Boris Johnson today insisted he takes ‘full responsibility’ for Partygate after Sue Gray gave a grim account of drunken antics at the heart of government.

The PM told MPs that the government had ‘learned our lesson’ and he personally was ‘humbled’ after being issued a fine – saying he ‘renewed my apology’.

But Mr Johnson also denied lying to Parliament about the breaches, arguing that leaving dos were needed to keep up ‘morale’ while people were ‘working hard’ and he was ‘proud’ of the efforts of staff.  

Saying he wanted to ‘move on’, the premier told the House: ‘I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch.’ 

Mr Johnson was heckled as he said ‘the entire senior management has changed’, and Keir Starmer accused him of treating the country ‘with contempt’. 

But the Labour leader was forced to deny he had broken the law as he was barracked over the ‘Beergate’ police investigation into an election campaign visit to Durham last year.

Sue Gray’s Partygate findings at a glance 

  • The report found the ‘senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility’ for the culture of flouting Covid rules 
  • No10 private secretary Martin Reynolds was warned that a Bring Your Own Booze party on May 20, 2020 was ‘somewhat of a comms risk’. Mr Reynolds remarked afterwards that they seemed to have ‘got away with it’ 
  • A raucous leaving do on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral lasted until 4:20am and spread into the garden, with the swing used by PM’s young son broken – although Mr Johnson was not present 
  • There were multiple examples of ‘unacceptable’ treatment of security and cleaning staff 
  • Former ethics chief Helen MacNamara provided a karaoke machine for a Cabinet Office leaving do on June 18, 2020
  • There was a fight at the event on June 18 and someone was sick 
  • Mr Johnson joined five special advisers in a meeting with ‘food and alcohol’ in his No11 flat on November 13, 2020, after the announcement of Dominic Cummings’ departure
  • Ms Gray said she had not looked into whether the so-called ‘Abba Party’ on that date breached lockdown 
  • Mr Johnson brought the cheese and wine pictured in a garden gathering on May 15 2020 from his flat, although it appears to have been a valid work event 

And the premier was boosted as Tory MPs were largely supportive in the chamber – even heckling long-term critic Tobias Ellwood as he called for a new leader.   

In her 37-page verdict, Ms Gray slammed ‘excessive’ drinking at a slew of bashes in Downing Street and Whitehall – many of which broke lockdown rules. 

She describes how officials enjoyed karaoke, were sick in offices and even got into fights while the rest of the country was under harsh restrictions. 

Ms Gray was particularly scathing about a raucous leaving party in Downing Street on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, when a child’s swing was broken by revellers. Mr Johnson was not present.

And former No10 principal private secretary Martin Reynolds was warned by colleagues that a notorious ‘BYOB’ bash in May 2020 was a bad idea – but remarked afterwards that they had ‘got away with’ the event. 

However, there was limited direct criticism of Mr Johnson himself, with Dominic Cummings complaining that Ms Gray had let him off the hook by failing to investigate an alleged ‘Abba Party’ in his grace-and-favour flat.

Mr Johnson said staff had been working ‘extremely long hours’ and ‘doing their best’ to help the country in the pandemic, adding to MPs: ‘I appreciate this is no mitigation but it’s important to set out.’

He added: ‘I’m trying to set out the context, not to mitigate or to absolve myself in any way.

‘The exemption under which they were present in Downing Street includes those circumstances where officials and advisers were leaving the Government and it was appropriate to recognise and to thank them for the work they had done.

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

As he was heckled, the PM said: ‘I’m trying to explain the reasons I was there. It’s clear from what Sue Gray had to say that some of these gatherings then went on far longer than was necessary and they were clearly in breach of the rules and they fell foul of the rules.’

Responding to allegations he deliberately misled Parliament, Mr Johnson said: ‘I have been as surprised and disappointed as anyone else in this House as the revelations have unfolded and, frankly, I have been appalled by some of the behaviour, particularly in the treatment of the security and the cleaning staff.

‘And I’d like to apologise to those members of staff and I expect anyone who behaved in that way to apologise to them as well.’

The report included nine photographs featuring Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case. 

Four are from the PM’s birthday ‘party’ in the Cabinet Room in June 2020 – over which he was fined along with wife Carrie and Mr Sunak. The politicians and Mr Case can be seen with a tray of sandwiches. 

Five other pictures are from a leaving do for spin doctor Lee Cain in November 2020, where Mr Johnson is shown making a toast in front of tables loaded with booze. 

The mandarin said in her conclusions: ‘The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture.’

She said: ‘Whatever the initial intent, what took place at many of these gatherings and the way in which they developed was not in line with Covid guidance at the time. 

‘Even allowing for the extraordinary pressures officials and advisers were under, the factual findings of this report illustrate some attitudes and behaviours inconsistent with that guidance. 

‘It is also clear, from the outcome of the police investigation, that a large number of individuals (83) who attended these events breached Covid regulations and therefore Covid guidance.’ 

It is understood that Mr Case is not set to be sacked over the scandal, following rumours he could carry the can despite not being given an FPN himself.  

Mr Johnson has drawn up ‘masochism strategy’ in a bid to defuse anger, giving a press conference after his statement to Parliament, and then addressing Conservative MPs this evening.

