Downing Street’s culture of intoxicated excess laid bare by report

Raucous events, intoxicated battles, consuming to excess, red white wine spilled on a wall, a damaged kids’s swing: the Sue Gray report paints a wild photo of life inside Downing Street when the remainder of the UK was under rigorous lockdown guidelines.

Gray took care to prevent criticising people in her 37-page file, rather pointing at more comprehensive “failures of leadership and judgment” in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.

“The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture,” the report stated.

Senior management understood they were breaking guidelines

Page by page, the report described not just how prohibited celebrations were occurring however likewise that senior figures understood they might be flexing or breaking the guidelines.

On one event Martin Reynolds, primary personal secretary to Boris Johnson, sent out an e-mail to 200 individuals welcoming them to a beverages celebration in the Downing Street garden on May 20 2020.

In action, an associate alerted: “Press conference will probably be finishing around that time, so helpful if people can be mindful of that as speakers and cameras are leaving, not walking around waving bottles of wine.”

Some time later on Reynolds composed to another associate describing the May celebration: “Best of luck — a complete non-story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”

Boris Johnson at an event in Downing Street on November 13 2020 © UK Government

On another event, Lee Cain, then head of Downing Street interactions, alerted Reynolds throughout an exchange about events prepared for June 18 2020 that the concept of a celebration might be an error. “I’m not sure it works at all to be honest . . . it obviously comes with rather substantial comms risk,” Cain composed.

Ahead of the events, one authorities composed sardonically to associates: “Martin (Reynolds) and Stuart (Glassborow) would like to do speeches tomorrow when we have our drinks which aren’t drinks.”

Culture of partying in Downing Street

Gray’s report exposed information of an excessive variety of events at Downing Street and its environments.

At an occasion on December 18 2020, which included approximately 45 individuals in the Number 10 press workplace, Gray kept in mind there was a raucous environment with individuals consuming “excessively”.

“The event was crowded and noisy, such that some people working elsewhere in the Number 10 building that evening heard significant levels of noise coming from what they characterised as a party in the press office,” she composed.

A cleaner who participated in the space the next early morning discovered red white wine spilled on one wall and on numerous boxes of copy machine paper, the report stated. It kept in mind that personnel at Number 10 consistently revealed a disrespect towards security and cleaning up personnel.

Two events happened on June 18 2020. The initially happened in Number 10 in the Cabinet Room and lasted approximately an hour. The 2nd, which happened in the cabinet secretary’s spaces at 70 Whitehall, included “alcohol, food and music” and lasted numerous hours.

Helen MacNamara, deputy cabinet secretary — who was accountable for Whitehall principles and propriety — participated in for part of the night and even supplied a karaoke device.

“There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals,” the report stated. “One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals.” The last member of personnel left this event at 3.13am. 

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak at an event in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street for the prime minister’s birthday on June 19 2020 © UK Government

At one event on April 16 2021 — the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral service — the report states how personnel partied up until the early hours of the early morning.

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

Junior authorities bear the force of fines

The report might show politically harmful for Johnson offered its representation of a Bacchanalian culture in Number 10 while countless individuals were mostly locked down in their houses. But a few of the report’s conclusions might be handy for the prime minister.

For example, Gray validated that Johnson was not mindful in advance of the event to mark his 56th birthday on June 19 2020 — for which he got a repaired charge notification.

“He returned from an external visit to Number 10 Downing Street at approximately 14.20 and was taken into the Cabinet Room which had been set up with sandwiches, snacks, soft drinks and cans of beer,” the report stated. Johnson, his other half Carrie Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak were all fined £50 for attending this occasion.

Likewise Gray ruled that it was “not appropriate or proportionate” to examine an event hung on November 13 2020 in Johnson’s personal house above Number 10 after the departure of previous chief of personnel Dominic Cummings.

Gray stated she did not look even more into the event since the Metropolitan Police force had actually started deal with its own query into guideline breaking throughout Whitehall.

Critics have actually kept in mind that the Met appears to have actually given out more fines to junior members of personnel than their employers — consisting of Simon Case, head of the civil service, who has actually not been fined at all.

Gray kept in mind that more youthful staffers had actually typically been following the lead of their superiors when they participated in boozy celebrations.

“I do offer a reflection: while there is no excuse for some of the behaviour set out here it is important to acknowledge that those in the most junior positions attended gatherings at which their seniors were present, or indeed organised,” she stated. “I hope this will be taken into account in considering any disciplinary action.”


News and digital media editor, writer, and communications specialist. Passionate about social justice, equity, and wellness. Covering the news, viewing it differently.

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