No10 staff held two boozy parties hours before Prince Philip's funeral

13 January 2022, 23:01 | Updated: 14 January 2022, 07:49

There have been fresh allegations of No10 parties at Downing Street the night before Prince Philip's funeral, which the Queen was forced to attend alone because of Covid.
There have been fresh allegations of No10 parties at Downing Street the night before Prince Philip's funeral, which the Queen was forced to attend alone because of Covid. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson faced renewed calls to quit after reports that two parties were held by No10 staff the night before the Queen mourned Prince Philip alone at his covid-secure funeral.

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The two parties were leaving dos - one of which was for James Slack, Boris Johnson's director of communications at the time who was leaving after four years to become deputy editor at The Sun.

Today Mr Slack said he wanted to "apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused" by a party held to mark his leaving Downing Street in April 2021, which he said "should not have happened at the time that it did".

The other was reportedly one of Mr Johnson's personal photographers.

No10 staff are accused of drinking and at points dancing until the early hours on April 16 - with the Queen, just hours later, attending a socially-distanced funeral for Philip.

The country was under strict 'Step Two' rules at the time, which meant mixing indoor was banned, and mourners were even told not to leave flowers for Prince Philip due to the Covid threat.

The Government's own guidance read: "You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble. You can meet outdoors, including in gardens, in groups of six people or two households."

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Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the poignant photo of the Queen showed a tragedy experienced by many other people during the pandemic.

"The Queen sitting alone, mourning the loss of her husband, was the defining image of lockdown," he said.

"Not because she is the Queen, but because she was just another person, mourning alone like too many others.

"Whilst she mourned, Number 10 partied. Johnson must go."

His comments were echoed by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, who wrote on Twitter: "The Queen sat alone in mourning like so many did at the time with personal trauma & sacrifice to keep to the rules in the national interest.

"I have no words for the culture & behaviours at number 10 and the buck stops with the PM."

Fran Hall, from Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said the latest allegations showed a "complete disdain for the general public" who shared "the same pain" as the Queen.

"If your neighbours had behaved like this, you'd have been disgusted," said Ms Hall.

"For the people running the country to do it and then lie about it, shows a complete disdain for the general public.

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"We shared the same pain of grieving in isolation as the Queen did.

"And she must be just as sickened as we are at hearing this.

"Sadly, instead of doing the decent thing and resigning, we can expect the Prime Minister to continue shamefully lying to our faces.

"The Conservative MPs that are keeping him in power disgrace their country."

'Sometimes you are just lost for words about how these things can happen'

The news came as Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, was the latest to publicly announce he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister on Thursday night.

He was the fifth MP to say he had written to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, calling for a vote on the PM's future as head of the party.

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The Telegraph reported that as many as 30 letters have been submitted so far, with a total of 54 needed to trigger a vote.

A blow was also landed on the PM from the Sutton Coldfield Conservatives, an association in a safe Tory seat, which reportedly passed a motion calling for Mr Johnson to stand down.

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People at one event in April 2021 danced to music and ran to Co-op on the Strand "with a suitcase" to get wine, eyewitnesses have claimed.

The report by The Telegraph claims advisers and civil servants gathered after work on April 16 for two separate events to mark the departure of the photographer and Mr Slack.

A No10 spokesman said the Prime Minister was not in Downing Street and was away at Chequers that weekend.

But a spokesperson acknowledged Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech on the day of Mr Slack's party, saying: "On this individual’s last day he gave a farewell speech to thank each team for the work they had done to support him, both those who had to be in the office for work and on a screen for those working from home."

The spokesperson declined to comment on the photographer’s alleged leaving do.

Read more: Boris Johnson 'lied to the public and Parliament' over No 10 parties, Ed Davey says

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Eye-witnesses alleged attendees drunk excessive alcohol and danced along to music, with the gatherings stretching late into the night, with one past midnight, according to a source.

Some "worried there was too much wine spilling on the basement carpet", while one person "broke a child’s swing belonging to the prime minister’s son Wilf".

One party was alleged to have taken place in the basement, for the PM's personal photographer, and the other eventually migrated to the Downing Street garden. The two groups - of around 30 in total - are then said to have joined around midnight.

The next day, the Queen would say farewell to her husband of 73 years in a private chapel in Windsor Castle.

Downing St party investigator Sue Gray has been put in 'a difficult position'

With social distancing rules in place, the Queen sat alone - wearing a black face mask.

The Telegraph reports that the claims were put to Downing Street on Thursday, and no denial has been issued.

Mr Slack declined to comment when approached by The Telegraph. The photographer was approached via Number 10 but did not comment.

The latest allegation is the first to have reportedly taken place in 2021, with all previous 'partygate' claims dating back to 2020.

The fresh accusation comes just a day on from Boris Johnson's humiliating apology to MPs after he admitted attending a 'Bring Your Own Booze' garden party at Downing Street in May 2020.

A leaked email published by ITV, showed a senior aide inviting more than 100 Downing Street employees to "make the most of the lovely weather" in the garden of No 10.

The allegations are being investigated by Sue Gray - one of the UK's top civil servants.

Ms Gray, who is in her 60s, is understood to have not been present at any of the parties under investigation.

Her findings could be revealed as early as next week.