Ministers are hoping to shift the agenda on as swiftly as possible by announcing a fresh cost-of-living bailout as early as tomorrow that could be worth £10billion, part-funded by a windfall tax on surging profits at energy firms.

Among the revelations in the Gray report: 

  • Former communications director Lee Cain warned No10 private secretary Martin Reynolds that a planned Bring Your Own Booze party on May 20, 2020 was ‘somewhat of a comms risk’. Mr Reynolds remarked afterwards that they seemed to have ‘got away with it’; 
  • Mr Johnson joined five special advisers in a meeting with ‘food and alcohol’ in his Downing Street flat on November 13, 2020, after the announcement of Dominic Cummings’ departure, but the report does not comment on whether it was a lockdown breach; 
  • Ms Gray slated multiple examples of ‘unacceptable’ treatment of security and cleaning staff; 
  • Former proprietary and ethics chief Helen MacNamara provided a karaoke machine for a Cabinet Office gathering on June 18, 2020, to mark the departure of another official;
  • The report confirmed there was a fight at the event on June 18 and someone was sick. ‘There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals. One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals.’ 
  • Mr Johnson brought the cheese and wine pictured in a garden gathering on May 15 2020 from his flat, although it appears to have been a valid work event. 

A group of pictures released by Sue Gray show the PM's birthday party in June 2020 - over which he was fined along with Rishi Sunak and his wife Carrie

A group of pictures released by Sue Gray show the PM’s birthday party in June 2020 – over which he was fined along with Rishi Sunak and his wife Carrie

Deploying a ‘masochism strategy’, the Prime Minister will ‘take responsibility’ for lockdown rule-breaking in Downing Street, which is set to be savaged in the much-anticipated report (Johnson is pictured toasting during a Downing St event in November 2020)

Five other pictures are from a leaving do for spin doctor Lee Cain in November 2020, where Mr Johnson is shown making a toast in front of tables loaded with booze

Five other pictures are from a leaving do for spin doctor Lee Cain in November 2020, where Mr Johnson is shown making a toast in front of tables loaded with booze

Boris Johnson

Ministers are braced for the fallout from the verdict of Ms Gray (pictured in Westminster earlier this year)

After Sue Gray (right) concluded her report, Mr Johnson (left) told MPs that the government had ‘learned our lesson’ and he personally was ‘humbled’ after being issued a fine – saying he ‘renewed my apology’

Cost-of-living bailout could come in days 

Billions of pounds of state support for families hit by the cost of living crisis will be announced in days.

With officials warning that energy bills are on course to hit almost £3,000, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are working on a major intervention that could be unveiled as soon as tomorrow.

The move – initially planned for the summer – has been fast-tracked amid concerns the Government risks looking out of touch.

Senior Tories believe it could also help the Prime Minister ‘move on’ from the Partygate scandal.

It follows a warning from Ofgem yesterday that the energy price cap is on course to rise by another £800 to £2,800 in October.

MPs have been mulling sending more no-confidence letters to the chair of the powerful Tory 1922 committee – with 54 required to trigger a full vote on whether to oust Mr Johnson. 

Mr Johnson is also facing an inquiry by the Commons Privileges Committee into whether he misled Parliament by insisting there were no parties in Downing Street.

That included specifically denying anything happened on November 13, 2020, when there is photographic evidence that he gave a speech and made a toast at a leaving do for one of his spin doctors. 

The report was finally published this morning, around an hour after it was handed to the PM. 

Among the damning details in the report are that former communications chief Lee Cain warned Martin Reynolds and Dominic Cummings a planned Bring Your Own Booze party on May 20 2020 was ‘somewhat of a comms risk’, and pushed for it to be cancelled.

According to the investigation, Mr Cain sent an email to Mr Cummings and Mr Reynolds which said: ‘I’m sure it will be fine – and I applaud the gesture – but a 200 odd person invitation for drinks in the garden of no 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment.’

The report adds: ‘Lee Cain says he subsequently spoke to Martin Reynolds and advised him that the event should be cancelled. 

‘Martin Reynolds does not recall any such conversation. 

‘In addition, Dominic Cummings has also said that he too raised concerns, in writing. We have not found any documentary evidence of this.’

A No 10 special adviser warned the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, that it would be ‘helpful’ if people avoided ‘walking around with bottles of wine’ ahead of the Bring Your Own Booze party on May 20 2020 as it was taking place after a press conference, the Sue Gray report has said.

The report states: ‘[A] No 10 special adviser sent a message to Martin Reynolds by WhatsApp at 14.08 stating ‘Drinks this eve is a lovely idea so I’ve shared with the E & V team who are in the office. Just to flag that the 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 etc.’

‘Martin Reynolds replied ‘Will do my best!”

Mr Reynolds boasted ‘we seem to have got away with’ the BYOB garden party in a WhatsApp message to a special adviser.

A No10 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.’

Partygate timeline 

2020

– March 23: First Covid lockdown begins. Non-essential shops are closed and Britons are legally required to stay at home. 

– April 5: Boris Johnson is admitted to hospital with Covid. He later spends days in intensive care before recovering and leaving hospital on April 12.

– May 15: Cheese and wine in the No 10 garden. A photograph emerged of a number of groups gathered in the No 10 garden, including Mr Johnson, Carrie Johnson, and aides Dom Cummings and Martin Reynolds sitting together on the terrace. Not investigated by police.

