Parties thrown at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s residence during COVID-19 lockdowns constituted “failures of leadership and judgment” and some of them “should not have been allowed to take place,” according to an initial report released Monday.
Top civil servant Sue Gray had been tasked with examining the gatherings — a scandal dubbed “Party-Gate” — at 10 Downing Street during 2020 and 2021 when the United Kingdom placed strict restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Only parts of Gray’s report were published because of an ongoing law enforcement investigation into 12 of the 16 events at issue.
“At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time,” Gray’s report admonished Johnson.
It pointed out that “little thought” was given to the risk the gatherings “presented to public health and how they might appear to the public” at a time when COVID-19 restrictions were being enforced across the country.
”There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No. 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times,” the report added. “Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.”
Gray’s report also noted that the parties featured “excessive consumption of alcohol” and called for “steps to be taken” to ensure that all government departments have a “clear and robust” policy in place about consuming alcohol in the workplace.
She further suggested that there should be “easier ways” for government staff to informally raise concerns about “behaviors [sic] they witnessed at work.” She did not elaborate on the kind of “poor conduct” that caused issues.
Johnson, whose premiership is in jeopardy over the scandal, said he accepted Gray’s findings and that he would “fix it,” vowing to create an office to review the code of conduct of civil workers.
The prime minister further apologized for how the matter was handled.
“It’s no use saying that people were working hard. This pandemic was hard for everyone,” Johnson said. “We asked people across this country to make the most extraordinary sacrifices — not to meet loved ones, not to visit relatives before they died. And I understand the anger that people feel.”
“It is not enough to say sorry,” he added.
“And I want to say to the people of this country: I know what the issue is,” Johnson told House of Commons. “Yes, it’s whether this government can be trusted to deliver. And I say, Mr. Speaker, yes, we can be trusted. Yes, we can be trusted to deliver.”
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the main opposition Labour Party, called the report “sickening” and said Johnson must step down.
“It is the most fundamental failure of any prime minister and I’m absolutely shocked that Boris Johnson can even show his face in Parliament today,” she said. “He should be resigning because he has lost the confidence of the British people.”
Former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May said leaders have a responsibility to set an example “in following the rules.”
”Either they [Johnson and his staff] had not read the rules, or [not] understood the rules, or thought they didn’t apply to then … which was it?” she said.
Johnson attended his 56th birthday party at 10 Downing Street on June 19, 2020, with as many as 30 people present despite bans on indoor social gatherings of more than two.
Attendees sang “Happy Birthday” and ate cake, while Johnson hosted family friends in the building’s upstairs residence.
With Post wires