Employees of the Downing Street government complex held two more parties, washed down with alcohol, on April 16, when Britain was still immersed in severe social restrictions due to the pandemic, and the country was officially in mourning over the death of Elizabeth II. her husband, Prince Philip of Edinburgh, six days earlier. News has been notified exclusively Daily Telegraph, a newspaper that can be considered the holy book of conservatives, especially the hardline ones. Defender of Brexit, and promoter of Boris Johnson’s political career—his stint as correspondent for the newspaper in Brussels that catapulted him to fame—the extreme violent tone he uses to reveal the existence of these two new outlawed parties provides the idea of cornering the prime minister.
On this occasion, the paper said, Johnson was not in the park with the other guests. He had gone to the official resting place, at Checkers. But it’s again under his jurisdiction and mandate that Downing Street staff violate rules that are strictly enforced across the country. Indoor gatherings of people from different homes are still prohibited. Britons have been asked not to go to Buckingham or Windsor to leave flowers to avoid crowds in violation of social distancing rules.
The way the newspaper recounted what happened gives an illustration of the intensity of the anger unleashed, in the press and among conservative deputies, against Johnson: “In a private chapel at Windsor Castle, the Prince’s coffin lay alone for the night. The next day the queen, with her face covered in a black mask, bidding farewell to her husband of 73 years. Due to social distancing measures, she sat alone. The atmosphere on Downing Street that afternoon was very different. Counselors and officials met, on two separate occasions, to celebrate the farewell of two colleagues, said the newspaper’s political correspondent, Tony Diver.
One of those who left was James Slack, until then the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications. A legacy from the era of her predecessor, Theresa May. The other is one of Johnson’s official photographers. Alcohol pours, just like they tell Telegraph several witnesses. There was laughter and dancing. The revelry lasted until dawn. Some start in the office and end in the park. Others, in the basement of Downing Street, where even a laptop at full volume provides music. One person even went to the nearest supermarket with an empty bag that he filled with bottles of wine. In the end, nearly 30 people who joined the two parties ended up together in the park.
Johnson’s deputy permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office, Sue Gray, must complete within days her internal investigation into illicit parties held at government facilities, including those that Johnson has acknowledged. Two more parties are now added to their investigation. And the prime minister’s nightmare may not end here. In a country accustomed to pouring alcohol at the end of each workday, Downing Street’s sprawling parkland is the perfect excuse to turn a long work meeting into a party, with a clear conscience. This is how many participants saw it at that time, without understanding that they greatly changed the highly demanded norms of the whole country. One rule for them, another for the other. Any new tidbits of outrage on Downing Street during his confinement sink Johnson’s popularity further to the ground and bring a possible revolt among Conservative lawmakers closer to ending his leadership and career as Prime Minister.
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