– May 20: Bring Your Own Booze party. A leaked email shows No 10 staff were invited to an event in the Downing Street garden. Mr Johnson has admitted he was there for 25 minutes, but said he thought it was a ‘work event’.

June 1: First lockdown begins to ease. Public permitted to meet outside in groups of up to six people. Meeting indoors is still banned.  

– June 18 2020: Cabinet Office leaving do. Sue Gray’s interim report said a gathering in the 70 Whitehall building was held to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary. The Telegraph said 20 people attended, with alcohol consumed.

– June 19 2020: Boris Johnson’s 56th birthday. He, his wife Carrie and Rishi Sunak were all fined for attending surprise get-together in Cabinet Room.

– September 14: Rising cases led to the re-introduction of ‘rule of six’ indoors and outdoors. By the end of the month, the work from home begins again and a 10pm curfew came into force for pubs, bars and restaurants

– November 5: Second national lockdown begins. Non-essential businesses close and people banned from meeting indoors with anyone not in their ‘support bubble’ 

– November 13: Downing Street flat do. Mrs Johnson reportedly hosted parties in the official flat over No 11 where she and Mr Johnson live, including one event on November 13, the night of Dominic Cummings’ acrimonious departure. A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s wife called the claim ‘total nonsense’.

– November 13: As shown in pictures released today Mr Johnson attended event for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and a close ally of Dom Cummings.

– November 27 2020: Another special adviser leaves. Mr Johnson reportedly gave a leaving speech at a gathering for Cleo Watson, another ally of Mr Cummings. Not investigated by police.

– December 10 2020: Department for Education Christmas drinks. Then education secretary Gavin Williamson reportedly threw a party and delivered a short speech. Not investigated by police. 

– December 15 2020: An online Christmas quiz in No 10. The Prime Minister appeared on contestants’ screens at the quiz but insisted he broke no rules. Not investigated by police.

– December 17: Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’.  It was reported the do had been organised by a private secretary in Cabinet Secretary Simon Case’s team, and that it was included in digital calendars as: ‘Christmas party!’ and included an online quiz.

– December 17: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head Kate Josephs in the Cabinet Office. She later apologised.

– December 17: No 10 leaving do attended by PM, reported to be for Captain Steve Higham, then one of Mr Johnson’s private secretaries 

– December 18: Downing Street Christmas party, featuring speeches, a cheese board, drinks and a Secret Santa gifts.

2021 

– January 4: Third lockdown begins following a rapid rise in Covid cases

– January 14: More Downing Street leaving drinks to mark the departure of two private secretaries. The other official’s identity is so far unknown.

– April 16: Leaving drinks on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace after reported details emerged of boozy drinks parties, including one for outgoing communications director James Slack.

November 30: First report of potentially illegal gatherings within Downing Street emerge.

December 7:  Mr Johnson says: ‘I am satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.’  

December 7: ‘Footage emerged showing press secretary Allegra Stratton joking about the alleged party in 2020 leaked to ITV News. She later resigns.

December 8: Scotland Yard refuses to investigate, citing an ‘absence’ of evidence

2022

January 25: After weeks of further revelations, Scotland Yard launches Operation Hillman, an investigation into allegations of Partygate lawbreaking

January 31: Sue Gray releases her interim report into Partygate 

February 4: Five No10 aides resign over their role in Partgate, including Dan Rosenfield and comms chief Jack Doyle

March 29: Detectives issue the first 20 fixed penalty notices to people working in No10 for breaches of Covid laws.

April 12: A further 30 fines are issued, including to Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. 

May 12: Scotland Yard revealed it has issued more than 100 fines.

May 19: Scotland Yard reveals it has completed Operation Hillman, issuing 126 fines to 83 people in total.

May 25: Ms Gray’s report was finally delivered to the PM and published.

In another WhatsApp 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).’

Mr Johnson brought the cheese and wine pictured in a garden gathering on May 15 2020 from his flat, the report said – but it appears to have been a work meeting.

Ms Gray wrote that the Prime Minister and advisers had a lengthy meeting in his office following a press conference before moving into the garden.

‘The Prime Minister brought cheese and wine from his flat. The outdoor part of the meeting lasted for 40 minutes to an hour and they were briefly joined by the Prime Minister’s wife, during which time the photograph was taken. Martin Reynolds subsequently returned to the office to continue working,’ she wrote.

‘The Prime Minister remained in the garden until around 19.20. There is a further group of four individuals sitting at a table on the terrace. It has not been possible to identify these individuals, but there is no reason to suggest that this was anything other than a further work meeting.’

Sir Keir urged Conservative MPs to do ‘their bit’ and tell Mr Johnson that ‘this has gone on too long’.

Sir Keir said: ‘I have been clear what leadership looks like. I haven’t broken any rules and any attempt to compare a perfectly legal takeaway while working to this catalogue of criminality looks even more ridiculous today.

‘But if the police decide otherwise, I will do the decent thing and step down. The public need to know that not all politicians are the same. That not all politicians put themselves above their country. That honesty integrity and accountability matter.’

Tory critics had hinted they may use Partygate to execute a coup.

But there were few signs of an all-out revolt in the chamber. 

Former minister Mr Ellwood was heckled by his own side after he said: ‘This is a damning report about the absence of leadership, focus and discipline in No 10 – the one place where you expect to find those attributes in abundance.

