DOWNING Street staff threw a booze-fuelled party while the Prime Minister was in hospital undergoing lifesaving Covid-treatment, a whistleblower claimed today.
The Number 10 insider said a culture of “invincibility” led to civil-servants repeatedly thinking they were above the rules.
The insider explained how staff held a party in the garden of Number 10 in April when Boris Johnson was still in hospital.
The source also told how Partying Downing Street staff were living with the belief that if they’d caught Covid once they had a natural immunity.
Moreover, the easy availability of tests for staff compared to the rest of the country meant some civil servants’ mindsets were more disposed towards bending the rules.
The staffer also told GB News today that Sue Gray – whose Partygate report criticised the Downing Street drinking culture – once sang karaoke at a boozy Whitehall bash.
She belted out the Grease classic You’re The One That I Want on the same karaoke machine kept in the Cabinet Office and used in the 18 June 2020 Downing Street party, detailed in Sue Gray’s own report.
Although the event was before the pandemic, the whistleblower said it showed a “prevailing culture” of partying while at work which then carried on through successive lockdowns.
At least two Number 10 staff are shocked not to have received a fine – but the PM was “taken aback” to be hit with one.
“I think one of the telling things from the [Sue Gray] report was that she didn’t have confidence that those parties covered in the report were an exhaustive list. She does say there could well have been more – and there were,” the insider said.
“For example when the PM was in hospital there was a party, a gathering, in the garden with alcohol and the PM wasn’t in residence.”
“I think he was in the clear at that point, but it was towards the end of the week, and he certainly hadn’t been discharged.”
The source added that parties were disproportionately on a Friday, when the Prime Minister was at Chequer, but that the PM contracting Covid actually marked something of a turning point in terms of the drinking culture at Number 10.
“I think lots of people caught covid at the same time, around the time the PM got it.”Insider on GB News today
“So people knew what their status was in relation to covid, principally that everyone had had it. Or seemingly they had caught it, or been in close proximity to it. So additionally, I think very shortly afterwards we were being tested every day.”
He added: “They converted two meeting rooms whereby everyone went up to test every morning. So people knew. And this was at a time when very few people could actually get tests.”
Asked by Tom Harwood if this led to the nerve centre of the government feeling a bit different from the rest of the country, the insider added: “Yes it did. And eventually we got antibody tests, to test whether we’d already had covid. And at that time the prevailing consensus was that if you had covid once, you couldn’t get it again, so it did give us a kind of air of invincibility you know, we thought we all had natural immunity.”
“It felt like it was kind of a bubble and [we] felt like…we’d always had drinks at work and that was an ingrained organisational culture. At some point someone should have said we’ve got to stop doing this given what’s happening in the rest of the country. But it was the norm, it was continuing in the pandemic so I can understand why, for some people, it felt normal.”
The Metropolitan Police announced three weeks ago that they were ending their Partygate probe having issued 83 fines. Those hit with fines included the PM, his wife Carrie and the Chancellor. But many inside Number 10 remain surprised to have escaped scot-free.
“There are people who are shocked to have got on,” the whistleblower said. “Then there are people who are shocked they haven’t got one. At least two that I know. It seems patchy, and ambiguous. I think he [the Prime Minister] was certainly taken aback to have got a fine.”
In her report published last month on Partygate, Sue Gray’s report highlighted excessive drinking saying staff were being sick and abusing cleaning and security staff.
But GB News said it had obtained a picture showing Gray herself once enjoying a boozy Whitehall bash in which she belted out You’re The One That I Want from the movie Grease.
The photo was taken before the pandemic and there is no suggestion of any lockdown-breaking behaviour on Ms Gray’s part.
Explaining why he felt it was important to make the picture public, the insider said: “I think it gives a sense of the prevailing culture of the place and you know, that was how it was pre pandemic and it continued into the pandemic. And it shouldn’t have continued into the pandemic but it was something that was there before and it didn’t necessarily arise from the pandemic.
“We didn’t suddenly think – everyone else is having a miserable time, we’re going to have a great time – that’s not how it worked.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman said this afternoon: “The picture predates any Covid restrictions.”