One Downing Street official said they felt they had Boris Johnson’s permission as he was not telling them to break up the scenes when returning to his flat.
No10 staff have told of their shock, watching Boris Johnson stand at the Commons dispatch box and deny lockdown-busting parties had taken place across Downing Street.
The Prime Minister is under fresh scrutiny over his Partygate denials after bombshell photos dropped by ITV captures him raising a glass of fizz alongside Downing Street staff.
Scotland Yard is also facing calls to explain why the PM was not fined for Lee Cain’s leaving do, which photos showed him standing beside a table of food and wine bottles.
Three Downing Street staff who attended lockdown-busting parties have spoken to BBC Panorama, revealing shocking details of what went on as the rest of the public followed the Prime Minister’s Covid rules.
Their claims follow the Mirror’s reports in January. Sources told this paper the Prime Minister encouraged aides to “let off steam” despite indoor socializing being banned under lockdown rules on ‘wine-time Fridays’.
PRU/AFP via Getty Images)
1 No10 was ‘a mess’ the morning after parties
One former official recalled coming to work the morning after a party, to find it “a mess.”
The anonymous insider said “there were bottles, empties, rubbish – in the bin, but overflowing – or indeed sometimes left on the table”.
Sources previously told the Mirror ‘wine-time Fridays’ were scheduled into the electronic calendars of around 50 No 10 staff between 4pm and 7pm every week.
‘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 Downing Street tradition used to help staff wind down at the end of a busy week, but the event continued well after lockdown restrictions were enforced.
2 Some No10 staff ‘sat on each other’s laps’ at Lee Cain’s leaving do
Sources previously told the Mirror lockdown-busting gatherings sometimes went on as late as midnight with up to two dozen aides drinking wine and beer and playing games like Pictionary.
Speaking specifically about the leaving do the PM held for his outgoing comms chief Lee Cain, a No10 insider said there were about “30 people, if not more, in a room.”
The insider added: “Everyone was stood shoulder to shoulder, some people on each other’s laps… one or two people.”
3 Staff ‘drank the night away and stayed overnight’ on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral
Government guidance at the time warned: “You must not socialize indoors except with your household or support bubble.
“You can meet outdoors, including in gardens, in groups of six people or two households.
But hours before the Queen sat alone to mourn her husband, No10 staff “sat around the tables drinking.”
An insider told the BBC “People stayed the night there”, before noting they now accept what went on was “unforgivable”.
4 Downing Street guard ‘mocked’ for trying to stop parties
A Downing Street security guard was mocked when they tried to stop a full-blown party.
An insider told the broadcaster: “I remember when a custodian tried to stop it all and he was just shaking his head in this party, being like, ‘This shouldn’t be happening’.”
The insider claimed the custodian had become quite worked up, while “shaking his head” as he tried to stop it all.
Another described working in Downing Street as living in “our own bubble” where the rules didn’t really apply.
5 Boris Johnson was ‘grabbing a glass for himself’
Sources told the Mirror back in January the Prime Minister encouraged aides to “let off steam” despite indoor socializing being banned under lockdown rules on ‘wine-time Fridays’.
One source told The Mirror: “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’.”
Speaking to the BBC, an insider backed up these claims of Mr Johnson encouraging the culture.
“I have [Mr Johnson] wasn’t saying, ‘Can everyone break up and go home? Can everyone socially distance? Can everyone put masks on?’
“No, he wasn’t telling anybody that. He was grabbing a glass for himself.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.