‘I’ve made my point and my position very clear to the Prime Minister: he does not have my support.

‘But a question I humbly put to my colleagues is ‘are you willing day in and day out to defend this behaviour publicly?”

Mr Johnson hit back: ‘I think the answer is overwhelmingly and emphatically yes, we are going to go on and win the next general election because we’re going to get on with the job.’ 

Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Mr Sunak were each fined £50 for their attendance at a so-called ‘birthday party’ in the Cabinet Room where the PM was presented with a cake between meetings at a time when indoor gatherings were banned.

The Metropolitan Police have faced questions this week over the failure to issue Mr Johnson with more fixed penalty notices following the emergence of a photo showing him raising a glass at a lockdown leaving do for outgoing communications chief Lee Cain in November 2020.

Others at the event were fined, but Mr Johnson was not penalised. There was speculation yesterday that he may have escaped because the event took place in the building where he lives. 

Meanwhile, No10 denied swirling claims that Mr Johnson urged Ms Gray to drop plans to publish her report in a private meeting earlier this month. 

The Times reported that the Prime Minister suggested to the senior civil servant that there was no longer any point in releasing her findings as the facts were ‘all out there’.

But Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said yesterday: ‘This was a legitimate meeting about the process [of publication] rather than the contents of report.

‘The Prime Minister did not ask her to drop the report or not proceed with the report. It was the Prime Minister who commissioned the report. He wants the report to be published.’

Downing Street staff have broken cover to claim they only joined in lockdown parties because Mr Johnson ‘was grabbing a glass for himself’.

Three anonymous No 10 insiders described in detail regular rule-breaking events while Covid restrictions were in place.

Days after ordering England’s second national lockdown, images showed the Prime Minister giving a toast for departing communications chief Lee Cain on November 13, 2020. One witness told BBC Panorama: ‘There were about 30 people, if not more, in a room. Everyone was stood shoulder to shoulder, some people on each other’s laps.’

‘Unforgivable’ scenes were described at a party on April 16 last year, the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. Attendees told of a ‘lively event… a general party with people dancing around’ that became so loud that security guards told them to go into the No. 10 grounds.

‘Everyone grabbed all the drinks, the food, everything, and went into the garden,’ one source said. ‘We all sat around the tables drinking. People stayed the night there.’ The insiders said the events were weekly, with press office drinks put in the diary as ‘WTF’, standing for ‘Wine-Time Friday’.

One former official described often turning up at No. 10 to find it a ‘mess’: ‘There were bottles, empties, rubbish – in the bin, but overflowing – or indeed sometimes left on the table.’ One said a Downing Street security guard, known as a custodian, was mocked when he tried to break up a party.

‘I remember when a custodian tried to stop it all and he was just shaking his head in this party, being like ‘This shouldn’t be happening,’ they said.

Sources say Friday drinks had long been a tradition. ‘We saw it as our own bubble,’ one said. ‘Everything just continued as normal. Social distancing didn’t happen. We didn’t wear face masks. It wasn’t like the outside world.’

One said they felt they had the PM’s permission because ‘he was there’, adding: ‘He may have just been popping through on the way to his flat because that’s what would happen. You know, he wasn’t there saying this shouldn’t be happening. He wasn’t saying, ‘Can everyone break up and go home? Can everyone socially distance? Can everyone put masks on?’ No, he wasn’t telling anybody that. He was grabbing a glass for himself.’

May 15, 2020 – Boris’s ‘cheese and wine’ party in the No10 garden was just a ‘work meeting’

The Prime Minister and his wife – apparently holding their newborn baby, Wilf – were seen sitting at a table with two people while another 13 were pictured with bottles of alcohol nearby at a table and on the lawn on Friday May 15, 2020. 

The pictures, taken by an unknown person within the Downing Street complex, caused uproar when they were released late last year. 

Ms Gray, in her report today, revealed that it was the PM himself who brought wine and cheese from his flat out to the garden. 

The Prime Minister and his wife - apparently holding their newborn baby, Wilf - were seen sitting at a table with two people while another 13 were pictured with bottles of alcohol nearby at a table and on the lawn on Friday May 15, 2020

The Prime Minister and his wife – apparently holding their newborn baby, Wilf – were seen sitting at a table with two people while another 13 were pictured with bottles of alcohol nearby at a table and on the lawn on Friday May 15, 2020

But she also cleared him of wrongdoing, saying: ‘At a table on the terrace, the Prime Minister, Martin Reynolds (his Principal Private Secretary), and Dominic Cummings (his senior adviser) were continuing a lengthy meeting that had started in the Prime Ministers office, before moving to the garden at around 18.00. 

‘The Prime Minister brought cheese and wine from his flat. The outdoor part of the meeting lasted for 40 minutes to an hour and they were briefly joined by the Prime Ministers wife, during which time the photograph was taken. 

‘Martin Reynolds subsequently returned to the office to continue working. The Prime Minister remained in the garden until around 19.20.’

‘There is a further group of four individuals sitting at a table on the terrace. It ha s not been possible to identify these individuals, but there is no reason to suggest that this was anything other than a further work meeting.’

May 20: Bring your own booze garden party that No10 thought it  ‘got away with’

A leaked email from senior civil servant Martin Reynolds to around 200 Downing Street employees invited them to ‘bring your own booze’ for an evening gathering. 

