Following an abridged version, the long-awaited full Sue Gray report into the government’s ‘Partygate’ has been published.
Three months after an abridged version of Sue Gray’s report concluded that there were “failures of leadership and judgment” in Number 10 and the Cabinet Office, the long-awaited full investigation into the Downing Street ‘Partygate’ allegations has been released.
Ahead of the report’s publication, the Metropolitan police investigation into rule breaches in No 10 and Whitehall concluded with 126 fines for 83 people. The prime minister received a single fixed-penalty notice for his birthday party.
Gray’s 60-page document identified “a serious failure” to abide by the “standards expected of the entire British population,” painting a shocking picture of drunkenness, vomiting and damage at the illegal events and the abuse of cleaners who objected to them while the country obeyed lockdown restrictions.
Below, we’ve unpacked some of the key findings unveiled in the report and look at what might happen next.
What were the main findings of the Sue Gray report?
Senior leaders “must bear responsibility” for Downing Street culture
Gray had already identified “failures of leadership and judgment” across both Number 10 and the Cabinet Office in the update she gave back in January, before the Met Police announced its own investigation.
However, her report concludes that many of the events she investigated were “attended by leaders in government” and “should not have been allowed to happen”.
“The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture,” she writes.
Pre-empting the public reaction, she suggests: “Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of government. 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.”
“Excessive alcohol” was consumed at multiple events
Sharing new details about a leaving party held at Downing Street on 18 June 2020, Gray revealed: “There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals. One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals.”
She also wrote that “some brought pizza and prosecco” and that Helen MacNamara, the then-deputy cabinet secretary, “provided a karaoke machine”.
Staff were warned not to “wave around” bottles of wine and leave via back doors
According to Gray, staff attending the events were repeatedly warned to be “mindful” of being caught carrying alcohol around photographers.
We learned in the report that a Number 10 special adviser had warned staff attending the ‘socially distanced drinks’ on 20 May 2020 to be “mindful” that the TV press conference may still be going on and not to have alcohol on display.
The adviser said in a WhatsApp message to former private secretary to the prime minister Martin Reynolds: “Drinks this eve is a lovely idea so I’ve shared with the E & V team who are in the office. Just to flag that the press conference will probably be finishing around that time, so helpful if people can be mindful of that as speakers and cameras are leaving, not walking around waving bottles of wine etc”.
Similarly, after a Christmas Zoom quiz on 15 December 2020, which was attended by between 120 and 150 people, a Number 10 official sent an internal message “referring to ‘drunkenness’ and advising staff to leave No 10 via the back exit”.
“The No 10 official informed the investigation team that they did this in order to avoid staff being photographed by the press outside,” Gray writes.
Downing Street staff partied until 4am on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral
Painting a further picture of disorderly behaviour, Gray states that not one but two leaving parties took place in Downing Street on 16 April 2021, the day before Prince Philip’s heavily Covid-restricted funeral.
Detailing the event, Gray writes: “A number of individuals gathered near a child’s swing/slide in the garden, damaging it by leaning on and playing with it.
“Some individuals remained in the building and carried on drinking alcohol until the early hours. Exit logs indicate that some left after midnight and others between 1.45am and 2.45am. Two members of staff stayed later still, with one leaving at 3.11am and the last leaving at 4.20am.”
However, when later asked if the prime minister would apologise to the Queen for the events ahead of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, a Conservative party source told PA: “What does he need to apologise to the Queen for?”
They claimed that had “got away” with BYOB party
In an undated WhatsApp message, Gray discovered a message from private secretary Reynolds sent to a special adviser that read: “Best of luck - a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”
The event was identified as the bring your own booze party held on 20 May 2020 in the Number 10 garden.
Around a hundred invites were sent out for the event by Johnson’s principal private secretary, who wrote in an email that staff should gather in the No10 garden and “make the most of the lovely weather”.
The email said: “After what has been an incredibly busy period we thought 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!”
What has the reaction to the report been?
The publication of Gray’s report has reignited calls for the prime minister to resign, from both the opposition and within his own party.
Julian Sturdy, Conservative MP for York Outer, said the Sue Gray report showed Mr Johnson “has presided over a widespread culture of disregard for the coronavirus regulations”.
“While I thought it important to wait for the conclusion of the Metropolitan Police investigation and the publication of the Sue Gray report, I am now unable to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt and feel it is now in the public interest for him to resign,” he wrote in a statement shared to Twitter.
Hours after the report was released, Boris Johnson appeared in the House of Commons to issue a statement in response to Gray’s findings.
Johnson said he took “full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch”, had been “humbled” and learned lessons.
He told MPs that when he had previously said “the rules and guidance had been followed at all times”, it had been “what I believed to be true”.
“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.
The prime minister said he had been “shocked” and “appalled” by some of Gray’s findings, especially over the treatment of security and cleaning staff.
However, he ultimately urged the public to “move on” from the scandal. “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,” he told the Commons, insisting he would not resign over the findings.
At a later press conference, he pointed to the “biggest war in Europe for 70 years” and a “huge spike in the cost of living”, arguing: “My job is to get on and serve the people of this country.”
However, the prime minister sidestepped a question about whether his political team had asked for the removal of any facts from the Sue Gray report before its release and did not deny the report saying that he floated with Gray the idea of shelving her report.
What will happen next?
In the wake of the report’s publication, it is still unclear what immediate and long-term effects the investigation will have.
According to a snap poll from Savanta ComRes, two-thirds of people believe Boris Johnson should resign given the findings from Gray’s report into Partygate.
However, the prime minister has stood firm that he has no plan to resign over the Sue Gray report and told MPs that he had already brought in senior Downing Street management changes recommended by Gray.
The prime minister is also under investigation by the Commons Privileges Committee over claims he misled parliament over lockdown parties.