Boris Johnson is facing fresh calls to resign (Picture: PA)
Boris Johnson has said he takes ‘full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch’ following the publication of Sue Gray’s bombshell report into the Downing Street party scandal.
The prime minister also said he’s been ‘humbled and learned a lesson’ from the inquiry.
The bombshell document blamed ‘senior leadership’ for a culture of regular rule breaking in No 10 over a 20 month period, when the nation was under strict Covid laws.
It included nine photos shaming the prime minister and his cronies partying while thousands of people lay dying in hospital with coronavirus.
Mr Johnson repeated an apology for attending a party on his 56th birthday in the cabinet office in June 2020, which was he fined by the Met Police over – making him the first sitting prime minister ever found to have broken the law.
He said that on another occasion, when he was pictured raising a glass for a leaving do on November 13 2020, he wanted to ‘show good leadership’ by thanking his departing staff.
The Sue Gray report included nine photos shaming Boris Johnson and his pals at lockdown parties (Picture: Microsoft Office User)
The report blamed senior leaders for the culture of rule breaking (Picture: Microsoft Office User)
Commenting on the report for the first time, Mr Johnson 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.’
However, the prime minister went out of his way to emphasise that he did not knowingly mislead the House of Commons when he said rules were followed at all times in Downing Street.
He insisted he had ‘no knowledge’ of ‘work events’ which spiralled into boozy all night parties.
The events detailed in the report include a karaoke leaving do on 18 June 2020, when one person was ‘sick’ and there was a ‘minor altercation between two other individuals’.
The report also revealed that the e-mail inviting people the 20 May, 2020 ‘bring your own booze’ garden party at Downing Street went out to 200 staff rather than the 100 previously reported.
A No10 special advisor messaged top aide Martin Reynolds beforehand saying: ‘Just to flag that the press conference will probably be finishing around that time, so helpful if people can be mindful of that as speakers and cameras are leaving, not walking around waving bottles of wine etc.’
On another occasion, Mr Reynolds – who quit his job in February – emailed an advisor saying: ‘A complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with)’.
Ms Gray said ‘many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of government’.
Multiple examples of ‘unacceptable’ treatment of security and cleaning staff were also found during the partygate investigation.
Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m happy to set on the record now that 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.
‘It was certainly the case that when I was present at gatherings to wish staff a farewell, and the House will note that my attendance at these moments – brief as it was – has not been found to be outside the rules.
‘But clearly this was not the case for some of those gatherings after I had left and at other gatherings when I was not even in the building.
‘So I would like to correct the record, to take this opportunity, not in any sense to absolve myself of responsibility – which I take and have always taken – but simply to explain why I spoke as I did in this House.’
Boris Johnson is braced for more pressure to resign as Sue Gray’s full report is published (Picture: PA)
Newly released pictures show Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak gathered with other staff on the PM’s birthday, which both politicians got fined for. They are seen with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case with sandwiches, juices and what appears to be Estrella lager – in one picture Mr Johnson is seen raising a can of the beer aloft.
Ms Gray was previously prevented from publishing her report due to an ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation, which has now been concluded with 126 fines issued in total – making Downing Street the most fined place in Britain.
The civil servant’s report concluded: ‘The gatherings within the scope of this investigation are spread over a 20-month period – a period that has been unique in recent times in terms of the complexity and breadth of the demands on public servants and indeed the general public.
‘The whole of the country rose to the challenge. Ministers, special advisers and the Civil Service, of which I am proud to be a part, were a key and dedicated part of that national effort.
‘However, as I have noted, a number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did.
‘There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded.’
However, questions are being raised as to why she didn’t investigate allegations of an ‘ABBA party’ said to be held in the prime minister’s flat at No 11 on November 13, when the nation was under its second lockdown.
What events did Sue Gray investigate and what did she find?
The full report into the lockdown-busting parties in No 10 and Whitehall was published in full on Wednesday.
Here is a list of the gatherings Ms Gray investigated and what view the report takes on them.
– May 20 2020: Bring Your Own Booze party
An email from the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, showed No 10 staff were invited to a ‘bring your own booze’ event in the Downing Street garden.
