Boris Johnson has sensationally apologised over the Downing Street parties scandal as it was revealed the Metropolitan Police have been handed 300 photos from the boozy events.
Catherine Roper, the Met commander leading the investigation, today said she received “a bundle of material” from Sue Gray on Friday, including 500 pages of documents and 300 images.
Gray released her long-awaited report today, with the senior civil servant unable to publish the vast majority of her findings on the allegations of widespread Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street due to the police investigation.
She said a “number of gatherings” in Downing Street during strict Covid restrictions “should not have been allowed to take place”, while hitting out at the “lack of leadership” in Number 10 and the Cabinet Office.
Gray said she was “extremely limited” in what she could say about the many accusations of Covid rule-breaking due to the Metropolitan Police’s criminal investigation and that she could not deliver a “meaningful report” on the saga.
Gray said she was unable to deliberate on whether “criminal law has been broken”, however it has been confirmed that three events being investigated by the Met directly involve Johnson.
The details-light report means Johnson will escape from a serious leadership challenge for now, however he faced some fire from his own side today including from ex-PM Theresa May.
Boris Johnson told the House of Commons he was “sorry, and I’m sorry for the things we simply didn’t get right and also sorry for the way this matter has been handled”.
He added: “But it isn’t enough to say sorry. This is a moment when we must look at ourselves in the mirror and we must learn. And while the Metropolitan Police must yet complete their investigation, I of course accept Sue Gray’s general findings in full.”
He said that he would now change the structures of Number 10 to ensure there was a better operation going forward.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “there can be no doubt that the Prime Minister is now subject to criminal investigation” and called for him to resign.
“He held people’s sacrifice in contempt, he showed himself unfit for office. His desperate denials since he was exposed have only made matters worse,” he said.
“Margaret Thatcher once said the first duty of government is to uphold the law. If it tries to bob and weave around that duty, then so will the governed.”
Theresa May launched an attack on Johnson and his role in the scandal, asking: “Either [Johnson] had not read the rules, or didn’t understand what they meant … or didn’t think the rules applied to them. Which was it?”
Gray’s slimmed down report can only discuss four of the 16 allegations of lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street and Whitehall, with the Met’s investigation looking at the other 12.
Gray said that “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”.
She also said the behaviour of Downing Street staff was “difficult to justify”.
“A number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did,” the report said.
“There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across government.”
Gray’s highly anticipated report was unable to reveal its findings on the “bring your own booze” party in Number 10 on 20 May 2020, which the Prime Minister attended for 25 minutes.
This event is seen to have the most potential trouble for Johnson as there is evidence it was a party and the Prime Minister has told parliament that he believed it was a “work event”.
Former Number 10 aide Dominic Cummings claims that he personally warned Johnson that the event was a party and that it should be cancelled.
Gray was able to say there were “failures of leadership and judgement” in Number 10 and the Cabinet office in an attack on the workplace culture observed in the highest reaches of government.
She said there was evidence of “excessive consumption of alcohol” in the workplace, which was “inappropriate”.
Gray added: “Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so. No member of staff should feel unable to report or challenge poor conduct where they witness it.”
One Tory MP, former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, publicly called for Johnson to resign in the Commons.
Mitchell said the Prime Minister “no longer enjoys my support”.
Tory Newcastle-under-Lyme MP Aaron Bell recalled how he travelled hundreds of miles to his grandmother’s funeral in May 2020 – when two alleged Downing Street parties were held – where only 10 people attended.
Bell angrily asked “does the Prime Minister think I’m a fool?”