Sue Gray: Boris Johnson must bear responsibility for Partygate

LONDON — Boris Johnson presided over “failures of leadership and judgment,” a senior civil servant tasked with investigating lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street concluded in a report published Wednesday. 

The report looked at 16 gatherings, some details of which were made public for the first time, including events which featured pizza, Prosecco, a karaoke machine, and one individual being sick. 

“The events that I investigated were attended by leaders in government. Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen,” the investigation led by Sue Gray, a long-standing senior official, found.

Gray added that “the public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behavior in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this.”

Nearly six months ago, the Mirror first reported allegations of parties held in Downing Street that appeared to breach coronavirus lockdown rules. Johnson initially denied any rules had been broken but has since been fined by police for attending one party deemed to have been illegal.

The report will reignite the pressure on Johnson’s leadership. Many Tory MPs, who could topple the prime minister and choose a new leader, have been much more supportive of Johnson since Russia invaded Ukraine, arguing that now is not the time for a leadership contest.

Gray maintained the parties she mentions, and in some cases, reviewed pictures of, “did not reflect the prevailing culture in government and the civil service at the time” as many “worked tirelessly to deliver in unprecedented times,” though at several points she underlines the need for senior staff to take responsibility for the rule-breaking.

She stressed the importance of clearer lines of accountability, which Johnson has tried to instigate with a backroom reshuffle of the team in No. 10. Gray concluded junior staff needed support to speak up after she found “unacceptable” attempts to silence them.

Johnson will go to the House of Commons later Wednesday to make a statement on the findings, which have been released in full following the closure of the police investigation. He will then address Tory backbench MPs in a bid to save his premiership.

A total of 126 fines were handed out over rule-breaking gatherings at No. 10 and Whitehall during the pandemic, with Johnson’s wife Carrie, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and former civil service ethics chief Helen MacNamara among those sanctioned. 

Most penalties were handed to civil servants and government officials who have not been named. 

A new photo showing Johnson drinking at a gathering in November 2020 was published by ITV News this week, ratcheting up pressure on his position again despite him surviving many twists and turns of the Partygate scandal. 

Read the report in full here.

More to follow.