A report on Britain’s government parties breaking the lockdown released on Wednesday said the blame for a “culture” of rule-breaking in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office must lie with those at the top.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray’s long-awaited report into the ‘partygate’ scandal said the ‘executive team…must take responsibility’ for a culture that allowed events that ‘shouldn’t have happened’ “.
Gray investigated 16 gatherings Johnson and his staff attended in 2020 and 2021 when people in the UK were banned from socializing under coronavirus restrictions imposed by Johnson’s Conservative government.
Gray said there had been “failures of leadership and judgment at No 10”, a reference to the Prime Minister’s office in Downing Street.
“Those in the most junior positions attended rallies where their superiors were present, even organized,” she said.
Johnson plans to address parliament on the report’s findings later on Wednesday.
A separate police investigation resulted in fines for 83 people, including Johnson, making him the first British prime minister to break the law while in office. The scandal led to calls for Johnson’s resignation.
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“Fridays at wine time”
He had previously apologized, but insisted he had not knowingly broken the rules. British media and opposition politicians have found this difficult to reconcile with stories from staffers of ‘bring your own booze’ parties and regular ‘wine Fridays’ in the Prime Minister’s office. of 10 Downing St. at the height of the pandemic.
A partial version of Gray’s report was released in January after police asked him to leave out details to avoid harming their investigations. The interim report criticized the “failures of leadership and judgement” that allowed the parties to take place, and described a Downing Street operation marked by excessive drinking and dysfunctional dynamics.
Claims that Johnson and his staff profited from illegal office parties as millions across the country were barred from seeing friends and family in 2020 and 2021 first surfaced at the end of the year. ‘last year.
In his statement to parliament, Johnson will have to explain why he previously told lawmakers that no parties were held in Downing Street and no rules were broken.
Critics, including some within Johnson’s Conservative Party, say the Prime Minister lied to Parliament. Ministers who knowingly deceive Parliament are expected to resign.
Johnson has clung to power so far, in part because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has diverted public and political attention. Some Tories who were considering asking for a vote of no confidence in their leader decided it would be unwise to push Johnson into the midst of the war, which is destabilizing Europe and fueling a cost of living crisis.
The Prime Minister was given a further reprieve when the Metropolitan Police told him last week that he would no longer receive fines despite having attended several events under investigation.
The political future may be threatened
But Gray’s findings could reignite calls from Conservative lawmakers for a vote of no confidence in the leader that won them a large parliamentary majority just over two years ago. Under party rules, such a vote is triggered if 15% of party lawmakers — currently 54 people — write letters asking for one.
If Johnson lost such a vote, he would be replaced as Conservative leader and prime minister. It is not known how many letters have been submitted so far.
Environment Secretary George Eustice on Wednesday defended the Prime Minister, but acknowledged that “the line between what was acceptable and what was not has blurred, and that was a mistake”.
“The Prime Minister himself has accepted this and recognizes that of course there have been shortcomings and therefore there needs to be changes in the way the place is run,” Eustice told Times Radio.