When Boris Johnson became mayor of London in 2008 he claimed he found a “secret cellar” of over 100 bottles of fine wine left behind by his predecessor Ken Livingstone in City Hall.
Now, after the latest lurid allegations of late-night parties on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year, it appears it’s Mr Johnson who has allowed a drinking culture to develop inside 10 Downing Street.
The evidence is stacking up:
• The photo of the PM, wife Carrie, his aide-turned-sworn enemy Dominic Cummings and civil servant Martin Reynolds sitting at a table enjoying wine and cheese on 15 May 2020
• Then the email from Mr Reynolds – now dubbed “Party Marty” – inviting staff to a “bring your own booze” to “socially distanced drinks” in the garden, five days later
But the latest reports, in The Daily Telegraph, are likely to appal and shock the public and politicians much more, because of the crass and insensitive timing of this alleged late night revelling.
Let’s not be prudish. The earlier disclosures were amusing, making the prime minister and his inner circle a laughing stock. The latest reports are more serious.
Opposition MPs, led by the Lib Dems’ Sir Ed Davey and Labour’s Angela Rayner, are already suggesting that the behaviour of those at the heart of government made them guilty of an insult to the Queen in her most painful moment of grief.
Renewed calls for PM to resign after reports Number 10 staff partied on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral
The latest allegations
This is what’s alleged: Two separate parties, at which it’s claimed “excessive booze” was drunk, are said to have taken place on 16 April 2021, the night before Philip’s socially distanced funeral at Windsor Castle.
They were leaving parties, it’s reported, for former director of communications James Slack and for one of the PM’s personal photographers. (Yes, really. Personal photographers!)
Among a series of colourful allegations about the events reported in the Telegraph, it’s claimed someone was sent to the Co-op on the Strand with a suitcase to be filled with bottles of wine.
A ‘little wheelie one’ for booze runs
Oh? So did they just happen to have a suitcase handy in No. 10 just in case someone felt like heading off to the Co-op and then having a boozy party?
Well, yes, apparently, it seems they did.
One Downing Street insider revealed to Sky News: “It’s a press office suitcase which has been around for years… literally for booze runs. A little wheelie one!”
That’s confirmed by former Nick Clegg aide Sean Kemp, who tweeted: “The suitcase used to bring the booze in to No. 10 for Friday evening drinks has been around for years. Nice to see it finally having a moment of fame.”
The suitcase used to bring the booze into Number 10 for Friday evening drinks has been around for years. Nice to see it finally having a moment of fame
— Sean Kemp (@Sean_Kemp) January 13, 2022
And David Clark, an aide to Robin Cook when he was foreign secretary, tweeted: “I’m very proud that thanks to Brexit and the end of metric tyranny we are finally able to serve wine by the suitcase once again.
“These are the ancient liberties Nelson and Wellington sought to defend.”
It’s also claimed that after midnight, as the two groups merged, one Downing Street figure had a go on the child’s swing in the garden belonging to Wilfred, the PM’s son, and broke it. Poor Wilfred! Let’s hope it was quickly repaired.
Culture of drinking and impromptu socialising
After these latest allegations, the prime minister’s reputation will take much longer to repair than a broken swing, however.
According to The Guardian, the inquiry into lockdown parties in Downing Street being carried out by Whitehall enforcer Sue Gray is expected to lay bare a “farcical” culture of drinking and impromptu socialising, with little oversight from senior officials.
Well, after all the disclosures of the last few weeks – including the 20 May 2020 gathering which the PM ludicrously described as a “work event” – it didn’t need a Whitehall inquiry by a top civil servant to work that one out.
Most people had already come to the obvious conclusion that Downing Street is or was home to a drinking culture unheard of in the vast majority of other workplaces across the land.
One final thought, however. Perhaps Sue Gray should also be tasked to find out what happened to the 100 or so bottles of fine wine Mr Johnson claims to have discovered in City Hall.