It followed a press conference in which then Health Secretary Matt Hancock had warned people to take precautions against catching the virus.  

It read: ‘Hi all, After what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of this lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the garden this evening. Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!’ 

The PM has admitted attending the gathering, which amounted to between 30 and 40 people. He previously insisted he believed it was a work event which could ‘technically’ have been within the rules. No10 told Sue Gray the event was for ‘boosting staff morale following a challenging period for staff’ during the pandemic. 

The report found that he attended for around 30 minutes before returning to his office for a 6.30pm meeting.  

Ms Gray was handed further emails sent around inside No 10 beforehand that highlight the excitement at what was to come.

One No10 adviser replied: ‘Drinks this eve is a lovely idea so I’ve shared with the E & V team who are in the office. Just to flag that the 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 etc.’

She said that Mr Reynolds replied: ‘Will do my best!….’

However others urged caution. One No 10 Director declined the invitation and told the investigation that they had raised with either Martin Reynolds or his office that it was not a good idea. 

Also, Lee Cain, at that time No 10’s director of communications emailed Martin Reynolds saying: ‘I’m sure it will be fine – and I applaud the gesture – but a 200 odd person invitation for drinks in the garden of no 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment.’ 

Ms Gray added: ‘Lee Cain says he subsequently spoke to Martin Reynolds and advised him that the event should be cancelled. Martin Reynolds does not recall any such conversation. In addition, Dominic Cummings has also said that he too raised concerns, in writing. We have not found any documentary evidence of this.’

The report found that after the party Mr Reynolds sent a message to an adviser suggesting they had ‘got away with’ the event because no one had raised public questions.

Scotland Yard handed out fines to some of those who attended this event. 

June 18, 2020: Karaoke, fighting and vomiting at leaving ‘drinks that are not drinks’ 

Officials partied and sang karaoke to mark the departure of a No10 aide. In an astonishing development the report reveals that Helen MacNamara, the Deputy Cabinet Secretary, and a former ethics chief, was the person who brought the karaoke machine.

The event was apparently held to mark the departure of a Number 10 private secretary. Gatherings of to or more persons indoors and more than six outdoors were prohibited at the time. It started in the Cabinet Room, where there were booze and speeches as people socialised for around an hour.

Later, the report confirms, they moved on to the offices of Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in 70 Whitehall, where there was ‘alcohol, food and music’.

Ms Gray reported: ‘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.’

Mr Reynolds is again at the heart of this event. In a Whatsapp exchange released by Ms Gray, he clearly is aware that the event would breach rules and potentially be a PR disaster.

Speaking with Mr Cain he asked: ‘Is it safer to do a larger event indoors but with some people carrying on outside afterwards? 

Cain replied: ‘I’m not sure it works at all to be honest, which would be a shame. I don’t see how we can have some kind of party though..’

Asked by Reynolds if they should scrap the idea, Cain adds: ‘Its your decision my friend, not mind [sic]! But it obviously comes with rather substantial comms risks.’

Another adviser emailed Reynolds with a question about ‘your drinks which aren’t drinks’.

June 19: Boris Johnson’s surprise birthday party – with cake and fines

Downing Street admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room after a meeting.

The PM, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have all received fines for attending.

Ms Gray today released pictures of the PM and Chancellor at the event. The PM is shown with a beer in his hand. 

Despite some attempts by officials to suggest there was no cake, a celebratory sponge is explicitly mentioned in messages.

Former No10 aide Cleo Watson told the inquiry she was asked to arrange the party, but does not say who by. Mrs Johnson has been accused of arranging it as a surprise for his 56th birthday.

Beforehand she messaged Mr Reynolds, saying: ‘Hi! PM birthday today – we’ve organised some sandwiches and cake for about 1pm in the Cabinet Room if anyone from your team would like to pop in and wish him a happy birthday.’

Ms Gray today released pictures of the PM and Chancellor at the event. The PM is shown with a beer in his hand.

Ms Gray today released pictures of the PM and Chancellor at the event. The PM is shown with a beer in his hand.

The PM, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have all received fines for attending.

The PM, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have all received fines for attending.

Former No10 aide Cleo Watson told the inquiry she was asked to arrange the party, but does not say who by. Mrs Johnson has been accused of arranging it as a surprise for his 56th birthday.

Former No10 aide Cleo Watson told the inquiry she was asked to arrange the party, but does not say who by. Mrs Johnson has been accused of arranging it as a surprise for his 56th birthday.

Mr Reynolds later sent an email of his own, saying: ‘For the PMs birthday today we are having sandwiches and cake in the Cabinet room so do come along and wish the PM happy birthday.’ 

But Ms Gray pointed out the PM was unaware of the event in advance and it was not in his official diary.

‘He returned from an external visit to No10 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,’ she said.

‘Those attending included No 10 officials and Mrs. Johnson. The Permanent Secretary for Covid and Pandemic Response, Simon Case, attended for a short period having arrived early for a meeting which was due to take place in the Cabinet room.

‘The Chancellor was also there briefly having also arrived early for the same meeting. He had no advance knowledge about what had been planned.

‘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. There are photographs of the event.’

