(The Guardian) Sue Gray has issued a damning verdict on the party culture in Boris Johnson’s Downing Street, in a 37-page report that includes nine photographs and names a string of senior civil servants.
Gray sets out in embarrassing detail how each event unfolded, including a leaving party on 18 June 2020 at which “one individual was sick” and “there was a minor altercation between two other individuals”.
“Whatever the initial intent, what took place at many of these gatherings and the way in which they developed was not in line with Covid guidance at the time,” the report says.
“Even allowing for the extraordinary pressures officials and advisers were under, the factual findings of this report illustrate some attitudes and behaviours inconsistent with that guidance.”
In his first public reaction to Gray’s report, Johnson issued a qualified apology for the boozy culture that developed in Downing Street during the pandemic, saying he took “full responsibility”.
Speaking to MPs, the prime minister said he was “renewing my apology to the house, to the whole country”, for the birthday gathering in June 2020 for which he was fined, and took “full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch”.
However, he insisted he regarded it as “one of the essential duties of leadership” to “briefly” attend leaving events and thank departing staff, because “it was appropriate to recognise and to thank them for the work that they had done”.
He claimed he had been “appalled” on learning how some of these events had subsequently developed. At one point, Johnson said: “We are humbled,” but after being jeered by MPs, corrected himself to say: “I am humbled.”
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, responding to Johnson, dismissed his partial apology, saying: “When the dust settles and the anger subsides, this report will stand as a monument to the hubris and arrogance of a government that believed it was one rule for them, and another rule for everyone else.”
In what appears to be an indictment of the prime minister, as well as senior civil servants, Gray says: “The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture.”
Details of the gatherings include security logs revealing some staff carried on partying until 4am after the leaving do for the director of communications, James Slack, cleaners giving evidence of spilled wine over the walls, and messages warning drunken staff to leave via the back entrance.