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Sue Gray’s ‘Partygate’ report blames culture at the top of Boris Johnson’s government for lockdown breaches

  • Johnson says he is ‘humbled’ by report but refuses to resign
  • Mistreatment of security and cleaning staff found by investigation
  • One person got sick and there was a fight at one Downing Street event
  • Guests ushered out back door
  • Karaoke machine brought to one booze fuelled party

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson raises a glass in 10 Downing Street during a gathering on the departure of a special adviser. Picture: Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson raises a glass in 10 Downing Street during a gathering on the departure of a special adviser. Picture: Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak are seen in cabinet room in 10 Downing Street during Johnson's birthday in 2020. Picture: Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak are seen in cabinet room in 10 Downing Street during Johnson's birthday in 2020. Picture: Reuters

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

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 report by Sue Gray 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.

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 Indo Daily: Partygate fines: Is it time for Boris Johnson to resign?

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"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."

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.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak are seen in cabinet room in 10 Downing Street during Johnson's birthday in 2020. Picture: Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak are seen in cabinet room in 10 Downing Street during Johnson's birthday in 2020. Picture: Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak are seen in cabinet room in 10 Downing Street during Johnson's birthday in 2020. Picture: Reuters

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.

Staff carried on drinking in No 10 until the early hours of the morning on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral, the Sue Gray report said.

Two leaving dos took place in Downing Street on April 16 2021, including one for departing communications chief James Slack.

After the two events merged in the No 10 garden some staff began leaving around 9.30pm, having been encouraged by the No 10 custodian to use the rear exit, but some remained in the building and carried on drinking.

Exit logs indicated that some left after midnight and others between 1.45 and 2.45am with two staying on later with one leaving at 3.11 and and the last departing at 4.20.

It was reported that a child's swing/slide in the garden was damaged in the course of the evening by people leaning on it.

A leaving do for No 10 communications chief Lee Cain occurred when "Wine Time Friday" in Downing Street would normally take place, the Sue Gray report into lockdown parties said.

Ms Gray said she was told the event on November 13 2020 was not pre-planned and that Boris Johnson had joined the gathering on his way to the Downing Street flat.

The Prime Minister made a leaving speech and was among those pictured drinking alcohol at the event.

At the event, an individual threw up and a “minor altercation” broke out.

A Karaoke machine was brought to one of the events investigated.

Mr Cain warned Martin Reynolds and Dominic Cummings the Bring Your Own Booze party on May 20, 2020, was "somewhat of a comms risk" and urged for the event to be cancelled, the Sue Gray report says.

According to the investigation, Mr Cain sent an email to Mr Cummings and Mr Reynolds which said: "I'm sure it will be fine - and I applaud the gesture - but a 200 odd person invitation for drinks in the garden of No 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment."

The report adds: "Lee Cain says he subsequently spoke to Martin Reynolds and advised him that the event should be cancelled. Martin Reynolds does not recall any such conversation. In addition, Dominic Cummings has also said that he too raised concerns, in writing. We have not found any documentary evidence of this."

Mr Johnson said he took "full responsibility".

The Prime Minister sought to play down his personal involvement in the gatherings detailed in the the report but acknowledged that they took place "on my watch".

Johnson insisted he was not seeking to "absolve myself from responsibility" after the publication of the damning Sue Gray inquiry into partygate.

The Prime Minister issued an apology to MPs as he made use of what he said was "the first chance I've had to set out the context" to the law-breaking gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Johnson acknowledged that over a period of around 600 days gatherings on eight dates broke coronavirus rules, resulting in 126 fines from police, including one for himself.

But he added that the building is "5,300 metres square across five floors - excluding the flats", suggesting he therefore cannot know everything that goes on inside the complex.

Hundreds of staff are entitled to work in No 10, he explained, with thousands more in the Cabinet Office, which he said has swelled to its largest size in history.

"That is in itself one of the reasons why the Government is now looking for change and reform," he said.