November 13: Lee Cain’s ‘Wine Time Friday’ leaving do and the Abba party

Dominic Cummings and his ally Mr Cain were ousted in December 2020 after losing a power battle with Mrs Johnson. And leaving drinks were held for the former, hours after Mr Cummings was pictured walking out of No10 with a box of his belongings.

This was during the second national lockdown, and the rules at the time ‘prohibited indoor gatherings of two or more people from other households except for permitted exceptions, including where the gathering is reasonable necessary for work purposes’.

Officials said that while the event in question was not planned in advance, it happened around the same time as the press and media team usually held a regular ‘wine time Friday’.

Mr Johnson attended and gave a speech to Mr Cain, who had worked with him on the Vote Leave campaign and then later when he was foreign secretary.

The report notes: ‘Wine had been provided and those attending, including the Prime Minister, were drinking alcohol.’

Fines were later handed out to some of those attending the party, but not the Prime Minister. 

Dominic Cummings and his ally Mr Cain were ousted in December 2020 after losing a power battle with Mrs Johnson.

Dominic Cummings and his ally Mr Cain were ousted in December 2020 after losing a power battle with Mrs Johnson.

And leaving drinks were held for the former, hours after Mr Cummings was pictured walking out of No10 with a box of his belongings.

And leaving drinks were held for the former, hours after Mr Cummings was pictured walking out of No10 with a box of his belongings.

Mr Johnson attended and gave a speech to Mr Cain, who had worked with him on the Vote Leave campaign and then later when he was foreign secretary.

Mr Johnson attended and gave a speech to Mr Cain, who had worked with him on the Vote Leave campaign and then later when he was foreign secretary.

Later on, Mr Johnson was accused of attending a party with loud Abba music in the No11 flat he shared with his family, to celebrate the ousting of Mr Cain and Mr Cummings.

But Ms Gray described the event as ‘a meeting …to discuss the handling of their departure’ and revealed she did not seek to probe it in great detail.

‘Five special advisers attended. The Prime Minister joined them at about 20.00. Food and alcohol were available,’ she said.

‘The discussion carried on later into the evening with attendees leaving at various points. The information collected on this gathering is limited as the process of obtaining evidence had only just been commenced when the Metropolitan Police announced their own investigations, which included events on the 13 November 2020. 

‘At this point I stopped my investigation, given the need to avoid any prejudice to the police investigation. 

‘Following the Metropolitan Police announcement on 19 May 2022 I considered whether or not to conduct any further investigation into this event but concluded it was not appropriate or proportionate to do so.’

November 27: PM attends impromptu boozy gathering to say goodbye to aide

A gathering of 15 to 20 people was organised at short notice to mark the departure of a No10 aide. Reports suggested it was for Ms Watson, an ally of Mr Cummings.

She had gone to the press office to say goodbye to people at their desks. But there was later a flurry of messages between aides, including one saying: ‘Were [sic] ill you be in 20 minutes?’

The report noted:  The Prime Minister finished a meeting at 18.19 and then attended the Press Office to say goodbye. He remained for a short time, saying a few words of thanks and farewell, before returning to his office for his next meeting which was scheduled for 18.45.’

December 10:  Gavin Williamson attends socially distanced ‘festive drinks’ at the Department for Education 

An hour-long event with alcohol was held so the then secretary of state, Gavin Williamson, could thank staff for their hard work ahead of the Christmas break.

It was held in the staff canteen, because it was better ventilated than the offices originally earmarked. An email sent to around 50 staff three days beforehand set out what was planned.

‘We’re planning on having some socially distanced festive drinks in the canteen on Thursday. It would be great if you could join us,’ it said.

An hour-long event with alcohol was held so the then secretary of state, Gavin Williamson, could thank staff for their hard work ahead of the Christmas break.

An hour-long event with alcohol was held so the then secretary of state, Gavin Williamson, could thank staff for their hard work ahead of the Christmas break.

‘This is open to Private Office staff and ministers if they are around. For those working at home there are plans for a Christmas Divisional where people will be able to dial in and have a Virtual Festive gathering.’

The report noted: ‘At the event there was wine, some of which, along with mince pies, was provided by the Secretary of State and his Private Office. 

‘The Secretary of State thanked staff at the event, leaving shortly afterwards to travel back to his constituency. Some people remained in the canteen for a short period. The event lasted around 60 minutes.’

Mr Williamson ran Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership campaign in 2019, having been previously fired by Theresa May when he was defence secretary, over leaks from a top secret meeting. 

He was again axed last September in a Cabinet reshuffle, having faced criticism and calls to resign after overseeing months of Covid schools chaos and the exam result fiasco in 2020 and 2021.

When his removal was confirmed, Labour’s Angela Rayner described him as a ‘prat’. He was later handed a knighthood. 

December 15:  Downing Street’s online Christmas Party – with staff told to TAKE pictures

Boris Johnson’s attendance at an online Christmas party in 2020 was revealed in a photo published by the Sunday Mirror last year. 

Pictures show the Prime Minister sat under a portrait of Margaret Thatcher on-screen making a special appearance as ‘quizmaster’ for one of the rounds, flanked by staff wearing tinsel and Santa hats. 

He is sat between two colleagues while London was under ‘no mixing’ guidance – and three days before the No10 Christmas party (below).

Pictures show the Prime Minister sat under a portrait of Margaret Thatcher on-screen making a special appearance as 'quizmaster' for one of the rounds, flanked by staff wearing tinsel and Santa hats.

