The fault for a “culture” of rule-breaking in Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s office must rest with those at the top, according to a study released Wednesday concerning lockdown-breaching U.K. government parties.
Sue Gray’s long-awaited investigation into the “party gate” controversy stated that the “senior leadership team… must bear accountability” for a culture that permitted events to occur that “should not have happened.”
Gray looked into 16 events attended by Johnson and his employees in 2020 and 2021 when people in the United Kingdom were prohibited from socializing because of Johnson’s Conservative government’s coronavirus restrictions.
“Failures of leadership and judgment in No. 10,” according to Gray, referring to the prime minister’s Downing Street office.
“Those in the lowest levels attended or even organized meetings when their seniors were present,” she explained.
Johnson intends to speak to Parliament later Wednesday about the report’s findings.
A separate police inquiry resulted in fines for 83 persons, including Johnson, making him the first British prime minister to be found guilty of breaking the law while in office. Johnson’s resignation has been demanded in the wake of the controversy.
He apologized before but said he didn’t break the regulations on purpose. Staff tales of “bring your own booze” parties and regular “wine time Fridays” in the prime minister’s 10 Downing St. office during the pandemic have been difficult for the British media and opposition politicians to reconcile.
After police ordered her to leave out specifics to prevent prejudicing their investigations, a partial version of Gray’s report was released in January. The interim report chastised the “leadership and judgment flaws” that allowed the parties to take place and portrayed a Downing Street organization characterized by excessive drinking and dysfunctional interactions.
Late last year, allegations surfaced that Johnson and his staff had unlawful office parties while millions of Americans were denied access to see friends and relatives in 2020 and 2021.
Johnson will have to explain why he earlier assured lawmakers that no parties or rules had been broken in Downing Street in his statement to Parliament.
Some critics within Johnson’s Conservative Party claim that the prime minister lied before Parliament. Ministers who deliberately mislead the legislature are expected to resign.
Johnson has clung to power thus far, owing in part to the public and political focus distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some Conservatives who pondered pursuing a vote of no confidence in Johnson realized it would be reckless to remove him in the midst of a war that is destabilizing Europe and driving a cost-of-living crisis.
Even though he attended multiple gatherings under investigation, the prime minister had another reprieve last week when the Metropolitan Police assured him he wouldn’t be receiving any further fines.
However, Gray’s findings may reignite calls from Conservative legislators for a vote of no confidence in the leader who led the party to a parliamentary majority just over two years ago. According to party regulations, a vote is called if 15 percent of the party’s legislators, or 54 persons, sign a letter requesting one.
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Johnson would be ousted as Conservative leader and Prime Minister if he lost such a vote. It is unknown how many letters have been sent thus far.
On Wednesday, Environment Secretary George Eustice backed the PM but admitted that the “border between what was acceptable and what wasn’t got blurred, and that was a mistake.”
“The prime minister has accepted that and accepts that there were, of course, failings,” Eustice said on Times Radio.