Boris Johnson issued a half-hearted apology after a highly-anticipated report into “partygate” released Wednesday detailed COVID-19 rule-breaking and excessive drinking.
The so-called “partygate” scandal refers to the 16 illegal social gatherings Johnson and his Conservative Party attended during lockdown when the same government put social distancing measures in place.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray, who oversees ethics inquiries for the British government, investigated the social gatherings which took place throughout a 20-month period of lockdown stages in England.
She released the lengthy report on Wednesday, which housed some bombshell findings of alcohol-fueled parties.
“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behavior surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify,” Gray says in the report.
“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.”
Johnson spoke out after the report’s findings raised eyebrows, telling members of Parliament, “I am humbled and I have learned a lesson,” in a statement at the House of Commons, saying he would not quit.
“Whatever the failings of … No. 10 and the Cabinet Office throughout this difficult period and my own, I continue to believe the civil servants and advisers in question … are good, hard-working people motivated by the highest calling to do the very best for our country,” Johnson said.
At a media conference, Johnson pointed to the “biggest war in Europe for 70 years” and a “huge spike in the cost of living”, saying, “My job is to get on and serve the people of this country.”
Johnson also insisted they only broke lockdown rules after he left, saying he thought they were “work events.”
“I had no knowledge of those subsequent proceedings because I simply wasn’t there,” he said. “I think that, overwhelmingly, the will of this country is for us now to say thank you to Sue Gray and for us collectively to move on.”
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Johnson should quit and the report showed the government believed there was one rule for them and another for everyone else.
“The door of 10 Downing Street is one of the great symbols of British democracy,” he tweeted on Wednesday. “A democracy which relies on the principles of honesty and integrity. Its current inhabitant has failed to uphold these principles. Boris Johnson must go.”
For each of the 16 events, the report details attendees, how long each guest was at the event, where it was held, and what restrictions were in place. The report also noted whether concerns were raised at the event and whether alcohol was consumed.
“The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time,” Gray says in the report.
“Steps must be taken to ensure that every Government Department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace.”
The report said Johnson’s former private secretary, Martin Reynolds, was urged to cancel the “BYOB [Bring Your Own Booze] party” hosted at the No 10 garden.
The report revealed a message sent by Reynolds to another aide, saying, “We seem to have got away with” the BYOB event.
The report details WhatsApp messages sent on Nov. 27, 2020, to press office officials, which read, “Hey team – do you want to participate in press office secret Santa?” and “We will do gift exchange and cheese and (lots of) wine on 18th Dec.”
Gray notes that “a number of staff replied positively,” and “some members of staff drank excessively.”
In her report, Gray tells the government that each department must have a “clear and robust policy in place” on alcohol consumption in the workplace.
She highlighted “multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff,” saying this was “unacceptable.”
After the boozy Christmas bash on December 18, the report says a “cleaner who attended the room the next morning noted that there had been red wine spilled on one wall and on a number of boxes of photocopier paper.”
Gray also noted some parties ended with vomiting as a result of excessive drinking, specifically a gathering on June 18, 2020, which saw some individuals become “sick,” while two others engaged in a “minor altercation.”
With Post wires