Pictures show the Prime Minister sat under a portrait of Margaret Thatcher on-screen making a special appearance as ‘quizmaster’ for one of the rounds, flanked by staff wearing tinsel and Santa hats.

Ms Gray’s report said that the event, including prize-giving, lasted three-and-a-half hours. ‘Alcohol and food was available in Downing Street and at 70 Whitehall, supplied and paid for by staff attending,’ she said.

In an email setting up the event, staff are told to ‘dress up for the festive season and get our cameras on!’ This appears to have backfired, with the leaking of incriminating images of the PM.

Up to 150 people, in person and online, are believed to have taken part.

Ms Gray added that the Pm stayed for around 12 minutes to act as quiz master for one of the rounds

‘This had been agreed in principle in advance and was confirmed on the day. This is not unusual, he was frequently called upon by his office to attend staff events,’ she said.

‘Some staff drank alcohol. A No 10 official sent a message on internal No 10 systems referring to drunkenness and advising staff to leave No 10 via the back exit. 

‘The No 10 official informed the investigation team that they did this in order to avoid staff being photographed by the press outside.’

December 17, 2020: Prosecco bash for Covid task force chief where social distancing rules were ignored

Around 20 to 30 people attended a leaving do in the Cabinet Office, at 70 Whitehall, for a No10 official and Kate Josephs, a director general of the Covid task force.

Attendees had been invited to a ‘Covid secure’ event and staff were urged not to travel to the office for the bash unless they were otherwise planning to.

The report found the intention to follow social distancing guidance ‘did not happen’ as attendees gathered in small groups and mingled.

Around 20 to 30 people attended a leaving do in the Cabinet Office, at 70 Whitehall, for a No10 official and Kate Josephs, a director general of the Covid task force.

Around 20 to 30 people attended a leaving do in the Cabinet Office, at 70 Whitehall, for a No10 official and Kate Josephs, a director general of the Covid task force.

Prosecco, beer and crisps had been bought and music was played through a smartphone.

The event ‘began to wind down’ between 10pm to 10.30pm but a smaller group of around six to eight people remained.

Six pizzas were ordered for the group with some staying until past midnight.

Some joined with other Cabinet Office staff with the intention of joining another leaving event taking place in No10 that night.

December 18, 2020: A ‘wine and cheese evening’ in No10 with a ‘Secret Santa’ and a quiz – which ended with a red wine-covered wall amid ‘excessive’ drinking

Two days after London was moved into strict Tier 3 Covid restrictions, between 20 and 45 people gathered for a Christmas event in the No10 press office.

Attendees were invited to a ‘Wine & Cheese Evening’ , which was arranged to take place at the usual time of the press office’s weekly ‘Wine Time Friday’.

The boozy bash began at 6pm and saw Secret Santa gifts exchanged, a quiz, and an awards ceremony with certificates handed out by senior adviser Jack Doyle.

Around 7.45pm a panic alarm was accidently triggered by one staff member which saw security staff and a police officer respond.

The boozy bash began at 6pm and saw Secret Santa gifts exchanged, a quiz, and an awards ceremony with certificates handed out by senior adviser Jack Doyle.

The boozy bash began at 6pm and saw Secret Santa gifts exchanged, a quiz, and an awards ceremony with certificates handed out by senior adviser Jack Doyle.

They witnessed a ‘large number of people’ gathered in the area outside the main press office, with a further 15-20 people present inside.

The report found some staff ‘drank excessively’ at the ‘crowded and noisy’ event, which those working elsewhere in No10 at the time described as a ‘party’.

The event lasted for ‘several hours’ with some staff members remaining in the office until after midnight.

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.

The report found that ‘some work’ took place in the press office and No10 did take place while the event was underway, with officials working on negotiations on the Brexit trade deal and the Delta wave of Covid cases. 

Prior to the event, WhatsApp messages between staff discussed the purchase of a fridge for the office. 

January 14, 2021: PM’s speech at leaving do for No10 officials – which went on beyond 11pm

At the time of England’s third national lockdown, a leaving event took place in No10 for two officials with booze available.

It began around 6pm with around 15 people attending in person and up to 30 people joining virtually.

The PM attended for around 10 minutes in between meetings and gave a ‘short speech’ to thank the staff who were leaving.

There were also further speeches by other members of No10 staff.

Once they had finished, some people left but others remained to chat and drink with the event’s end time ‘unclear’, according to the report.

Sue Gray was told some of those present were still there beyond 11pm. 

April 16, 2021: Leaving dos for the PM’s former spin chief and a No10 official on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral – which lasted until 4.20am

Two boozy bashes were held in Number 10 on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral – which saw a child’s swing broken in the Downing Street garden and the final partygoer leave at 4.20am.

One of the leaving events was held for the PM’s outgoing director of communications, James Slack, and another for an unnamed No10 official.

At the time, gatherings of two or more people indoors and more than six people outdoors were banned unless deemed ‘reasonably necessary’ for work purposes.

Just hours later, the Queen – observing Covid restrictions – was forced to sit alone at her husband’s funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. 

One of the leaving events was held for the PM's outgoing director of communications, James Slack, and another for an unnamed No10 official.

One of the leaving events was held for the PM’s outgoing director of communications, James Slack, and another for an unnamed No10 official.

