‘Wine time Fridays’ heap pressure on UK PM Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has seen weekly drinking sessions by his staff during the coronavirus pandemic, as they install a specially purchased wine fridge, according to a report on Saturday.

The report in the Daily Mirror caps a hot week of revelations about lockdown breaches in Downing Street that on Friday forced Johnson’s office to apologize to Queen Elizabeth II.

The drip feeding threatens to overshadow plans reported by Johnson to relaunch his beleaguered premiership, starting with the easing of ongoing pandemic restrictions later in the month.

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Whether Johnson and his staff intentionally broke the law during previous lockdowns is a central question being addressed in an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who could file a report next week.

The Daily Mirror published a photo of a wine cooler being delivered to a back door in Downing Street in December 2020, and said employees would regularly stock it with large amounts of alcohol.

“Wine Fridays” on the electronic calendars of about 50 employees have been marked at No. 10, in apparent violation of the ban on indoor social distancing during the pandemic, it reported.

Quoting a source, the newspaper said: “The idea that he didn’t know there were drinks is complete nonsense.

“If the prime minister tells you to ‘de-stress,’ he says it’s a good thing.”

In response, a Downing Street spokesperson said the government was awaiting Gray’s investigation to “confirm the facts about the nature of gatherings” during the pandemic.

Two ceremonies took place in April 2021 as the Queen was preparing to bury Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years. Downing Street has sent its apologies to Buckingham Palace, calling them “extremely unfortunate”.

At least five Conservative MPs said they have submitted letters calling for a vote of no-confidence in Johnson, but that he plans to launch a “big dog rescue” to save his leadership, according to reports.

Johnson’s allies have touted his achievements in office, including handing Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, and The Independent said he would oversee the liquidation of senior staff.

But the opposition Labor Party, which has surged in opinion polls since “party gateway” findings began to surface last month, said Johnson was unfit for the job.

Labor leader Keir Starmer was expected to say in a speech later on Saturday: “We are witnessing a shattered spectacle of a prime minister mired in deceit and deceit, unable to lead.”

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