LONDON – A long-awaited report on Downing Street parties during the pandemic dealt a painful blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, condemning him for failed leadership and painting a damning picture of “excessive” workplace drinking within the British government.
Mr Johnson had hoped the release of the 11-page document would allow him to lay out a festering scandal about the nefarious parties behind him. But instead, he has been battered in Congress, facing a new set of questions about his personal participation in social gatherings that appear to have violated lockdown rules.
Even in its heavily edited form, ‘s report Sue Gray, a high-ranking civil servant, deepening a crisis that has engulfed Mr Johnson for weeks, since reports of inappropriate gatherings emerged late last year and sparked a storm of criticism over a standard Double: that the prime minister and his staff can follow the pandemic’s rules while insisting the rest of the country follow them.
“There have been failures in leadership and judgment by different divisions of Number 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times,” Ms. Gray wrote of Downing Street management. “Some events should not have happened. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.”
During a bruised appearance in Parliament, Mr Johnson faced calls to resign from a senior member of his Conservative Party, as well as repeated demands for the full report from the investigator to be released. – finally forced Downing Street to say it.
Mrs Gray was forced to delete the document on the most potentially damaging details because London’s Metropolitan Police were investigating eight parties, including one held at Mr Johnson’s private flat, and they did not wanted the findings to influence his investigation. Ominously, police said late Monday that they had collected more than 500 pages of evidence and more than 300 photos.
Faced with an uprising within his party, Mr Johnson was forced to watch Conservatives stand up, one after another, berating him for allowing a culture of unruly, soaked culture Wine thrives in Downing Street. His predecessor, Prime Minister Theresa May, summed up the collecting sense of the opprobrium.
The British public, she claimed, “has a right to expect their prime minister to have read the rules, understand what the rules mean.” Arguing that the report made it clear Downing Street had restrictions on the pandemic, she asked Mr Johnson if he had “or haven’t read the rules, or not understood what they and others around him mean.” , or they don’t think about the rules that apply to the number 10. Which is it? ”
Mr Johnson denied that the report found misconduct and begged Mrs May to wait for the police investigation to be completed. After deflecting numerous questions about whether he would release Mrs Gray’s unchallenged report afterwards – drawing outcry from the opposition and hard silence from supporters for him – Downing Street gave up late on Monday.
“I understand, and I’ll fix it,” Mr Johnson said stubbornly earlier. He insisted that his track record on Brexit and the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine must outweigh what he admitted was his mishandling of the matter and that he apologized once. more on Monday.
Mr Johnson’s complaint did not calm the already agitated mood in the House of Commons. The leader of the opposition Scottish National Party in the UK Parliament, Ian Blackford, has been expelled after bluntly accusing Mr Johnson of lying to members – a breach of parliamentary protocol.
For Mr Johnson, dramatic events upset his plans to revolve around crowd-pleasing announcements about the economy and government regulations, as well as asserting the mantle of a statesman in the growing crisis in Ukraine.
A planned phone call with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin did not take place, instead, Mr. Johnson faced 90 minutes of questioning in Parliament. On Tuesday, Mr Johnson is expected to travel to Ukraine for a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky, his most direct person yet. participate in a crisis that he has so far assigned the bulk to Britain’s Foreign Secretary and Defense Secretary.
Knowing that the report would have a very limited scope, Downing Street had hoped its publication would help dissipate public anger over lockdown parties and allow the government to move on to other issues. In short, the document, which the Cabinet Office calls an “update” on Mrs Gray’s investigation, is more than a report.
But the report paints a disturbing portrait of the serious work culture at Downing Street, where employees held alcohol-rich gatherings throughout much of 2020, a period when the government The government is urging the public to avoid socializing, even with friends and relatives.
“Excessive alcohol consumption is inappropriate in the professional workplace,” writes Ms. Gray, adding that government agencies need “a clear and robust policy to apply to alcohol consumption.” in the workplace”. At one point during the debate, Mr Johnson denied that he had drunk too much while at work.
All told, Ms Gray’s report addresses 16 social gatherings in Downing Street and at nearby offices during the lockdown. Mr Johnson is known to have attended at least three of these, including a garden party in May 2020 which he insists he believes was a work event to pay tribute to staff.
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The report also alludes to a gathering being held in Mr Johnson’s flat, on 11 Downing Street, on 13 November 2020. That is the day the prime minister fired his main adviser, Dominic Cummings, who became Mr. Johnson’s arch nemesis, reveals details of mayhem and conspiracy inside Downing Street.
Mr Johnson declined to comment on that party being investigated by police. Newspapers in London called it the “Abba party,” as bystanders said they had heard “The Winner Takes it All,” a 1970s hit by the Swedish pop group, echoing from their windows. .
Some say Mr Johnson could have been better served by bringing more details into the public domain than letting the matter stalk him. Now, he remains besieged and fighting to keep his post, with many members of his party turning against him.
During the debate, a senior Conservative lawmaker, Andrew Mitchell, announced he was no longer backing Mr Johnson. Aaron Bell, a younger Tory, spoke emotionally about following all the rules while attending a social distancing funeral for his grandmother, where he said there were only 10 people.
“I don’t hug my siblings. I don’t hug my parents. I gave a eulogy and after that, I didn’t even go into her house for a cup of tea,” he said, adding that he then drove three hours to get home. “Does the Prime Minister think I’m a fool?”
Mr Johnson has tried to avoid a vote of no confidence by Conservative lawmakers. Such a vote will be triggered if 54 members send a secret message requesting it. That threshold has yet to be met and Mr Johnson appears to have raised his position in recent days, with public outcry against the parties appearing to have eased.
But on Monday, Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “It is very striking that not many Conservative members of Parliament have stood up to question even support. when loyal ministers wanted to speak on his behalf. on the media. “
Prof Bale said Mr Johnson’s future now depends on how the public reacts to the latest revelation. At Kings Cross station in London on Monday, some said they thought the government had betrayed the public’s trust.
“He broke his own rules,” said Joanna Ashby, 55, a nurse with the National Health Service. “I know people who died in captivity. I almost had to attend their funeral. My niece never had a diploma – it was taken from her. ”
Saskia Solomon contribution report
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/world/europe/boris-johnson-gray-report.html Reports of Downing Street parties add to crisis for Boris Johnson