Boris Johnson has insisted he will remain as Prime Minister despite the “bitter and painful” judgement of a report into parties held in No.10 Downing Street during Covid lockdown restrictions.
Speaking at a Press Conference, Boris Johnson ruled out resigning, saying “I’ve got to keep moving forward”. But some opponents have repeated their calls for Mr Johnson to quit. His comments came as a result of a call by Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, prompting other Conservative Members of Parliament to remove him, saying it is time for Mr. Johnson “to pack his bags”.
While addressing the Commons, Mr. Johnson said he took “full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch”, adding that he was “humbled” and learned lessons. He told Members of Parliament that when he previously said “the rules and guidance had been followed at all times”, it was “what I believed to be true”. Mr. Johnson said he attended events to wish staff, who were leaving, farewell and his attendance had not been found to be outside the rules. “But clearly this was not the case for some of those gatherings after I had left and at other gatherings when I was not even in the building”, he added.
Reservations by the Prime Minister
Mr. Johnson however said he was “shocked” and “appalled” by some of Mrs. Gray’s findings, especially over the treatment of security and cleaning staff. At the press conference, he said a lot of the reports he only saw for the first time on Wednesday, May 26, 2022, were “news to me”.
The highlights of Sue Gray’s report noted that there was excessive drinking, mistreatment of cleaners and security staff as well as the breaking of Covid lockdown rules. She said the leadership at No.10 “must bear responsibility” for its culture.
In the 37-page report, Mrs. Gray found that political and official leadership must bear responsibility for the culture at No.10, on the basis that staff partied, with some late until after 4am, on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, while at another party, in June 2020, there was “excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals. One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals”.
Additionally, the report noted that a No.10 Official sent a message to staff over “drunkenness” and warned them to leave No.10 via the back exit after a December 2020 Christmas quiz to avoid press photographers. The report also noted that there were “Multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff”. The Prime Minister’s key aide, Martin Reynolds, was urged to cancel a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street Garden in May 2020, as it posed “somewhat of a comms risk”.
An unnamed special adviser also told Mr. Reynolds via WhatsApp that it would be “helpful” if people avoided “walking around waving bottles of wine etc” ahead of the May 2020 event, as it took place immediately after a televised Covid press conference. Mr. Reynolds later told an unnamed adviser that “we seem to have got away with” the party.
Parties at Johnson’s Flat
Sue Gray’s report also noted that it found Mr. Johnson join five special advisers in a meeting with “food and alcohol” in his Downing Street flat on the evening of the announcement of Dominic Cummings’ departure in November 2020.
In the Senior Civil Servant’s report, she pointed out that she collected “limited” information because she began gathering details before the Metropolitan Police started its inquiry, hence, she (Sue Gray) did not return to it. In the conclusion to her report, Mrs. Gray disclosed that “Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen”.