Andrew Castle 7am - 10am
When were they not partying? No10 accused of holding 'wine-time Fridays' throughout Covid
14 January 2022, 21:53 | Updated: 15 January 2022, 00:32
Boris Johnson has been accused of encouraging his No10 aides to "let off steam" at weekly "wine-time Fridays" throughout the coronavirus pandemic, as it was reported the prime minister is looking to reboot his leadership after a bruising week.
Listen to this article
In fresh allegations in the "partygate" scandal engulfing the prime minister, it is alleged that a weekly "wine-time Fridays" event took place.
The event was allegedly scheduled into the electronic calendars of around 50 staff in No10 between 4pm and 7pm when coronavirus regulations were in force in the UK.
Downing Street has not denied the claims, but pointed to the ongoing investigation by Sue Gray into multiple allegations of Covid breaches at No10.
The regular event was allegedly so popular staff even bought a £142 drinks fridge to keep their bottles of wine, Prosecco and beer cool.
Sources also said the prime minister encouraged aides to “let off steam” despite indoor socialising being banned under lockdown rules.
They told The Mirror that aides took turns on Fridays to visit the local Tesco Metro, in Westminster, with a suitcase to fill up the 34-bottle capacity fridge - meaning claims they stocked up on booze ahead of a party on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral were not a one-off.
At the time of the alleged "wine-time Fridays", rules banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless “reasonably necessary” for work purposes.
A picture has even surfaced online of the fridge being delivered through the back door of No10 on December 11, 2020.
The fresh allegation comes just hours after Boris Johnson issued an apology to Buckingham Palace over the alleged lockdown-breaching party at No10 the night before the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral.
The Prime Minister's deputy spokesman said it was a "deeply regrettable" decision.
"It's deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning, and No10 has apologised to the Palace," he said.
"You've heard from the Prime Minister this week, he's recognised No10 should be held to the highest standards and take responsibility for the things we did not get right.
"We have apologised to the Palace."
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the announcement.
The Queen was forced to go alone to Prince Philip's funeral due to Covid restrictions hours after No10 staff allegedly enjoyed a party.
Two leaving dos are said to have taken place, one for Boris Johnson's previous director of communications, James Slack, and another for one of his personal photographers.
Mr Slack has since apologised for holding the party, saying it "should not have happened at the time that it did".
Mr Johnson admitted that he attended a different party, which took place in May 2020.
However, he insisted the "bring your own booze" do at Downing Street was instead a "work event", which he attended for 25 minutes.
His admission saw an uproar from Brits, who had been unable to meet loved ones due to Covid restrictions in place at the time.
A ComRes poll, released on Friday, showed Labour has opened up a 10-point lead over the Conservatives.
It puts Labour on 42 points, up by five, with the Toris on 32, down by one.
Of those polled, 70% said Boris Johnson should resign as prime minister.
Mr Johnson is reportedly drawing up a list of officials to offer resignations over the "partygate" affair in a bid to salvage his premiership, with chief-of-staff Dan Rosenfield and private secretary Martin Reynolds both featuring, The Independent reported.
Dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog” by the PM himself, it also includes a plan to highlight Mr Johnson’s achievements in Government after the publication of Ms Gray’s report, expected next week.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said people should "move on" from the scandal, following the Prime Minister's apology in the Commons on Wednesday.
Ms Truss said: "He has apologised, I think we now need to move on and talk about how we are going to sort out issues.
"I've spent the last 24 hours with the EU, talking about sorting out the situation for the people of Northern Ireland.
"And we now need to get on with that and, of course, wait for the results of the Sue Gray inquiry."
In response to the 'wine-time Friday allegations', a No 10 spokesperson 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.”