Six months after the first revelations about parties in Downing Street during the confinement, British politics remains mired in “partygate”. The never-ending saga was relaunched on Wednesday May 25 with the full publication of the report by senior official Sue Gray. It had been ordered in December 2021, it was ready at the end of January, but Scotland Yard had blocked its publication, citing the start of its own investigation.
METERme Gray, a civil servant with a reputation for integrity, could only reveal excerpts of her work at the time, but the conclusions were already edifying: She listed 16 “meetings” problematic, between May 2020 and April 2021, and noted serious “leadership failures” inside Downing Street. With the police investigation having concluded in mid-May (and having resulted in the issuance of 126 fines for violations of health regulations, including one for the Prime Minister and one for the Minister of Finance, Rishi Sunak), nothing prevented the high civil servant fully lift the veil on the actions of Boris Johnson, his cabinet and his advisers during the pandemic.
The numerous details provided throughout the document’s forty pages describe officials having largely freed themselves from the draconian sanitary regulations that they themselves had enacted and imposed on the rest of the country: a strict ban on gatherings until the summer of 2020, no more than six people gathered indoors or outdoors from the fall of the same year.
“Cheese and wine”
On 15 May 2020, in full lockdown, a number of people from Downing Street, including the Prime Minister and his special adviser at the time, Dominic Cummings, gathered in Downing Street Gardens for a drink. Boris Johnson has “He brought cheese and wine” from his private apartment, located at 11 Downing Street. The garden party on May 20, 2020 had been planned for a good week and despite some reservations expressed in particular by the communication director at the time (Lee Cain), an email reminder was sent out the same day, on behalf of Martin Reynolds, Mr. Johnson’s private secretary, to 200 recipients.
On June 18, Helen McNamara, then the Cabinet Office’s director of ethics, even provided karaoke equipment.
On the following June 18, for a Downing Street civil servant’s farewell drink, the prosecco flowed freely and Helen McNamara, then director of ethics at the Cabinet Office, even provided karaoke materials. That day, Sue Gray notes, the guests drank too much, one of them was ill, and there was even an altercation. The last guest left the premises at 3 am
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