Sue Gray report: what were the key points made in report into Partygate gatherings?

Sue Gray’s report into lockdown-busting gatherings at Downing Street and Whitehall has finally been published in full

The long-awaited Sue Gray report revealed details of gatherings at which officials drank so much they were sick, sang karaoke and became involved an altercation at a time when millions of people across the country were unable to see friends and family.

The report said the “senior leadership” in No 10 must “bear responsibility” for the culture which led to lockdown rules being broken at a series of events in 2020 and 2021.

The Sue Gray report was published in full today.

Ms Gray condemned the wider culture that had been allowed to develop under Mr Johnson’s leadership.

She also said there were “multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff” during the events, which was “unacceptable”.

But what were the key points of the report? Here’s what you need to know.

What are the key poins of the Sue Gray report?

Downing Street gathering 15 May 2020 was ‘work meeting’

The report details how the Prime Minister and advisers had a lengthy meeting in his office following a press conference before moving into the garden. It goes on to say the gathering was made up of different groups and was a number of “separate meetings”.

An image of Mr Johnson sitting in the garden along with his wife and others prompted widespread anger.

Mr Johnson brought the infamous cheese and wine pictured from his flat, the report said. However it went on to state: “The outdoor part of the meeting lasted for 40 minutes to an hour and they were briefly joined by the Prime Minister¶s wife.” It concluded there was “no reason to suggest that this was anything other than a further work meeting.”

The Prime Minister did not know in advance about his birthday party

The Prime Minister’s ally and Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns famously described Mr Johnson as having been “ambushed with a cake” at the event in the Cabinet Room to mark his 56th birthday.

Mr Johnson, along with his wife, and Rishi Sunak were fined over the gathering on 19 June 2020. The report states neither Mr Johnson or Mr Sunak knew in advance it was happening.

The report said: “The event lasted between 14.25 and 14.45, throughout which the Prime Minister was present. Those attending consumed food and drink, and some drank alcohol.”

Mr Johnson is seen with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with sandwiches, juices and what appears to be Estrella lager – in one picture Mr Johnson is seen raising a can of the beer aloft.

Taken on June 19th, 2022, showing a gathering in the Cabinet Room in No 10 Downing Street on the Prime Minister's birthday.

BYOB WhatsApp boast

Former Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister Martin Reynolds boasted “we seem to have got away with” the BYOB garden party in a WhatsApp message to a special adviser, the Sue Gray report found.

A No 10 special adviser thanked Mr Reynolds for “providing the wine”, saying it was “a very kind thing to do and I know everyone really appreciated it.”

In another WhatsApp message on an unknown date to a special adviser, Mr Reynolds wrote: “Best of luck – a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”

Altercation at leaving do

A gathering in the 70 Whitehall building was held on 18 June 2020 to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary, Ms Gray’s interim report revealed in January.

Sue Gray’s report said the event took part in two stages, with the first involving “over 25 people” who gathered for speeches, including Mr Johnson’s former senior aide Dominic Cummings and Simon Case, the then permanent secretary for Covid and the pandemic response in No 10.

Former proprietary and ethics chief Helen MacNamara provided a karaoke machine for the gathering.

The second phase saw drinking continue, with Ms Gray reporting: “The event lasted for a number of hours.

“There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals.

“One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals.”

Raising a glass at leaving do

Images published in the report show Mr Johnson raising a glass while surrounded by colleagues and bottles of wine.

Days after ordering England’s second national lockdown, the pictures showed the Prime Minister giving a toast for departing communications chief Lee Cain on November 13 2020.

At the time organisers of large gatherings of more than 30 people could have been fined £10,000.

Sue Gray’s report said: “On November 13, it was publicly announced that two of the Prime Minister’s most senior advisers, Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, would leave Government.

“There was a leaving speech and drinks in No 10 for Lee Cain later that day, which the Prime Minister attended.”

Mr Johnson raises a toast during a gathering at No 10 Downing Street.

Investigation into ‘Abba party’ abandoned

Sue Gray abandoned her investigation into the “Abba party” held in Boris Johnson’s flat despite finding that alcohol was present on the evening Dominic Cummings was forced out of Downing Street.

It was dubbed the “Abba party” due to reports Abba songs could be heard blaring. Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, was reportedly at the event in the flat during England’s second national lockdown on November 13 2020.

While there was no mention of any music in the report, the senior civil servant found the Prime Minister did attend the mid-lockdown gathering along with five special advisers, but halted her work having only collected “limited” information when the Metropolitan Police began their investigation.

Ms Gray said a “meeting” was held in the Prime Minister’s residence from “some time after” 6pm to discuss “the handling of the departure” with five special advisers.

She found that Mr Johnson joined the event where “food and alcohol were available” at around 8pm.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering a statement to the House of Commons following the publication of Sue Gray's report into Downing Street parties. Photograph: House of Commons/PA Wire

Cleaner found red wine spilled on wall after Christmas party

Staff members “drank excessively” at the Downing Street Christmas party on December 18 2020, and a cleaner found red wine was spilled on one wall the next morning, the report said.

The publication stated: “There was food and alcohol available which had been bought and brought in by staff. Some members of staff drank excessively. The event was crowded and noisy such that some people working elsewhere in the No 10 building that evening heard significant levels of noise coming from what they characterised as a “party” in the press office.

“A cleaner who attended the room the next morning noted that there had been red wine spilled on one wall and on a number of boxes of photocopier paper.”

(Image: NationalWorld)

Staff drank until early hours on eve of Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

The report said two leaving dos took place on 16 April 2021, including one for departing communications chief James Slack.

After the two events merged in the Downing Street garden some staff began leaving at around 9.30pm, having been encouraged by the No 10 custodian to use the rear exit, but some remained in the building and carried on drinking.

Exit logs indicated that some staff left after midnight, followed by others between 1.45am and 2.45am.

The report said two members of staff stayed on even later, with one leaving at 3.11am and the last departing at 4.20am.

What were the conclusions of the report?

The report found that whatever the “initial intent many of the gaterings and the way they developed were not “in line” with Covid guidance at the time.

Among its conclusions the report states:

  • Many of the events “should not have been allowed to happen”
  • Some of the junior civil servants believed their involvement in events was permitted given the attendance of senior leaders
  • Senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, “must bear responsibility” for this culture
  • Staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly
  • A recommendation was made that steps should be taken to ensure that every Government department has a clear policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace
  • Since then guidance has been issued to all Government departments.

What’s been said about the findings?

Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, spokesperson Lobby Akinnola, whose 60-year-old father Olufemi died with coronavirus in April 2020, said: “There we have it. Whilst the country had one of the highest death rates in the world from Covid-19, they were celebrating over cheese and wine and drinking themselves sick over a karaoke machine.

“Not content with partying whilst he failed to protect our loved ones, the Prime Minister has now spent months ignoring and lying to us.

“He has treated us like they treated their cleaning staff and security who challenged their law-breaking at the time: like we’re an inconvenience, like we’re dirt.”