London – Sue Gray has blamed a “failure of leadership” for allowing parties to take place in Downing Street when the country was under strict lockdown.
In long-awaited findings, the senior civil servant says some events “should not have been allowed to take place”.
Gray investigated 16 separate gatherings – including three that were not previously known about.
Boris Johnson said he accepted the findings in full, as he faced questions and criticism from MPs.
In Sue Gray’s findings, she confirms that the Metropolitan Police is investigating 12 events – on eight separate dates – for alleged COVID-19-rule breaking.
These include the May 20, 2020 “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street garden, which Prime Minister Johnson has apologised for attending, and the PM’s birthday party on June 19, 2020.
The police are also investigating a gathering on November 13, 2020 at Mr Johnson’s Downing Street flat.
Asked by Labour MPs if he was at that party, Johnson said he would not give a “running commentary” on something that was being investigated by the police.
‘Excessive alcohol consumption’
Gray says she has been “extremely limited” in how much she can say by the Met’s inquiries, and she could not publish a “meaningful” report at this stage.
But she does make pointed criticisms of the culture in Downing Street among senior civil servants and staff, adding that some of the gatherings did not observe the high standards “expected of the entire British population at the time”, and that too little thought was given to how they might appear to the public.
“There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No. 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times,” she writes.
“Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.”
She adds that the “excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time”, likely to be a reference to reports of drunken behaviour in the Number 10 garden and staff filling a suitcase with bottles of wine, and recommends a “robust” policy on alcohol consumption.
The report is crucial to Johnson’s premiership, which has been rocked by weeks of damaging headlines about parties in Downing Street and other government buildings.
Many Conservative MPs had said they were waiting for its findings to decide whether to try to oust him from office. (BBC)