LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson headed an office where there were widespread breaches of coronavirus restrictions, according to a long-awaited government investigation released on Wednesday.
The report, prepared by a senior government employee, Sue Gray, included multiple photos of Mr. Johnson raises a glass at a birthday party in his honor, for which he violated the rules and paid a fine to the police. She noted that 83 people broke the rules at parties, some of whom drank heavily and damaged their property.
However, the report did not provide any new, particularly harmful information about Mr. Johnson, and even credited changing some of its practices to Downing Street to address the office culture said Ms. Gray was described in an earlier revised version of her report as being drunk with alcohol.
Ms. Gray has not recommended any punishment for people who break the rules. But she clearly said that junior employees attended parties that their superiors also attended, suggesting that Mr. Johnson and other prominent figures deserved the lion’s share of the responsibility for breaking the rules.
Ms. Gray’s conclusions were highly critical of the culture in Downing Street and likely increased political pressure on Mr. Johnson. “A number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or have developed in the way they did,” the document states.
She added that “at least some of the communities involved represent a serious failure to observe not only the high standards expected of those at the heart of government but also the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”
“I have learned of multiple examples of the lack of respect and mistreatment of security and cleaning staff,” Ms Gray wrote, adding, “This was unacceptable.”
“Many would be horrified that this kind of behavior occurred on such a scale in the heart of government. The public has a right to expect the highest standards of behavior in such places, and what happened clearly fell short, noted Gray.
Mr. Johnson faced new questions this week about his participation in parties during lockdown after ITV News on Monday released images showing him drinking at a Downing Street gathering believed to have taken place on November 3. 13, 2020.
Mr. Johnson denied in Parliament that a party had taken place on that date, raising doubts about whether he had given an honest account to fellow lawmakers. At least one person who attended the event is believed to have been fined by police for breaching lockdown laws, so London’s Metropolitan Police are also facing calls to explain why Mr. Johnson got away with it in this case.
The prime minister is expected to deliver a statement in Parliament early Wednesday afternoon, in which he will answer questions from lawmakers, including a number of critics within his Conservative Party. He is also expected to speak at a press conference and then address his deputies in private.
release mrs. Gray’s full findings on the scandal were withheld in January when police launched their own investigation. However, its initial report – which has been made public But as the parts were revised – it was shocking, and it was concluded that there were “failures of leadership and governance” by various parts of Downing Street and the apparatus of government.
Last week, the Metropolitan Police said its investigation into the Party Gate was complete, paving the way for Ms. Gray to finish her report.