Damning report into Johnson’s Downing Street lockdown parties published

Elliot Chappell

The Cabinet Office has published the findings of an investigation by a senior civil servant into the numerous reports of social gatherings held in Downing Street in breach of public health restrictions introduced during the pandemic.

In her final report into the ‘partygate’ allegations, second permanent secretary Sue Gray wrote that “the senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility” for the “culture” at the “heart of government”.

She added: “While there is no excuse for some of the behaviour set out here it is important to acknowledge that those in the most junior positions attended gatherings at which their seniors were present, or indeed organised.”

The report by Gray summarised findings of an investigation into 16 events in 2020 and 2021, including a “socially distanced drinks” in the No 10 garden – about which some staff “expressed concern” as to whether the event was “appropriate”.

The controversial garden party was held in May 2020, during the first lockdown of the pandemic. Martin Reynolds, Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, emailed staff inviting them to the event and advising them to “bring your own booze”.

The report today found that the then head of communications for Johnson, Lee Cain, had warned that the party would pose a “comms risk”. A special adviser also told Reynolds that it would be “helpful” if people avoided being seen “walking around with bottles of wine” as it was taking place after a press conference.

After the event, Reynolds referenced the event to a special adviser in a Whatsapp message, in which he said: “Best of luck – a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”

Gray also wrote in the report published this morning that an “excessive amount of alcohol” was consumed at an event on June 18th 2020, at which one person “was sick” and there was a “minor altercation between two other individuals”.

An event allegedly held in Johnson’s private residence in No 10 on November 13th was not investigated by Gray. She said the evidence collected in relation to the gathering was “limited” after she stopped investigating it to avoid prejudicing a Metropolitan Police probe into the event that had also been launched.

But the report included several pictures from the event. In some of the photographs, the Prime Minister can be seen raising a glass in a crowded room. He previously told parliament that there had been no party on November 13th.

The findings today included “multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff” who had tried to raise objections to the social gatherings. Gray concluded: “This was unacceptable.”

Gray wrote that the public would be “dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of government”, adding that voters “have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this”.

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