COVID lockdown parties at U.K. leader’s office a “serious failure,” report says

Boris Johnson vows to fight amid inquiry

London — A long-awaited report into parties at the residence and workplace of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the height of the country’s 2020 coronavirus lockdown has found 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.”

The report published on Monday was put together by civil servant Sue Gray, but she had to constrain what she made public, as 12 of the gatherings in question are now being investigated by London’s Metropolitan Police.

Gray’s report lists 16 gatherings in total, all of which took place at Johnson’s official residence, 10 Downing Street, when it was forbidden for people to meet indoors with anyone from outside of their household.

Gray acknowledged in her report that she was restricted in what she could say due to the ongoing police investigation.

“It is not possible at present to provide a meaningful report setting out and analyzing the extensive factual information I have been able to gather,” she said.

Despite the limitations, she condemned the behavior of some of those at Number 10, criticizing the “excessive consumption of alcohol” in the workplace.

“There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No. 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did,” she said.

Addressing the British Parliament a short time later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized for the parties, but gave no indication that would heed the many calls for his resignation that have come from both opposition lawmakers and some members of his own Conservative party.

“I’m sorry for the things we simply didn’t get right, and also sorry for the way that this matter has been handled,” he said, outlining ways in which he would try to improve the workplace culture at 10 Downing Street. “I get it, and I will fix it, and I want to say to the people of this country: I know what the issue is. It’s whether this government can be trusted to deliver, and I say yes, we can be trusted.”

The leader of the opposition Labour party, Kier Starmer, renewed his call for members of Johnson’s party to remove him from his post.

Under British law, a sitting prime minister can be ousted by either a vote of no confidence within their own party, or through a national election. If Johnson were voted out by his own party, the Conservatives would remain in power and choose a new leader from among their ranks to become prime minister. If that happened, it would pile pressure on the party to call a national election.

“Whatever your politics, whichever party you vote for, honesty and decency matters,” Starmer said. “Our great democracy depends on it, and cherishing and nurturing British democracy is what it means to be patriotic. There are members opposite who know that. The eyes of the country are upon them. They will be judged by the decisions they take now.”

Haley Ott

Haley Ott is a digital reporter/producer for CBS News based in London.

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