LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – The much-anticipated report by Sue Gray into the Downing Street parties during the pandemic has been released.
She claims “leadership and judgement failures” in No 10 and the Cabinet Office, for which “the top leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility.”
What is the conclusion of today’s final report?
Ms Gray describes 16 incidents that took place between May 2020 and April 2021 that fell under her purview. Police investigated 12 of these cases.
What happened at many of these events and how they developed was not in accordance with Covid guidelines at the time, she says.
The police inquiry resulted in fines for 83 people who attended these events which included the prime minister and the chancellor of the exchequer.
The public had a right to demand the highest standards of behaviour in places like these, Ms Gray adds, and plainly what transpired fell far short of that.
According to the investigation, junior civil servants were persuaded to feel that their participation in these activities was appropriate because senior civil servants and authorities were involved.
There were numerous incidents of an “unacceptable” lack of respect and terrible treatment of security and cleaning workers, which some employees “had witnessed or been subjected to at work which they had been concerned about but at times felt unable to raise adequately.”
Several pictures of the prime minister were included in the report, taken at several of the events covered by the report.
What other information has surfaced?
The report includes WhatsApp communications between Downing Street officials, which show that some of these events were planned ahead of time, despite concerns about how they would be regarded.
Martin Reynolds, a senior civil servant, invited workers to a “socially distanced garden party” on May 20, 2020. “A 200-odd person invitation for drinks in the garden of No 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment,” Lee Cain, who was No 10’s director of communications at the time, said.
Mr Reynolds also mentioned the events in a later correspondence, saying that “we seem to have gotten away with” the incident.
So, what happens next?
Sue Gray reiterates in the final report that she was not to “to make a judgement on whether the criminal law had been broken: that is properly a matter for law enforcement bodies.”
On May 19, the Metropolitan Police reported that its investigation was complete.
“If appropriate, the investigations will establish whether individual disciplinary action is warranted,” the inquiry’s terms of reference state.
It was vital to realise that those in the most junior positions attended parties when their seniors were present, or indeed organised, Ms Gray said.
Ms Gray’s findings will be evaluated as part of a parliamentary committee’s probe into whether the prime minister lied to Parliament.