UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson presided over the lockdown-breaking party culture that characterized drunken fights among activists, following a long-awaited investigation on Wednesday that renewed calls for his resignation.
Johnson is among dozens of people on Downing Street who have received police fines for violating the Covid regulations since 2020 – making the number 10 the most punitive address in the entire country.
“I take full responsibility for everything that happens on my watch,” he told MPs in response to a report by senior civilian employee Sue Gray, stressing: “I am humble and I have learned.”
Johnson, however, said he was absent from most of the events and never denied lying in Parliament.
He hopes that with the investigation now over, we will be able to “move forward” in addressing the priorities, including the war in Ukraine and the crisis over the cost of living in Britain.
Gray Johnson has published photographs of staff toasting with wine, and describes the joy that sometimes extends from a karaoke machine to music.
“A lot of these things shouldn’t have happened,” Gray wrote. Downing Street safety and cleaning workers were ridiculed when they tried to protest workers’ behavior.
The report found that junior staff who had been fined by the London Metropolitan Police – most of them women – were asked by their bosses to attend the event.
“Senior leadership at the center, both political and official, must take responsibility for this culture,” Gray added.
‘Pack your bags’
A different photograph, published by the Daily Mirror newspaper, showed the Downing Street table filled with wine bottles and donuts, the report said.
It said a companion WhatsApp message told staff: “Covid protected bar when opening.”
After receiving the fine, the Prime Minister refused to resign.
But many in his Conservative MP leadership are understood to be waiting for details to be published in Gray’s full report before deciding to trigger the ballot.
The main opposition Labor Party said the “crime catalog” published by the report attested to Johnson’s call for his resignation, arguing that he was more concerned with “protecting his own skin” than prioritizing public demand.
Gray’s report “provides conclusive evidence of how the British (inside the building) treated the sacrifices of the people in complete contempt” (No. 10), Labor leader Kear Starmer told Johnson in the House of Commons.
“You can’t be a lawmaker or a law breaker. Now it’s time to pack his bags.”
With opinion polls showing deep partisan disapproval of “Partigate”, Conservative MPs must consider whether Johnson remains an electoral asset or whether he is now responsible for two crucial by-elections next month.
Last month, the Conservatives lost hundreds of council seats in local elections, although frustration over rising living costs was seen as a major issue at the ballot box.
Johnson was later scheduled to hold a press conference before attending the 1922 committee meeting of the Backbench Tories, some of whom wrote in support of the no-confidence vote.
In his investigation, Gray said the Downing Street Press Office regularly hosts “WTF” (“Wine-Time Friday”) drinks from 4:00 p.m.
He has shown his superiors how to handle different invitations.
On a WhatsApp exchange, Lee Kane, Johnson’s former communications director, cited “rather significant enough commiss risk” for an official to leave the party in June 2020.
Gray said the party has moved forward, for a long time.
“There was excessive alcohol consumption by some people. One person was sick,” he wrote. “There was a minor altercation between the other two people.”
In another exchange after a garden party in May 2020 where senior official Martin Reynolds invited staff to “bring your own wine,” Reynolds told a colleague, who did not want to be named, that the media focused on an unspecified “non-story.”
But he said “it was better for them to focus on our drink (which we seem to have given up)”.
Gray released an initial version of his report in January, but the Met closed its full publication after announcing its own investigation.
This has now been completed by imposing fines on 83 people and 126 people, although police are under pressure to reopen the investigation as new evidence emerges this week.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)