What was Boris Johnson’s response to Sue Gray’s report?

The Prime Minister made a statement at the end of the PMQs and held a special press conference in response to the release of Sue Gray’s Partygate report

The full report, released on Wednesday May 25, heavily criticized the gatherings that were taking place at Downing Street and Whitehall, while the UK’s strict Covid lockdown rules banned the UK public from meeting others indoors.

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Mr. Gray concluded in her report that in order to foster a culture where employees feel empowered to host and participate in such parties, “leaders” must have “accountability”.

She added the public was “dismayed” by the report’s findings, with many calling for Mr Johnson to step down.

In response to the report, the Prime Minister, who was fined for a gathering on June 19, 2020 – his own birthday celebration – has apologized and said he was “humbled” by the experience.

Here is his full response to Sue Gray’s account.

Boris Johnson has given his response to Sue Gray’s much-anticipated Partygate report at both PMQs and a special press conference. (Image credit: NationalWorld)

Has Boris Johnson apologized for Partygate?

Following a lively question and answer session from the Prime Minister on May 25, Mr Johnson issued a statement in response to the full report being released.

He told MPs: “I am grateful to Sue Gray for her report today and would like to thank her for the job she has done and also thank the Metropolitan Police for completing their investigation.

“First of all, I would like to once again apologize to the House and to the whole country for the brief lunchtime session on 19 June 2020 in the Cabinet Room, during which I stood at my seat at the Cabinet table and received a fix fine, and I would also like to say Mr President, first of all, that I take full responsibility for everything that happened under my watch.

“Sue Gray’s report has emphasized that it is up to the political leadership in No 10 to take ultimate responsibility and of course I do.

“But now that this investigation is closed, this is my first opportunity to provide some of the context and explain both my understanding of what happened and what I have previously told the House.”

Mr Johnson appeared to further suggest that the gatherings in question were held as a “thank you” to those who worked “extremely long hours” in government during the pandemic.

He said: “Mr Speaker, staff working in Downing Street have been allowed to continue to visit their office for the purpose of work and exemption from the regulations governing their work as their work reports directly to the Prime Minister.

“These people worked extremely long hours and did their best to give this country the opportunity to fight the pandemic. I understand this isn’t mitigation, but it’s important to provide context.

“I’m trying to provide context, not to tone down or exonerate myself in any way. And the exemption under which they were present at Downing Street includes the circumstances in which officials and advisers left Government and it was fitting to acknowledge them and thank them for the work they have done.

“I have attended such gatherings briefly to thank them for their service, which I believe is one of the essential responsibilities of leadership and especially important when people need to feel their contributions have been appreciated and to keep morale as high as possible to keep.”

What else did Boris Johnson say in PMQs about the Sue Gray report?

However, the Prime Minister said he was not aware of staff staying into the wee hours at gatherings or of staff behavior at the parties in question.

Ms Gray’s report showed that some staff members had left a meeting at 4am while a “dispute” was taking place between two staff members and another staff member was ill.

Mr Johnson said: “It is clear from what Sue Gray had to say that some of those gatherings then went on much longer than necessary.

“They clearly broke the rules and they clearly broke the rules. I have to tell the House because the House needs to know this and this too is not to be mitigated or mitigated

“But I was unaware of the proceedings that followed simply because I wasn’t there, and I was as surprised and disappointed as anyone in this House when the revelations unfolded.

“And honestly, Mr Speaker, I was appalled by some of the behaviour, particularly the treatment of security and cleaning staff, and I would like to apologize to those staff and I expect everyone who has behaved in this way to apologize as well for her.”

Towards the end of his statement, Mr Johnson detailed that operational changes have taken place at Downing Street, including a change in senior management, adding: “I am confident that with the changes and new structures now in place, we are humbled by the experience and we learned our lesson.

“And I’d like to end by saying that I’m humbled and I’ve learned a lesson, Mr. Speaker. I want to say whatever the mistakes of No. 10 and the Cabinet Office during this very difficult time and my own, and for which I take full responsibility.”

He ended his speech by concluding that the Government should “move on and focus on the priorities of the British people” such as the fallout from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

What did Boris Johnson say at his press conference on the Sue Gray report?

Boris Johnson held a press conference in response to the May 25 release of the full Sue Gray report. (Credit: PA)

During a special Partygate press conference, the prime minister reiterated his apology, telling reporters he “takes responsibility for the whole of what happened,” adding that he “bitterly regrets it.”

He also commented on reports of “disrespectful and bad” behavior allegedly shown towards cleaning and security staff while the gatherings were ongoing.

Mr Johnson said: “I was appalled to learn that there were multiple examples of disrespectful country and poor treatment of cleaning and security staff in Sue Gray’s sentence.

“I have personally apologized to these dedicated employees for what happened and I expect everyone who behaved in this way to do the same.”

He appeared again to defend the justification for “thanking” government workers for their work during Covid, adding: “I have tried to explain the context of why I was at other events saying goodbye to esteemed colleagues.

“I know some people will think it was wrong to even do that. I have to say that I respectfully disagree, I think it was correct.

“When people who have worked very hard, have worked very long hours, if they have given up a lot of money to serve their country, and they go to another part of government or leave government service altogether, that’s my opinion after right to say thank you.

“Repeating what I said earlier in the House of Commons, I believe they were work events, part of my job and that view seems to be supported by the fact that I was not fined for those events.

“Besides, I just want to say that I appreciate that things didn’t go the way I would have liked. Events then unfolded in a way I certainly didn’t want to see.

“What happened to the managers and the cleaners was just totally unacceptable and I apologize for that as I have personally apologized to them.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and Chancellor Rishi Sunak at a gathering in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street on his birthday, which coincided with the release of Sue Gray’s report on Downing Street parties in Whitehall during the coronavirus lockdown. Issue date: Wednesday 25 May 2022.

What did Boris Johnson say about the resignation?

Despite strong calls from opposition parties and even some backbench Tory MPs, Mr Johnson has so far refused to step down from his role.

Asked about the possibility at the press conference, the Prime Minister said: “I feel overwhelmingly that my job is to move forward and deliver.

“No matter how bitter and painful the conclusions from this may be – and they are – and no matter how humiliating they are, I must move on and the government must move on. And we are.

“We’re going to keep going and keep doing the hard things.”

He is due to address the 1922 Committee, a group of backbench Tory MPs with the power to call for a vote on leadership after the report’s release if they get enough votes of no confidence from members. What was Boris Johnson’s response to Sue Gray’s report?


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