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.
Sue Gray’s report said Mr Johnson attended for ‘around 30 minutes’ after the event started at 6pm, with ‘approximately 30-40 people in the garden’.
The majority of people who attended were ‘present early on in the evening’ but some stayed until between 10pm and 11pm.
She said ‘drinks and pizza were provided and paid for by staff’.
– June 18 2020: Cabinet Office leaving do
A gathering in the 70 Whitehall building was held to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary, Ms Gray’s interim report revealed in January.
The Telegraph said the official in question was former home affairs policy adviser Hannah Young, who left Downing Street to take up the role of deputy consul general in New York.
Ms Gray did not name the official.
The newspaper said it understood about 20 people attended, with alcohol consumed.
At that time people were only allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six, as long as they remained two metres apart.
Sue Gray’s report said the event took part in two stages, with the first involving ‘over 25 people’ who gathered for speeches, including Mr Johnson’s former senior aide Dominic Cummings and Simon Case, the then permanent secretary for Covid and the pandemic response in No 10.
The second phase saw drinking continue, with Ms Gray reporting: ‘The event lasted for a number of hours.
‘There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals.
‘One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals.’
– June 19 2020: Boris Johnson’s 56th birthday
Downing Street previously admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet room in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for the Prime Minister organised by his now wife Carrie.
The Prime Minister’s ally and Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns described Mr Johnson as having been ‘ambushed with a cake’ at the event.
Mr Johnson, his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak received £50 fixed-penalty notices from Scotland Yard for attending the bash.
The PA news agency was told that Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, briefly attended while undertaking work there.
However, No 10 had denied reports that, later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to celebrate the occasion.
The law at the time prohibited two or more people from different households being indoors at the same time.
Sue Gray’s report said neither the Prime Minister nor Mr Sunak were aware of the event in advance.
She said: ‘The event lasted between 14.25 and 14.45, throughout which the Prime Minister was present.
‘Those attending consumed food and drink, and some drank alcohol.’
– November 13 2020: Downing Street flat do
Carrie Johnson reportedly hosted parties in the official flat over No 11 where she and her husband live, including one event on November 13, the night of Dominic Cummings’ acrimonious departure.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s wife called the claim ‘total nonsense’.
But reports later suggested that the Prime Minister was seen heading up to the flat on the night in question, with the Mail On Sunday stating that Abba songs, including The Winner Takes It All, were heard coming from the residence.
A second national lockdown for England began on November 5.
People were ordered to stay at home during this period and different households were banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens, unless in a support bubble.
The Mirror reported last week that Mrs Johnson had avoided being fined for the event by police after they accepted her argument that she was holding a strategy meeting with friends of hers who are Government advisers.
Sue Gray’s report said, following the conclusion of the Met Police’s investigation, she decided it was ‘not appropriate or proportionate’ to pursue an investigation into the events.
She added: ‘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 6pm to discuss the handling of their departure.
‘Five special advisers attended.
‘The Prime Minister joined them at about 8pm. Food and alcohol were available.
‘The discussion carried on later into the evening with attendees leaving at various points.’
– November 13 2020: Leaving party for senior aide
Images published in the report show Mr Johnson raising a glass while surrounded by colleagues and bottles of wine.
Days after ordering England’s second national lockdown, the pictures showed the Prime Minister giving a toast for departing communications chief Lee Cain on November 13 2020.
At the time organisers of large gatherings of more than 30 people could have been fined £10,000.
Sue Gray’s report said: ‘On November 13, it was publicly announced that two of the Prime Minister’s most senior advisers, Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, would leave Government.
‘There was a leaving speech and drinks in No 10 for Lee Cain later that day, which the Prime Minister attended.’
– December 17 2020: Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case removed himself from the inquiry into Whitehall parties, to be replaced by Ms Gray, after reports emerged of a gathering in the Cabinet Office.
It was reported that the do had been organised by a private secretary in Mr Case’s team, and that it was noted in digital calendars as “Christmas party!” and included an online quiz.
The Cabinet Office said Mr Case played no part in the event ‘but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own’.
