Boris Johnson said he took “full responsibility” after an official report revealed shocking details of raucous parties in No 10 during the coronavirus lockdown.
The Prime Minister sought to play down his personal involvement in the gatherings detailed in the the report by senior official Sue Gray but acknowledged that they took place “on my watch”.
The Gray report gave details of gatherings at which officials drank so much they were sick, sang karaoke, became involved in altercations and abused security and cleaning staff at a time when millions of people across the country were unable to see friends and family.
The report said the “senior leadership” in No 10 must “bear responsibility” for the culture which led to lockdown rules being broken at a series of events in 2020 and 2021.
The Prime Minister faced fresh demands to resign after the report said the public would be “dismayed” by the behaviour uncovered.
“The events that I investigated were attended by leaders in government. Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen,” Ms Gray said.
The Metropolitan Police has issued 126 fines for rule breaches in No 10 and Whitehall, with the Prime Minister receiving a single fixed-penalty notice for his birthday party in the Cabinet Room in June 2020.
But senior civil servant Ms Gray condemned the wider culture that had been allowed to develop under Mr Johnson’s leadership.
She said some of the more junior officials who attended parties “believed that their involvement in some of these events was permitted given the attendance of senior leaders”.
“The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture,” Ms Gray said.
She also said there were “multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff” during the events, which was “unacceptable”.
“Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of Government,” she said.
— Angela Rayner 🌹 (@AngelaRayner) May 25, 2022
“The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Commons that report “laid bare the rot” in No 10 and called on Tory MPs to tell Boris Johnson “the game is up” and that it is “time to pack his bags”.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner described the contents of the report as “indefensible”, calling Mr Johnson’s Downing Street “rotten from the very top”.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford branded the report “damning” and called the Prime Minister to resign for “orchestrating” the scenes in Downing Street.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “Any other PM would be forced to resign by a report as damaging as this, yet still Conservative MPs defend Johnson and allow him to cling on.”
The Prime Minister will address the public at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon and then faces the Tory MPs who will ultimately decide his fate at a private meeting in Parliament.
Senior backbencher Tobias Ellwood, a prominent critic of the Prime Minister, challenged Mr Johnson over the “damning report” which revealed an “absence of leadership, focus and discipline in No 10”.
He asked fellow Tories “‘are you willing day in and day out to defend this behaviour publicly” and asked: “Can we win the general election on this current trajectory?”
The inquiry’s findings include:
– Staff carrying on drinking in No 10 until the early hours of the morning on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, with the last departure recorded at 4.20am.
– Mr Johnson joined five advisers in a “food and alcohol” event in his Downing Street flat on the evening of the announcement of Dominic Cummings’ departure as chief adviser.
– Former proprietary and ethics chief Helen MacNamara provided a karaoke machine for a Cabinet Office gathering where one individual was sick and there was a “minor altercation” between two others.
– Then-senior adviser to the Prime Minister Martin Reynolds boasted “we seem to have got away with” the bring-your-own-booze garden party in a WhatsApp message to a special adviser.
– Mr Johnson brought the cheese and wine to the garden gathering on May 15 2020 from his own flat.
The #SueGrayReport lays bare the scale of rule breaking that @BorisJohnson presided over. Rules that he lied to parliament were followed at all times. A culture of drinking and debauchery in No10, while the rest of us stayed home. His only option should be to resign #PMQs pic.twitter.com/rZRUBH1s9c
— Ian Blackford 🇺🇦🏴 (@Ianblackford_MP) May 25, 2022
The report issued by Ms Gray includes a series of photos, with Mr Johnson pictured at the surprise birthday party in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020 for which he received a fine.
He is seen with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with sandwiches, juices and what appears to be Estrella lager – in one picture Mr Johnson is seen raising a can of the beer aloft.
Other photos include the previously-seen images of Mr Johnson raising a glass of wine at a leaving do for his former spin doctor Lee Cain on November 13, 2020.
In a Commons statement, Mr Johnson repeated his apology over the birthday party and added: “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.”
Mr Johnson said he was “humbled” by the experience and had learned his lesson.
But he said he had been “as surprised and disappointed as anyone else” by the revelations in the report and “I have been appalled by some of the behaviour, particularly in the treatment of the security and the cleaning staff”.
“I’d like to apologise to those members of staff and I expect anyone who behaved in that way to apologise to them as well.”