Report criticises lockdown parties at UK PM Johnson’s office

LONDON: Some events at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office and residence during a COVID-19 lockdown should not have taken place, an inquiry said on Monday (Jan 31), describing serious failures of leadership and judgment at the heart of the British government.

In her inquiry into lockdown-breaking gatherings at Downing Street under Johnson, senior civil servant Sue Gray condemned some of the behaviour in government as being "difficult to justify".

But she also said she could not offer a "meaningful report" – an apparent acknowledgement of a police investigation into other gatherings which led to only an abridged version of the report being released. These include one in the prime minister's flat above his Number 10 office.

Johnson, who is facing the gravest threat to his premiership, appeared in parliament following the report's publication.

"I want to say sorry," Johnson told parliament. "Sorry for the things we simply did not get right and sorry for the way that this matter has been handled."

Johnson said the government had to learn from the criticisms raised, and that he would make changes to his Downing Street operation.

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"I get it and I will fix it," he said. "And I want to say to the people of this country. I know what the issue is, it is whether this government can be trusted to deliver and I say yes we can be trusted, yes we can be trusted to deliver."

Gray's report looked into what has become weeks of a steady drip of stories about events in Downing Street during the COVID-19 lockdown, with reports of aides stuffing a suitcase full of supermarket alcohol and dancing until the early hours.

However, parts of the report were not published due to the ongoing police investigation, which could take months. He has so far weathered calls from opponents and some in his own party to resign by saying people needed to wait for the report.

"At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time," Gray wrote.

She also said the "excessive consumption of alcohol" at Downing Street was not appropriate.

"Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify," it said.

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