Days prior to the event, London moved into Tier 3 of the restrictions system then in place in England, meaning the hospitality sector had to close except for takeaways, and groups of six could meet in outdoor public spaces only.
Sue Gray’s report said: ‘A virtual quiz took place in the Cabinet Secretary’s private office for staff who were in the office and working at home that day.
‘Alcohol and food were consumed during the quiz which lasted approximately 90 minutes in total.’
– December 17 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head
The former director-general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce, Kate Josephs, said she was ‘truly sorry over leaving drinks held in the Cabinet Office.
Sue Gray’s report said: ‘The event took place in the Cabinet Office in 70 Whitehall and was attended by 20 to 30 officials, including senior officials, from No 10 and the Cabinet Office.’
– December 17 2020: No 10 leaving do
A leaving do was held for a departing Downing Street official.
The Telegraph reported that the staff member in question was Captain Steve Higham, then one of Mr Johnson’s private secretaries, who advised on defence and national security issues.
The Mirror, which first reported the event before the police investigation began, said Mr Johnson was there only ‘for a few minutes’.
Capt Higham became Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in July 2021.
Sue Gray’s report said: ‘A leaving event for two No 10 officials took place in No 10 in the Pillared Room.
‘There were speeches, including from the Prime Minister and senior officials, and alcohol. Approximately 20 people attended.’
– December 18 2020: Downing Street Christmas party
Officials and advisers reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts.
The Prime Minister did not attend.
Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, resigned after a video emerged of her joking about a ‘fictional party’ at a mock press conference.
Sue Gray’s report said a gathering in the No 10 press office lasted ‘several hours’.
She added: ‘Between 20 and 45 individuals attended over the course of the evening to celebrate the end of year and Christmas.
‘The event included a Secret Santa and an awards ceremony. There was alcohol and food.’
– January 14 2021: More Downing Street leaving drinks
A gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of two private secretaries.
Reports have suggested the Prime Minister attended the leaving event, which was for a senior civil servant in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, but Ms Gray did not name them.
The other official’s identity is so far unknown.
National restrictions were reintroduced for a third time on January 6.
The rules during the third lockdown were more like those in the first lockdown, meaning people were once again told to stay at home.
However, people could still form support bubbles but a gathering, similar to the one on January 14, was not allowed.
Sue Gray’s report said: ‘The Prime Minister attended for a short time to give a leaving speech. Alcohol was available.’
– April 16 2021: Two leaving dos on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral
The night before the Queen sat alone at the funeral of her husband of more than 70 years, in compliance with Covid rules at the time, two leaving dos were reportedly held in No 10.
Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace after details emerged of boozy drinks parties, including one for outgoing communications director James Slack.
Socialising indoors with people from other households was not allowed and meeting others outdoors was limited to groups of six people or two households.
Sue Gray’s report refers to ‘two separate leaving events’, one for Mr Slack and another for an unnamed No 10 official.
‘Alcohol was available at both events and there were speeches,’ she said.
‘Senior officials attended. Both groups met in the No 10 garden later that evening. The events lasted for several hours.
‘The Prime Minister was not in residence.’
Other events covered in the report include:
– May 15 2020: a photograph showing a number of groups in the garden of No 10 Downing Street
Sue Gray’s report said the ‘gathering was actually a number of separate meetings’ and concluded they were for work matters.
– November 27 2020: a gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser
Sue Gray’s report said: ‘On 27 November 2020 a number of people gathered in the No 10 press office area to say goodbye to a special adviser, who was leaving government.
‘Officials, including senior officials, and special advisers were present.
‘The Prime Minister attended and gave a short leaving speech.’
– December 10 2020: a gathering in the Department for Education ahead of the Christmas break
Sue Gray’s report said: ‘The Secretary of State for Education wanted to thank staff for their hard work ahead of the Christmas break.
‘Senior officials and special advisers attended the event. There was food and alcohol available and it lasted for around an hour.’
– December 15 2020: An online Christmas quiz in No 10
Sue Gray’s report said: ‘Alcohol and food was available in Downing Street and at 70 Whitehall, supplied and paid for by staff attending.
‘The quiz and prize-giving lasted approximately three and a half hour.‘
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