On the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral when the nation was in mourning and Covid rules were strictly in force, two drinks parties were held on the same night in Downing Street.
This was revealed on Friday by — of all papers — The Daily Telegraph, which appears increasingly to be distancing itself from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace for the two parties in No 10 the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
Boris’s spokesman said it was “deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning”.
The Telegraph also listed the Tory MPs who want the Prime Minister to resign and carried an article by one of them, Andrew Bridgen, who backed Boris’s bid to be leader in 2019 but now warned of “a moral vacuum at the heart of our Government” in the wake of the “partygate” revelations.
Boris has apologised for attending a drinks party in the garden of 10, Downing Street, on May 20, 2020. He, however, was at neither of the parties held on the evening of Friday, April 16, 2021, according to Downing Street sources.
To highlight the contrasting moods at Downing Street and the Prince Philip’s funeral, the Daily Telegraph and other papers have used a photograph of a masked Queen sitting on her own in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle not far from her husband’s coffin.
To whip up feeling against Boris, the Daily Telegraph also disclosed what happened when the Downing Street parties ran out of alcohol: “Someone was sent to the Co-op on the Strand, a busy street nearby, with a suitcase which was then filled with bottles of wine and brought back to Downing Street, according to one person at the gathering that night.”
The paper said in its report: “Downing Street staff drank alcohol into the early hours at two leaving events the night before Prince Philip’s socially distanced funeral.”
The report continued: “Advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events to mark the departure of two colleagues. “One was James Slack, Mr Johnson’s director of communications. He had served two Tory Prime Ministers, a rare carry-over from the Theresa May days, but was leaving after four years to become deputy editor at The Sun newspaper. The other was one of Mr Johnson’s personal photographers.
“Eye-witnesses have talked to The Telegraph about what happened. It is alleged that excessive alcohol was drunk, while at points, guests danced. The gatherings stretched late into the night — well beyond midnight, according to one source.”
The paper added: “Boris Johnson was not in Downing Street that day, according to a No 10 spokesman. He had departed for Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country house, on Thursday evening and stayed there through to Saturday.
“According to those in Downing Street that evening, the two gatherings were firstly held in different parts of the complex, before joining together as the night wore on. “In the garden, the two groups marking the departure of Mr Slack and the photographer are said to have merged. The drinking and chatting allegedly carried on into the early hours of the morning.”
One Downing Street figure had a go on a child’s swing belonging to Wilf Johnson, the Prime Minister’s son, according to one eyewitness, and broke it.”
Boris’s future is said to depend on the results of an inquiry into the Downing Street parties being conducted by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant who is the second permanent secretary in the cabinet office.
According to The Times on Friday, the prime minister “will survive Gray’s report with a rap on the knuckles”.
“An inquiry into allegations of lockdown parties in Downing Street is expected to conclude that there is no evidence of criminality but could censure Boris Johnson for a lack of judgment,” it said.
“The Times has been told that Sue Gray, a civil servant overseeing the inquiry, has not found sufficient evidence of criminality to refer the matter to the police,” it went on.
It added: “Scotland Yard said yesterday that unless she did so it would not conduct an investigation itself. Gray is also expected to avoid making a judgment over whether Johnson breached the ministerial code by attending a No 10 party on May 20, 2020, because it does not lie within her remit. Only the prime minister has the power to order an investigation into breaches of the ministerial code.”