Partygate: Boris Johnson says he takes ‘full responsibility’ as Sue Gray report says 'senior leadership' responsible
Boris Johnson has insisted he takes “full responsibility” after Sue Gray’s report condemns the “senior leadership” and reveals drinking culture that saw staff throw up and wine on the walls.
The long awaited report has piled pressure on the Prime Minister, who insisted it was only eight events that broke the law across 600 days.
Ms Gray's long awaited report revealed a culture of excessive drinking, staff being sick, red wine on the walls and even abuse of cleaning and security staff.
She said: “Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of Government.
“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 events that I investigated were attended by leaders in government. Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen.
“The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture.”
The Prime Minister has said he takes “full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch”.
He said: “I want to begin today by renewing my apology to the House, to the whole country, for the short lunchtime gathering on June 19, 2020 in the Cabinet Room, during which I stood at my place at the Cabinet table and for which I received a fixed penalty notice.
“I also want to say above all that 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.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged Conservative MPs to do “their bit” and tell Mr Johnson that “this has gone on too long”.
He said: “We waited for the Sue Gray report. The country can’t wait any longer. The value symbolised by the door of Number 10 must be restored. Members opposite must finally do their bit, they must tell the current inhabitant, their leader, that his has gone on too long. The game is up. You cannot be a lawmaker and a law breaker.”
Responding to his statement, the SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told the Prime Minister “time is up, resign”.
He said: “It’s all a joke to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has lost the trust of the public. He has lost what little moral authority he had left.
"The Prime Minister has apologised many times, not because he feels any genuine remorse, he still refuses to even admit that there were parties and that he presided over them.
“He apologised for one simple reason he got caught. The reality is no apology will ever be enough for the families of people who lost loved ones, for the families who followed the rules, who stayed at home, whilst their nearest and dearest to them were dying.”
The report also revealed Mr Johnson joined five special advisers in a meeting with “food and alcohol” in his Downing Street flat on the evening of the announcement of Dominic Cummings’ departure.
It exposed not just drinks being regular across Government, but also attempts to hide it from the public.
Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister Martin Reynolds even boasted “we seem to have got away with” the BYOB garden party in a WhatsApp message to a special adviser.
A No 10 special adviser thanked Mr Reynolds for “providing the wine”, saying it was “a very kind thing to do and I know everyone really appreciated it.”
In another WhatsApp on an unknown date to a special adviser, Mr Reynolds wrote: “Best of luck – a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”
It also revealed a No 10 special adviser warned the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, that it would be “helpful” if people avoided “walking around with bottles of wine”.
Former communications chief Lee Cain warned both Mr Reynolds and Dominic Cummings that the Bring Your Own Booze party on May 20 2020 was “somewhat of a comms risk” but it went ahead anyway.
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 has admitted he was there for 25 minutes but said he thought it was a “work event” to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.
Earlier that month initial lockdown rules in England had been relaxed, permitting people to leave home for outdoor recreation.
Rules around socialising were also changed, with people allowed to meet one person from outside their household, providing the encounter was socially distanced and took place outside.
However, outdoor gatherings with multiple people from other households were not allowed at the time.
Ms Gray also found the Prime Minister brought the cheese and wine pictured in a garden gathering on May 15 2020 from his flat.
She wrote that the Prime Minister and advisers had a lengthy meeting in his office following a press conference before moving into the garden.
Ms Gray 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”.
She wrote: “I found that some staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly.
“I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. This was unacceptable.”
On Mr Cummings, she conceded she only collected “limited” information because she had only begun gathering details on it when the Metropolitan Police launched an inquiry and did not return to it.
She wrote: “Following the announcement of the departure of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, a meeting was held in the No 10 flat from some time after 18.00 to discuss the handling of their departure. Five special advisers attended.
“The Prime Minister joined them at about 20.00. Food and alcohol were available. The discussion carried on later into the evening with attendees leaving at various points.”
She said she concluded “it was not appropriate or proportionate” to make further inquiries after the Met investigation.