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Sue Gray: Alcohol-fuelled Downing Street lockdown parties show ‘serious failure’ of leadership

Sue Gray slammed “serious failures” in leadership over the Westminster parties scandal in her long-awaited report which confirms police are probing Boris Johnson’s lockdown birthday.

The UK Government civil servant revealed 12 parties held while the nation was under Covid restrictions are being investigated by Met officers.

Ms Gray claimed Boris Johnson and No10 staff failed to meet the “high standards” expected of the public while Covid restrictions were in place.

She added that “too little thought” was given to sacrifices being endured by people across the country who had been told to stay at home due to the virus.

Other major events being probed by Met officers include the Downing Street garden bash attended by the prime minister in May 2020 and a party in his No10 flat on the day Dominic Cummings quit as aide to the PM.

PM says ‘sorry’

Boris Johnson said “sorry” for the repeated Covid rule breaches during lockdown but refused to resign as he made a statement in the House of Commons.

He said: “I am sorry for the things that we simply didn’t get right, and for the way this matter has been handled. We must look at ourselves in the mirror and we must learn.

“I, of course, accept Sue Gray’s general findings in full, and above all her recommendation that we must learn from these events and act now.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer.

But Labour leader Keir Starmer urged Mr Johnson’s Tory backbenchers to remove him from office and said he was “totally unworthy” of his position.

‘Mark of shame’

He said: “The prime minister repeatedly assured the House that the guidance was followed and the rules were followed.

“But we now know that 12 cases have reached the threshold for criminal investigation. There can be no doubt that the prime minister is now subject to criminal investigation.

“Even now he is hiding behind a police investigation into criminality. He gleefully treats what should be a mark of shame as a welcome shield.”

Ian Blackford clashed with the PM.

Meanwhile, SNP Westminster chief Ian Blackford was removed from the House of Commons after he refused to withdraw his accusation that the Tory leader had deliberately misled parliament.

The prime minister also faced a major blow from within his own party as veteran ex-minister Andrew Mitchell said he no longer has his support.

‘Serious failure’

Ms Gray confirmed she had been forced to limit the scope of her initial report while police carry out their investigations.

In the report, she wrote that she was “extremely limited” in what could be said about parties being probed.

The Cabinet Office’s second permanent secretary said she was allowed to go into more detail on the four events not under investigation, but opted not to.

However, Ms Gray added that she has stored away evidence excluded from her initial report and will not be showing it to government officials.

The government worker also failed to mention Boris Johnson by name in her report despite her condemnation of leadership errors.

At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country.

– Sue Gray

But she added that the serious issues mentioned in her inquiry should be “addressed immediately” before the Met probe concludes.

The civil servant wrote: “At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.

“At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public.”

‘Completely untenable’

Before his fiery exchange with Mr Johnson in parliament, Ian Blackford said Mr Johnson’s position was “completely untenable” as he demanded his resignation.

He said: “The prime minister is guilty of breaking lockdown rules and misleading parliament. He must resign – or be removed from office.

“The highly critical Sue Gray report is utterly damning. It has provided the final nail in the coffin against Boris Johnson’s false claims that he would be exonerated.

“Instead, it has provided conclusive evidence that rule-breaking events did happen and should never have taken place.

“It is clear the prime minister knew about events, attended them – and was lying to Parliament when he claimed otherwise.”

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