Mr Johnson said his staff were entitled to be in the office during lockdown restrictions due to exemptions for the nature of their work.

"These people were working extremely long hours doing their best to give this country the ability to fight the pandemic," he said.

Some of the rule-breaking parties happened during leaving dos for staff that had worked on the coronavirus response.

"The exemption under which they were present in Downing Street includes those circumstances where officials and advisers were leaving the Government," Mr Johnson said.

"And it was appropriate to recognise and to thank them for the work they've done.

"I briefly attended such gatherings to thank them for their service, which I believe is one of the essential duties of leadership and particularly important when people need to feel that their contributions had been appreciated and to keep morale as high as possible."

Mr Johnson said it was clear from Ms Gray's report that some of the gatherings he initially attended "then went on far longer than was necessary" and were "clearly in breach of the rules".

"I had no knowledge of those subsequent proceedings because I simply wasn't there and I've been as surprised and disappointed as anyone else in this House as the revelations have unfolded," he said.

The Prime Minister said that when he repeatedly told the Commons there had been no rule-breaking, "it was what I believed to be true".

"When I came to this House and said in all sincerity that the rules and guidance had been followed at all times, it was what I believed to be true," he said.

Mr Johnson was fighting to stay in office despite Ms Gray concluding that "senior leadership" must "bear responsibility" for the rule-breaking culture at the heart of his Government.

He faced jeers when he told MPs "the entire senior management has changed", with a new chief of staff, communications chief and principal private secretary.

"I am humbled and I have learned a lesson," he said.

The Prime Minister faced fresh demands to resign after the report said the public would be "dismayed" by the behaviour uncovered.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Commons that report "laid bare the rot" in No 10 and called on Tory MPs to tell Boris Johnson "the game is up" and that it is "time to pack his bags".

The Prime Minister will address the public at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon and then faces the Tory MPs who will ultimately decide his fate at a private meeting in Parliament.

Senior backbencher Tobias Ellwood, a prominent critic of the Prime Minister, challenged Mr Johnson over the "damning report" which revealed an "absence of leadership, focus and discipline in No 10".

He asked fellow Tories "'are you willing day in and day out to defend this behaviour publicly" and asked: "Can we win the general election on this current trajectory?"

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.

In a Commons statement, Mr Johnson repeated his apology over the birthday party and added: "I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch.

"Sue Gray's report has emphasised that it is up to the political leadership in Number 10 to take ultimate responsibility and, of course, I do."

Mr Johnson said he was "humbled" by the experience and had learned his lesson.

But he said he had been "as surprised and disappointed as anyone else" by the revelations in the report and "I have been appalled by some of the behaviour, particularly in the treatment of the security and the cleaning staff".

"I'd like to apologise to those members of staff and I expect anyone who behaved in that way to apologise to them as well."

Boris Johnson denied reports that he asked Sue Gray not to publish her report.

Labour MP Karin Smyth (Bristol South) said the Sue Gray report reopens "many of our wounds" and asked: "When he met with Sue Gray recently, this week, did he ask her not to publish this report?"

The Prime Minister said: "No. And what I can tell the honourable lady is that this is a wholly independent report and the judgments contained in it are a matter for Sue, Sue Gray.

"I'm grateful to her for what she has done, and I believe that it has been extremely... I think her interim report was extremely useful to the Government in making the changes that we have."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who has asked the Metropolitan Police to explain the force's decisions over partygate, said the Sue Gray report revealed an "abject failure of leadership" in Downing Street.

He said: "The findings of the Sue Gray report today confirm what many of us had long suspected - the abject failure of leadership and judgment at the heart of Government.

"At a time when millions of Londoners were being asked to make huge sacrifices - to stay away from loved ones and forgo funerals - No 10 and the cabinet office consistently and flagrantly held the public, and the rules they had been told to follow, in contempt.

"The British public deserve better and the PM should now demonstrate accountability for this culture of impunity which took place on his own doorstep and under his own roof."

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