Downing Street’s ‘wine-time Fridays’ held ‘every week during Covid pandemic’

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“Wine-time Fridays” were reportedly held every week at Number 10 Downing Street as staff were encouraged to “let off steam”.

According to The Mirror sources said that Boris Johnson would on occasions make an appearance and share a glass of wine despite indoor socialising being banned under lockdown rules at the time.

Staff even decided to invest in a £142 drinks fridge to keep alcohol cold after it was bought at a local supermarket and wheeled back to Number 10 in a suitcase.

READ MORE:Former Covid taskforce boss admits holding leaving drinks when indoor meet-ups were banned

Photos of the fridge being delivered have emerged, taken on December 11, 2020 when rules in place prevented two or more people from different households meeting indoors, unless “reasonably necessary” for work purposes.



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

Only on Friday (January 14) morning did The Telegraph break the news that two leaving parties took place at Downing Street on April 16, 2021, the night before the Queen said her final farewells to her husband, Prince Phillip, at his funeral in Windsor.

The parties were held for the PM’s photographer and Mr Johnson’s top spin doctor James Slack who today apologised.

Downing Street also forwarded its apologies to Buckingham Palace and the Queen.



The Co-Op store on The Strand which was allegedly visited by a person with a suitcase to purchase wine for a party being held in Downing Street the day before the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral in April 2021
The Co-Op store on The Strand which was allegedly visited by a person with a suitcase to purchase wine for a party being held in Downing Street the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April 2021

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

They are a long-standing Downing Street tradition, including under previous administrations, to help staff wind down at the end of a busy week.

But the event continued many Fridays even after restrictions were introduced to help curb the Covid surge.

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



The £142 fridge that can hold 34 wine bottles
The £142 fridge that can hold 34 wine bottles

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.

Whitehall enforcer Sue Gray is investigating rules-busting parties.

It has already been suggested that she plans to criticise the “drinking culture” across Downing Street and other Government departments.



Sue Gray, second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, who is leading an investigation into lockdown-breaking parties across Whitehall.
Sue Gray, second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, who is leading an investigation into lockdown-breaking parties across Whitehall.

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.

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.



Boris Johnson sips a pint of beer as he campaigns ahead of the 2019 general election
Boris Johnson sips a pint of beer as he campaigns ahead of the 2019 general election

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

But in an explosive revelation, 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

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“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.”

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.”

Number 10 did however admit on Friday that Boris Johnson ‘commuted’ between Downing Street and Chequers in March 2020 following a request over a year long from Tortoise Media.

The PM went between London and Chequers from March 16 and March 27 2020, despite telling telling the nation on March 23 that they should not partake in non-essential travel.

A No 10 spokesman said: “This claim that the Prime Minister did not comply with lockdown regulations and guidance is entirely inaccurate”.

“At that time, Mrs Johnson was heavily pregnant and had been placed in a vulnerable category and advised to minimise social contact.

“In line with clinical guidance and to minimise the risk to her they were based at Chequers during this period, with the Prime Minister commuting to Downing Street to work.”

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