Downing Street parties: Sue Gray's report may be short on detail, but its conclusions are damning

Failures of leadership. Staff who felt unable to raise concerns. A reference to excessive boozing in the workplace.

This isn't the detailed, comprehensive report many hoped for. The intervention of the Met Police put paid to that, for now at least.

But make no mistake – its findings are damning.

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Sue Gray's long-awaited report makes tough reading for Boris JohnsonSue Gray's long-awaited report makes tough reading for Boris Johnson
Sue Gray's long-awaited report makes tough reading for Boris Johnson

Senior civil servant Sue Gray looked at 16 alleged events in Downing Street and Whitehall, three of which were not previously public knowledge.

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Of these, 12 are now being investigated by the police. That is an astonishing fact in and of itself.

Boris Johnson is reported to have attended at least three of these.

One event, which has been denied, is said to have taken place in the Downing Street flat he shares with Carrie Johnson.

"At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government, but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time," wrote Ms Gray.

She found there were “failures of leadership and judgement by different parts of No.10 and the Cabinet Office at different times”.

From a civil servant, this is strong stuff.

Ms Gray concluded there was “significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government”, adding: “This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded.”

For his part, Mr Johnson announced a shake-up of No.10 and said he accepted the report’s findings in full.

"I get it and I will fix it,” he told MPs.

In terms of what happens next, a lot rests on the reaction of Tory backbenchers.

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Many were waiting for the publication of Ms Gray’s report before deciding whether to submit a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson.

Will this truncated, but damaging document prove the final nail in the coffin, or will enough MPs choose to hold fire?

Some of the interventions in the Commons will certainly worry Mr Johnson’s team.

In one electrifying moment, former prime minister Theresa May said the report showed Downing Street was not observing its own rules.

Mr Johnson either had not read them, did not understand them or did not think they applied to No.10. “Which was it?” she asked icily.

Aaron Bell, a Tory MP elected in 2019 to represent Newcastle-under-Lyme, recalled his grandmother’s lockdown funeral.

“I didn’t hug my siblings, I didn’t hug my parents, I gave the eulogy and then afterwards I didn’t even go to her house for a cup of tea,” he said.

"I drove back three hours from Kent to Staffordshire. Does the Prime Minister think I’m a fool?”

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No, Mr Johnson replied, before apologising again for misjudgements “that may have been made”.

Ms Gray’s report outlines the restrictions people across the UK were living under during the pandemic.

"Everyone has made personal sacrifices, some the most profound, having been unable to see loved ones in their last moments or care for vulnerable family and friends,” she wrote.

Mr Bell’s experience will have echoes all around the country.

And that will be a source of deep concern for many Tory MPs.



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