Boris Johnson is under intensifying pressure after reports Downing Street staff held two parties the night before the Queen was pictured sitting alone to mourn the death of her husband, Prince Philip.
The Daily Telegraph reported that two leaving parties were held in Downing Street for staff on April 16 last year. Downing Street has not denied either event took place.
The next morning the Queen sat alone during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, which was attended by just 30 family members in order to adhere to coronavirus restrictions.
Members of the congregation wore masks and sat socially distanced. The public were also encouraged not to pay their respects in person but to follow coverage of the funeral on television or radio.
Government guidance at the time stated: “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.”
The newspaper quotes eyewitnesses who said about 30 people took part in two Downing Street leaving parties which collided into one, with staff dancing to music into the early hours of the morning in a basement under Number 10.
One witness claims a reveller was sent to the Co-op supermarket on the Strand with a suitcase to be filled with bottles of wine and returned to Downing Street.
One party was held for a photographer and the other for the prime minister’s former director of communications, James Slack. The newspaper said the prime minister was not present in Number 10 on the day the parties are alleged to have taken place.
A Number 10 spokesperson said: “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.”
Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, said 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.”
The prime minister has previously faced questions over allegations of other parties held at various times when pandemic restrictions were in force.
The latest revelation has reignited scrutiny of the party culture in Downing Street through the Covid-19 pandemic and intensified questions over Johnson’s leadership.
Earlier this week Johnson was forced to apologise after admitting he attended a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, when such gatherings were banned.
The admission has led to calls for him to resign from the leader of the Scottish Tories and a handful of MPs in his own party.
Andrew Bridgen became the latest MP on Thursday to call for Johnson’s resignation. He said he had submitted a letter to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 committee of backbench Tories, demanding a vote of no confidence in Johnson. Fifty-four such letters would trigger a vote.
Cabinet minister have called for patience while Sue Gray, a senior civil servant investigating a series of gatherings across Whitehall that allegedly broke coronavirus restrictions, completes her report.
“The Queen sitting alone, mourning the loss of her husband, was the defining image of lockdown,” Sir Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat leader, said on Twitter. “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.”