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Sue Gray report condemns ‘party’ failings at heart of Boris Johnson’s government

Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 24, 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 24, 2022.

An official inquiry into the partygate scandal has said the “senior leadership” in Boris Johnson’s Government must “bear responsibility” for the culture which led to coronavirus lockdown rules being broken.

The Prime Minister faced fresh demands to resign after Sue Gray’s report said the public would be “dismayed” by a series of breaches of coronavirus rules in No 10 and Westminster.

“The events that I investigated were attended by leaders in government. Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen,” she said.

The Metropolitan Police has issued 126 fines for rule breaches in No 10 and Whitehall, with the Prime Minister receiving a single fixed-penalty notice for his birthday party.

Downing Street partygate
Sue Gray’s long-awaited report on partygate has been released (Gov.UK/PA)

But senior civil servant Ms Gray condemned the wider culture that had been allowed to develop under Mr Johnson’s leadership.

She said some of the more junior officials who attended parties “believed that their involvement in some of these events was permitted given the attendance of senior leaders”.

“The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture,” Ms Gray said.

She also said there were “multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff” during the events, which was “unacceptable”.

“Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of Government,” she said.

“The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner described the contents of the report as “indefensible”, calling Mr Johnson’s Downing Street “rotten from the very top”.

“He set the culture. It happened on his watch. It’s on him,” she added.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford branded the report “damning” and called the Prime Minister to resign for “orchestrating” the scenes in Downing Street.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “Any other PM would be forced to resign by a report as damaging as this, yet still Conservative MPs defend Johnson and allow him to cling on.”

Mr Johnson will apologise to MPs in a Commons statement later.

Downing Street partygate
An image from the Sue Gray report showing the Prime Minister apparently raising a can of beer on his birthday (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office/PA)

The inquiry’s findings include:

– Staff carrying on drinking in No 10 until the early hours of the morning on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, with the last departure recorded at 4.20am.

– Mr Johnson joined five advisers in a “food and alcohol” event in his Downing Street flat on the evening of the announcement of Dominic Cummings’ departure as chief adviser.

– Former proprietary and ethics chief Helen MacNamara provided a karaoke machine for a Cabinet Office gathering where one individual was sick and there was a “minor altercation” between two others.

– Then-senior adviser to the Prime Minister Martin Reynolds boasted “we seem to have got away with” the bring-your-own-booze garden party in a WhatsApp message to a special adviser.

– Multiple examples of “unacceptable” treatment of security and cleaning staff, with individuals experiencing “a lack of respect and poor treatment”.

– Mr Johnson brought the cheese and wine to the garden gathering on May 15 2020 from his own flat.

The report issued by Ms Gray includes a series of photos, with Mr Johnson pictured at the surprise birthday party in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020 for which he received a fine.

He is seen with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with sandwiches, juices and what appears to be Estrella lager – in one picture Mr Johnson is seen raising a can of the beer aloft.

Other photos include the previously-seen images of Mr Johnson raising a glass of wine at a leaving do for his former spin doctor Lee Cain on November 13, 2020.

The Prime Minister will make a Commons statement later on Wednesday, then hold a press conference to apologise directly to the public.

He will also address a meeting of Tory MPs who ultimately hold his political future in their hands.

In his Commons appearance, Mr Johnson is expected to say: “I commissioned this report to set the record straight and allow us all to move on.

“I accept full responsibility for my failings. I am humbled by the whole experience.”

He will say he has learned the lessons from the situation.

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