Loud rallies, drunken fights, alcoholism, red wine spilled on walls, broken children’s swings: Sue Gray’s report paints a picture of wild life in Downing Street when the rest of the UK is under strict lockdown rules.

In her 37-page document, Gray was careful to avoid criticizing individuals, instead pointing to a broader “lapse of leadership and judgment” in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.

“The senior leadership at the center, whether political or official, must be held accountable for this culture,” the report said.

Senior leaders know they are breaking the rules

The report outlines, page by page, how illegal gatherings occur, and senior people know they may be breaking or breaking the rules.

At one point, Boris Johnson’s chief private secretary, Martin Reynolds, sent an email to 200 people inviting them to a reception at Downing Street Gardens on 20 May 2020.

In response, a colleague warned: “The press conference could end at that point, and it would be very helpful if people could pay attention to this as the speakers and cameras leave, rather than walking around and waving bottles. “

Some time later, Reynolds wrote to another colleague who mentioned the May party: “Good luck – a story with no story at all, but better than their focus on our drinks (we seem to have gotten away with it) ).”

Boris Johnson at a party in Downing Street on 13 November 2020 © UK Government

On another occasion, then-Downing Street communications chief Lee Kane warned Reynolds in an exchange about a party planned for June 18, 2020, that the idea of ​​a party could be a mistake. “Honestly, I’m not sure it works . . . it clearly comes with considerable communication risk,” Cain wrote.

Before the party, an official wrote sarcastically to colleagues: “Martin (Reynolds) and Stewart (Glasboro) want to speak tomorrow when our drink is not a drink.”

Downing Street party culture

Gray’s report has revealed details of a dizzying series of gatherings in and around Downing Street.

At an event on Dec. 18, 2020, with as many as 45 people at the No. 10 press office, Gray noted that people were drinking “too much” and the atmosphere was boisterous.

“The event was so crowded and noisy that some people working elsewhere in Building 10 that night heard loud noises from what they called a press office party,” she wrote.

The cleaners who came to the room the next morning found red wine spilled on a wall and boxes of copy paper, the report said. It noted that staff on the 10th repeatedly showed a lack of respect for security and cleaning staff.

Two gatherings were held on June 18, 2020. The first was held in Cabinet Room 10 and lasted an hour. The second took place in the cabinet secretary’s room at 70 Whitehall and involved “alcohol, food and music” and lasted several hours.

Helen MacNamara, the cabinet undersecretary for ethics and protocol at Whitehall, was in attendance for part of the evening and even provided a karaoke machine.

“Some people drink to excess,” the report said. “One person was sick. There was a skirmish between the other two.” The last staff member left the gathering at 3.13am.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak at the Prime Minister’s Birthday Party in the Downing Street Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020 © UK Government

At a party on April 16, 2021, the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, reports tell of how staff attended the party until the early hours of the morning.

“Exit logs show that some people left after midnight and some left between 1.45am and 2.45am. Two staff were later, one left at 3.11am and the last one at 04 Leave at 20.”

Junior officials bear the brunt of fines

Given the report’s portrayal of Dionysian culture on the 10th while millions are essentially locked at home, the report could do political damage to Johnson. But some of the report’s conclusions could be helpful to the prime minister.

Gray, for example, confirmed that Johnson didn’t know it until the party celebrating his 56th birthday on June 19, 2020 – for which he received a fixed penalty notice.

“After returning from an outside visit to 10 Downing Street at about 14.20, he was taken into the Cabinet Room, which was filled with sandwiches, snacks, soft drinks and cans of beer,” the report said. Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were both fined £50 for attending the event.

Likewise, Gray ruled that it was “inappropriate or disproportionate” to investigate the Nov. 13, 2020, rally at Johnson’s private apartment on Building 10 following the departure of former chief of staff Dominic Cummings.

Gray said she did not investigate the rally further because the Metropolitan Police Force had already begun its own investigation of irregularities across Whitehall.

Critics have pointed out that the Met appears to be fining junior staff more than their bosses – including civil service chief Simon Case, who was not fined at all.

Gray points out that younger employees tend to follow the lead of their superiors when they go to drinking parties.

“I do offer a reflection: While there are no excuses for some of the actions listed here, it’s important to acknowledge that those in the lowest positions attended parties their superiors attended or did organize,” she said. “I hope to take that into consideration when considering any disciplinary action.”