Sue Gray report: Top 10 most damning messages from Partygate report

With the Sue Gray report finally published, the public is now able to see into the heart of government and how they viewed the events going on inside Number 10.

Here are ten of the most damning emails, WhatsApp and other messages between Downing Street staff covering several different events investigated by Sue Gray.

20th May, 2020

In an WhatsApp message between Martin Reynolds, Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, and an unnamed special adviser, Mr Reynolds references the drinks event in the Downing Street garden held on May 20, 2020.

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In his message he states the Prime Minister’s office believes it has “got away with” the drinks, pictures of which later were published by the press.

He writes: “Best of luck, a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”

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Referencing the same event before it took place, officials were also warning those taking place in the drinks to not be “walking around waving bottles of wine” due to the ongoing press conference in Downing Street.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).

The message, from one Number 10 official to Mr 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.”

Martin Reynolds replied: “Will do my best!…”

Discussing the same drinks, to which hundreds of officials received the now infamous ‘bring your own booze’ invitation from Mr Reynolds, Lee Cain, the then director of communications in Number 10, warned of “a comms risk” from the “200 odd person invitation”.

He stated: “I’m sure it will be fine – and I applaud the gesture – but a 200 odd person invitation for drinks in the garden of no 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment.”

June 18, 2020

The June 18th event took place to mark the departure of a civil servant.

The following messages were exchanged between Mr Cain and Mr Reynolds, explaining the risks of holding “some kind of party” and of the “rather substantial comms risk” of such an event.

They read:

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Lee Cain: “I’m not sure it works at all to be honest, which would be a shame. I don’t see how we can have some kind of party though´

Martin Reynolds: “So you are saying nothing for [No 10 official (1)]?”

Lee Cain: “I think it’s your decision my friend, not mind [sic]! But it obviously comes with rather substantial comms risks”

The same drinks saw one Number 10 official email another talking about “drinks which aren’t drinks”.

They wrote: “Hi Martin [Reynolds] and Stuart [Glassborow] would like to do speeches tomorrow when we have your drinks which aren’t drinks”

It was at this event that Sue Gray said let to “excessive alcohol consumption”, a “minor altercation” between two individuals, and one person being sick.

The last person to depart left at 3:13am.

December 18, 2020

Numerous events on this date occurred, with Sue Gray referencing the fact there were staff “mingling” between two separate events and moving between the basement of Number 10 and the Press Office.

Messages between officials included talk of “lots of” wine, and of adding cheese to the event.

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The messages state: "We will do gift exchange and cheese and (lots of) wine on 18th Dec

Another adds: “Done, Looking forward to a chilled WTF [Wine Time Friday] next week”, while another commented “...depending on how full it gets we can put Friday’s cheese in there”.

By 9:30pm, more than 20 people were present in the Downing Street garden “with a number of bottles of alcohol”.

This event led to a child’s swing being damaged, with a number of people leaving Number 10 around 9:30pm after a custodian began locking the building down.

Exit logs add that some left after midnight, others between 1:45 and 2:45am, with the last member of staff leaving at 4:20am.

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