Minister refuses to say who called Boris Johnson meeting with Sue Gray
Indy

Sue Gray has finally published her report into Partygate.

The report comes after her January "update" and follows the Metropolitan Police's investigation into events alleged to have taken place in Downing Street while the country was subject to strict coronavirus restrictions.

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Gray published findings about the preparation of events reported by the media and examined whether they were - in her view - appropriate.

Here are her key findings.

15 May 2020 garden 'party'

The Guardian last year published a photo of staff in the Downing Street garden. Sources said around 20 staff drank wine and spirits and ate pizza following a press conference at which then health secretary Matt Hancock told the British public to stay at home “as much as is possible”.

No 10 insisted work meetings often took place in the garden and this event was not investigated by the Metropolitan Police.

But it took place at a time when people could only meet with one other person with social distancing measures in place.

Gray said “there is no reason to suggest that this was anything other than a further work meeting.”

20 May 2020 'BYOB' event

It was alleged that the PM was one of the attendees at a “bring-your-own-booze’ event in the Number 10 garden at the height of lockdown one in May 2020 in which staff made “the most of the lovely weather”.

A leaked email obtained by ITV News was sent by Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds to more than 100 employees in May 2020 at a time in which people could only meet one on one outside.

It said: “Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening.

“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”

Gray found more receipts. She published emails from various civil servants showing the planning behind the event and how it was distributed to different teams.

She revealed that a "No 10 Director declined the invitation and told the investigation that they had raised with either Martin Reynolds or his office that it was not a good idea.

She added that Lee Cain, the then No 10 Director of Communications said: "I'm sure it will be fine - and I applaud the gesture - but a 200 odd person invitation for drinks in the garden of no 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment." She alleges Cain claimed he spoke to Reynolds and advised him that the event should be cancelled. But she said Reynolds "does not recall any such conversation."

18 June 2020

It was alleged there was a leaving party for an unnamed member of staff at a time in which people were only allowed to meet in groups of six outside. Gray said officials exchanged emails discussing the "comms" risks of an event. Cain wrote: "I don't see how we can have some kind of party though" and another official described the event as "drinks which aren't drinks".

Gray said the event was in two parts and involved alcohol. As reported, she confirmed: "Helen MacNamara, Deputy Cabinet Secretary, attended for part of the evening and provided a karaoke machine."

"The event lasted for a number of hours," she wrote. "There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals. One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals." Gray said the event continued until past 3am.

19 June 2020 Johnson's birthday

We know Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak both received a fine for this event and Gray published emails showing the planning behind it and proving Johnson wasn't aware of it. Seems like he was "ambushed with a cake" after all...

10 December 2020

When Gavin Williamson was education minister he held the event for around 20-30 staff for an hour. "Staff had been invited to bring their own refreshments, including a suggestion in the invitation that those joining should bring their own bottle," the report said. "At the event there was wine, some of which, along with mince pies, was provided by the Secretary of State and his Private Office."

17 December 2020 - Kate Joseph's leaving party

Gray said the intention was to follow the social distancing guidance by observing a one-way system, social distancing and other precautionary measures. But "this did not happen as those in the room gathered in small groups, and there was also mingling between groups. There was food and drink available, including crisps, beer and prosecco that had been purchased by individuals attending. Background music was played through a smartphone. Some people left after the speeches."

18 December 2020 - Christmas party

It was reported that Downing Street officials attended an organised party which apparently involved Secret Santa, drinks and getting “rat-arsed”.

A video of staff discussing how they would respond to questions from the media about it surfaced, triggering Johnson’s spokesperson at the time – Allegra Stratton – to resign over her role in the affair.

Gray said there were regular Friday drinks called "Wine Time Friday" held by the press office. She said some work happened during the event but that there was also a Secret Santa exchange and a quiz.

"The event was crowded and noisy 32 such that some people working elsewhere in the No 10 building that evening heard significant levels of noise coming from what they characterised as a party in the Press Office. 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."

16 April 2021- leaving parties

Two leaving events took place on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral. Gray said the two events merged together during the night and people "drank excessively".

“A number of individuals gathered near a child’s swing/slide in the garden, damaging it by leaning on and playing with it. This was noticed the next morning and reported to No 10 staff.”

Conclusions

Gray said "many of these events should not have been allowed to happen" and commented on "failures of leadership and judgement" from senior leadership.

More parties?

Gray also said investigating the parties was a struggle and while some people proactively gave evidence she had to rely on media reports. She said: "Given the piecemeal manner in which events were brought to my attention, it is possible that events took place which were not the subject of investigation.

The Met issued 126 fines to 83 people for breaches of Covid rules during eight separate dates. Gray's report had been muzzled pending the police inquiry and Johnson has always said he will not comment on matters pertaining to Partygate until both the police and Gray's report are concluded.

Well, now they are, and so...

Johnson's statement

In his statement, Johnson thanked Gray for the inquiry and said he "renewed his apology" for the event he was fined for and said he took "full responsibility" for the events.

He said he was "appalled" by behaviour and as surprised as the rest of the country to learn of them.

He said that when he claimed "all rules were followed" during the pandemic, he believed that to be the case and that the culture of Downing Street is changing in response to the report.

He said it was time for the country to "move on".

But that is for the country to decide, not him.

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