Staff at the British Prime Minister’s official residence have held ‘Wine Hour Fridays’ during the coronavirus lockdowns, according to new revelations.
Calls are mounting for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to step down after new revelations emerged about regular Downing Street parties that broke COVID-19 lockdown rules, with Labor leader Keir Starmer claiming that Johnson was “unable to lead”.
According to a new report from the Daily Mirror newspaper, the British Prime Minister has attended weekly ‘Wine Friday’ drinking sessions by his staff throughout the coronavirus pandemic, for which they have installed a fridge specially purchased wine.
The British newspaper’s report sums up a scorching week of revelations about lockdown breaches in Downing Street that saw Johnson’s office forced to apologize to Queen Elizabeth II on Friday.
On Wednesday, Johnson apologized to parliament for attending what he called a “work event”, at a time when social mixing was banned.
The drip feed threatens to overshadow Johnson’s announced plans to revive his beleaguered premiership, starting with an easing of ongoing pandemic restrictions later in the month.
Whether Johnson and his staff knowingly broke the law during previous shutdowns is the central question being addressed in an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray, which could report next week.
Gray was reportedly “completely blindsided” by the latest revelations, the Times newspaper reported.
The Daily Mirror published a photograph of the wine fridge delivered to a backdoor in Downing Street in December 2020, and said staff would regularly store it with suitcases full of alcohol.
“Wine Fridays” were scheduled in the electronic calendars of around 50 Number 10 employees, in apparent violation of a ban on socializing indoors during the pandemic, he reported.
Johnson would often drop by to chat at the end of the workday, the newspaper said, citing a source as saying, “The idea that he didn’t know there were drinks was complete nonsense.
“If the prime minister tells you to ‘vent’ he’s basically saying that’s fine,” the source reportedly added.
Witnesses told the Telegraph newspaper that alcohol was consumed and guests danced to music, with one person sent to a local shop with a suitcase to buy wine.
In response, a Downing Street spokeswoman said the government was awaiting Gray’s inquiry “to establish the facts around the nature of the gatherings” during the pandemic. “The findings will be made public in due course,” she added.
We hired 100 Boris Johnsons and threw a party outside Downing Street…
The main channel is BACK early next week. pic.twitter.com/Pc9iNBrBGk
-Jaak (@Jaack) January 14, 2022
Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from Downing Street, said many citizens ridiculed the Prime Minister for the excuses given for throwing the parties.
“There is furor coming from the general public directed at the Conservative Party,” he said.
“We are hearing that more and more loyal Tory members have been sending angry emails to MPs, with some even canceling their party memberships,” Baba said.
“An opinion poll released on Friday puts the main opposition Labor Party at 42%, 10 points ahead of the Conservative Party.”
Demonstration in Downing Street
On Friday, people wearing Johnson masks danced in Downing Street, calling on the Prime Minister to step down.
Two parties took place in April 2021 as the Queen prepared to bury Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years. Downing Street has sent its apology to Buckingham Palace, calling it “deeply regrettable”.
At least five Conservative Party MPs say they have tabled letters asking for a vote of no confidence in Johnson, but he plans to launch ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ to save his leadership, according to reports.
Johnson’s allies have touted his achievements in office, including his delivery of Britain’s Brexit withdrawal from the European Union. The Independent newspaper said it would oversee an elimination of top employees.
But the opposition Labor party, which has surged in the polls since the ‘partygate’ revelations began to emerge last month, said Johnson was unfit for the job.
Labor leader Keir Starmer said the country was watching the broken spectacle of a prime minister mired in deceit and deceit, adding that Johnson was “unable to lead”.