Karaoke machines, broken swings and ‘watered altercations’: Inside Boris Johnson’s Downing Street parties

Boris Johnson ‘must take responsibility’ for the culture of Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street during lockdown, a scathing report by senior civil servant Sue Gray has concluded.

Its report, published on Wednesday morning, found that “failures of leadership and judgment at Number 10 and the Cabinet Office” resulted in regular gatherings which were “not in line with Covid guidelines at the time”.

Ms Gray said there were “multiple examples of disrespect and mistreatment of security and cleaning staff” by those attending the rallies.

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She added: “Many will be appalled that behavior like this has taken place on this scale at the heart of government. The public has a right to expect the highest standards of behavior in such places and it is clear that what happened is way below that.”

Ms Gray’s report details a number of events that have taken place over the past two years, one – an organized departure in June 2020 – lays bare the extent to which the rule has been broken.

Dozens of staff attended the event at the Cabinet Office where, according to the report: “Some brought pizza and prosecco and they were followed by others, over the next two hours. Helen MacNamara, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, attended part of the evening and provided a karaoke machine installed in an office adjoining the waiting room.

“The event lasted for several hours. There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals. One individual was ill. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals.”

At another event, held in April 2021, a number of Downing Street workers were found to have “drunk excessively” at another going away party. His report states that despite being told to leave by Security Number 10, “some people remained in the building and continued to drink alcohol until the early hours of the morning.

Sue Gray wrote: “Many will be appalled that behavior like this has taken place on this scale at the heart of government.”

“Exit logs indicate that some left after midnight and others between 01:45 and 02:45. Two members of staff stayed later still, one leaving at 03:11 and the last at 04:20.”

On another occasion, former communications chief Lee Cain warned Boris Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds and Dominic Cummings that a Bring Your Own Booze party on May 20, 2020 was ‘somewhat of a communication risk’ and requested the cancellation of the event.

According to Ms Gray’s report, Mr Cain emailed Mr Cummings and Mr Reynolds which read: ‘I’m sure everything will be fine – and I applaud the gesture – but an invitation from 200 people to Having a drink in the garden of No 10 is somewhat of a communication risk in today’s environment.

The event went ahead and Mr Reynolds later bragged in a WhatsApp message ‘we seem to have gotten away with it with’ the BYOB garden party.

The Metropolitan Police issued 126 fines for breaking the rules at No 10 and Whitehall, with the Prime Minister receiving just one notice of a fixed fine for his birthday party. Mr Johnson will apologize to MPs in a statement to the Commons later.

The report released by Ms Gray includes a series of photos, with Mr Johnson pictured at the surprise Cabinet Room birthday party on June 19, 2020 for which he was fined.

He is seen with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with sandwiches, juice and what appears to be Estrella lager – in one photo, Mr Johnson is seen lifting a can of beer in the air. Other photos include previously seen images of Mr Johnson raising a glass of wine during a departure for his former spin doctor Lee Cain on November 13, 2020.


James G. Williams