pandemic?

Sources claimed that aides took turns on Fridays to visit the local Tesco Metro in Westminster with a wheeled suitcase to fill up the 34-bottle capacity fridge.

An extraordinary picture has emerged of the chiller being delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020.

At the time rules banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless “reasonably necessary” for work purposes.

‘Wine-time Fridays’ were scheduled into the electronic calendars of around 50 No 10 staff between 4pm and 7pm every week.






The fridge has the capacity for 34 wine bottles

Leaving parties

Two leaving bashes – one for Mr Johnson’s top spin doctor James Slack and another for the PM’s photographer – took place at Downing Street on April 16.

It was just hours before the Queen sat grieving alone at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Downing Street’s humiliating apology to Buckingham Palace comes after two leaving dos the night before Prince Philip’s funeral last Spring.






The Queen on the day of Prince Philip’s funeral

Staff downed alcohol and revellers danced to music blaring from a laptop, with someone sent to a local shop to cram a suitcase with wine.

The partying, which started indoors, became so raucous in the garden that one guest had a go on – and broke – the PM’s son Wilf’s swing, according to the Telegraph.

The Government’s guidance at the time warned: “You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble.

“You can meet outdoors, including in gardens, in groups of six people or two households.”

It has also previously been reported that the PM gave a “shambolic” speech for departing communications director Lee Cain, with the pair posing with “Get Brexit Done” boxing gloves.

At the time, England was at the height of its second national lockdown with no indoor mixing between households allowed for social reasons.

Who was involved?

It was organised by the No 10 press office but periodically advisers from other parts of the building would join in.

Sources said one regular attendee when tough mixing rules were in place was Captain Steve Higham, then the PM’s defence adviser.

The Royal Navy officer now commands the new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales which is the UK’s largest warship.

The Ministry of Defence declined to comment.







A number 10 spokesperson said there is an investigation ongoing (file photo)
(

Image:

Getty Images)

The PM was said to have attended a “handful” of the gatherings at points when indoor socialising was banned under lockdown rules.

These include an event on November 13, 2020, the day Dominic Cummings walked out of No 10, when he stayed for a glass of wine and chatted to the team.

No 10 insiders claimed the PM often witnessed ‘wine-time Fridays’ on his way to the Downing Street flat.

One source said: “Boris used to stop by for a chat while they had a drink. It was on the way up 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 as he walked up.

“He would come in and say ‘Hello everyone had a hard week? Letting off some steam? Oh great’.

“The idea that he didn’t know there were drinks is total nonsense. If the PM tells you to ‘let off steam’, he’s basically saying this is fine.”

What is the Government saying?

Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace after it was revealed more parties were held in No10 the day before Prince Philip ’s funeral last Spring.

But that was before the Wine Time Fridays story broke and Mr Johnson is currently clinging to the forthcoming outcome of the investigation being carried out by Sue Gray into partygate, to get him out of his current mess.

A No 10 spokesperson previously said: “There is an ongoing investigation to establish the facts around the nature of gatherings, including attendance, setting and the purpose with reference to adherence to the guidance at the time. The findings will be made public in due course.”

Read More

Read More





READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more