Downing Street lockdown parties were serious failures, major report says

United Kingdom prime minister Boris Johnson has apologized after an investigation showed that Downing Street was partying while Britain was in shutdown represented a “serious mistake” in complying with the standards expected of the government or in listening to the sacrifices made by millions of people during the pandemic.

But Mr Johnson rejected calls for resignation because of the “partygate” scandal, promising to reform the way his office is run, and insisting that he and his government can be trusted.

“I understand that and I will fix it,” he told parliament on Monday morning (Tuesday morning AEDT), after senior official Sue Gray announced preliminary results of several rallies in 2020 and 2021, while Britain was under government-imposed restrictions to limit the spread. of coronavirus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leaving 10 Downing Street as he heads to London Parliament. (AP)

Ms Gray found that “failure in leadership and judgment” allowed for events that “should not have been allowed to take place.”

“The difficulties that citizens across the country worked, lived and unfortunately even died of while strictly following government rules and guidelines are only too well known,” Ms Gray wrote.

“Given the pandemic, as the government asked citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behavior surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify,” she added.

Ms Grays ‘glimpse inside a Downing St 10 marked by excessive alcohol consumption and staff afraid to speak out about problems in the workplace is a blow to Mr Johnson, despite the fact that Mrs Grays’ conclusions relate to only four of the 16 events , she investigated.

Her findings on 12 others have been withheld at the request of police, who last week launched a criminal investigation into the most serious alleged violations of coronavirus rules. The Metropolitan Police Force said it had called for cuts in Ms Gray’s report “to avoid any prejudice to our investigation.”

A street cleaner walks past 10 Downing Street in London. (AP)

The force said Monday it would interview partygoers and look at more than 300 photos and over 500 pages of documents it had received from Mrs Gray’s team.

Among the events during the police investigation are a birthday party for Johnson in June 2020 in Downing Street and two gatherings held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021 – a funeral where Widow Queen Elizabeth II had to sit alone.

The cuts in Mrs Gray’s report have led opponents to accuse Mr Johnson of money laundering.

Accusations that the prime minister and his staff overruled restrictions imposed on the country to stem the spread of coronavirus – holding “bring your own booze” office parties, birthday celebrations and “wine time Fridays” – have caused public outrage, led to some conservative lawmakers called for Mr Johnson’s resignation and sparked intense fighting in the ruling party.

Opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer said the British public had brought “heartbreaking victims” and endured “a collective trauma” during the pandemic.

“The prime minister took us all for fools,” he said. “He held the sacrifice of the people in contempt. He proved unfit for office.”

Members of the media gather outside 10 Downing Street. (AP)

Starmer said many Britons “think the Prime Minister should do the decent thing and resign. Of course he will not. Because he is a man without shame.”

Johnson can ignore the opposition’s criticism because the Conservatives have a large majority in parliament. His fate rests on how conservative lawmakers react to his apology. Some had previously said they would push for a no-confidence vote if Mrs Gray found out Mr Johnson was seriously wrong or had misled Parliament with his earlier insistence that no rules had been broken.

Johnson urged his critics to wait for the conclusions of the police investigation.

But a Conservative lawmaker, Andrew Mitchell, said in the House of Commons that Johnson “no longer has my support.”

Another, Aaron Bell, recalled attending his grandmother’s small, socially distant funeral in May 2020 and asked, “Does the Prime Minister think I’m a fool?”

The former Conservative prime minister, Theresa May, said that either Mr Johnson and those around him “had not read the rules or did not understand what they meant. … Or they did not think the rules applied to them. What was it?” “

Sir. Gray did not directly criticize the prime minister, but said that “there is significant learning to be gained from these events, which need to be addressed immediately across the government.”

The government has not promised to publish Ms Gray’s full results once the police investigation is complete, and has only said it will consider it.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Tilbury Docks in Tilbury, England. (AP)

Johnson may be interviewed by detectives as part of their investigation and may face a fine if he is found to have violated the law.

Sir. Johnson, meanwhile, tried to change the subject from his personal problems, marking the second day of Brexit on Monday by highlighting economic opportunities outside the EU.

Britain officially left the now 27-nation bloc on 31 January 2020, although it remained part of the EU’s economic structures for a further 11 months.

Since then, trade between the UK and the EU has fallen, although the upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic has obscured the economic ructions caused by the end of friction-free trade with Britain’s largest economic partner.

Johnson on Monday promised to unleash the potential of Brexit and unveiled a “Brexit Freedoms” bill that the government says will cut bureaucracy for UK companies by amending laws passed from Britain’s year as an EU member.

Johnson is also planning a diplomatic push to try to ease tensions between Russia and Ukraine. He is expected to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone later and visit Ukraine on Tuesday as part of efforts to deter Russia from invading its neighbor.

Some political observers said Mrs Gray’s rewritten and partial report could give Mr Johnson at least a temporary respite from calls for his removal.

“It’s a mess,” said Will Walden, a former Johnson assistant. “It’s probably bad for democracy, but unintentionally good for the Prime Minister.”

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