Just hours later, the Queen - observing Covid restrictions - was forced to sit alone at her husband's funeral at St George's Chapel, Windsor.

Just hours later, the Queen – observing Covid restrictions – was forced to sit alone at her husband’s funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

The PM was not staying at No10 that night. 

Sue Gray’s report found the parties lasted ‘for several hours’ in both No10 and the Downing Street garden.

The event for Mr Slack began around 6.30pm with speeches in the No10 press office, which lasted for around an hour. 

Approximately 45 people were in attendance both in the office and a small number joining online.

Wine and beer had been bought by staff and attendees included senior officials.

Meanwhile, the second event for the other No10 official was held in the building’s basement and began around the same time with 15 to 20 people present, including a special adviser and more junior officials.

Wine was available, music was played from a laptop and the report found ‘a number of those present drank excessively’.

Attendees of the two events mingled and they eventually joined together in the Downing Street garden.

Shortly before 9.30pm there were more than 20 people gathered in the garden with a number of bottles of booze.

A child’s swing and slide set was damaged by staff leaning on it and playing with it.

As No10 began to be locked down for the evening, the group began to break up and returned to the main building around 9.30pm.

Some remained to carry on drinking until the early hours with some leaving after midnight and others between 1.45am and 2.45am.

Two members of staff stayed even later, with the last leaving at 4.20am.

Whitehall ethics chief (and former pub landlady) who previously ended the careers of ministers

Sue Gray is a former pub landlady turned civil servant who has had Westminster-watchers on the edge of their seats for months. 

But as rumours swirled about what her investigation may or may not contain and what it meant for the future of Boris Johnson and those around him she kept out of the limelight. 

If her final, complete report results in scalps, they will not be the first she has taken. 

In her former job as director-general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office she had enormous power and long experience in Westminster scandals, and developed a fearsome reputation among ministers and officials. 

Whitehall heavy hitter Sue Gray is carrying out out inquiries into three alleged gatherings at No10 and the Department for Education in November and December last year, when indoor mixing was banned.

Whitehall heavy hitter Sue Gray is carrying out out inquiries into three alleged gatherings at No10 and the Department for Education in November and December last year, when indoor mixing was banned.

It saw her described as the most powerful civil servant you have never heard of. 

Epithets applied to the 64-year-old include ‘all-powerful’, ‘formidable’ and ‘enforcer’. 

Former Cabinet Minister Sir Oliver Letwin once playfully posited: ‘Our great United Kingdom is actually entirely run by a lady called Sue Gray. Nothing moves in Whitehall unless Sue says so.’

Her inquiry into the so-called Plebgate affair in 2012 led to the resignation of minister Andrew Mitchell for verbally abusing police on duty in Downing Street.

And her investigation into Damian Green led to his forced resignation in 2017 after she discovered he had lied about pornography found on his Commons computer.

But her life has not been completely standard mandarin. In the 1980s she was a pub landlady, running the Cove Bar near Newry in Northern Ireland with her husband Bill Conlan, a joiner and country and western singer from Portaferry in County Down.

The couple married in March 1985 at Newtownards register office near Belfast while Sue was taking a career break.

At this time, Newry was a key battleground between the British Army and the IRA. A month before their wedding, nine police officers were killed and 40 people injured in an IRA mortar attack on the RUC base in the town.

Last year she told the BBC: ‘I loved it, loved it at the time, I’d never do it again.’

Her parents were poor but hard-working Irish immigrants to Britain – her father, Leo, a furniture salesman, and her mother, Anastasia, a long-serving barmaid – who settled in Tottenham, North London, in the early 1950s. Sue was born in 1957, followed by her brother Kevin three years later, and went to a Catholic school in North London.

In 1987, the couple returned to London where their two sons, Liam and Ciaran, were born.

Sue resumed her Civil Service career, working across Whitehall in transport, health and work and pensions, before joining the Cabinet Office in the late 1990s.

In January she was drafted in from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities after Cabinet Secretary Simon Case quit his role leading the inquiry.

He was forced to step down after it emerged a December 2020 quiz was held in his own department that he was aware of and spoke at. 

From 2018 to 2021 she served as the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance at the Northern Ireland Executive.

She returned to London to head up work on the Union in 2021. But she admitted last year she wuld not have come back to London if she had won the top Civil Service post in Northern Ireland.

She applied to run the service  after the retirement of previous boss David Sterling, but the powersharing executive overlooked her and two other candidates, leaving the post unfilled.

She told the BBC at the time: ‘Why didn’t I get the job? I’m not sure I’ll ever quite know but I suspect, you know, I suspect people may have thought that I perhaps was too much of a challenger, or a disrupter.

‘I am both. Perhaps I would bring about… too much change.’

Which Whitehall bashes did the police issue fines for?

– May 20, 2020: BYOB garden party

A leaked email from senior civil servant Martin Reynolds to more than 100 Downing Street employees invited them to ‘bring your own booze’ for an evening gathering.

The PM admitted attending the gathering, but previously insisted he believed it was a work event which could ‘technically’ have been within the rules.

– June 18, 2020: Cabinet Office gathering

A gathering in the Cabinet Office on this date was being investigated by the police. The event was apparently held to mark the departure of a Number 10 private secretary. 

– June 19, 2020: Birthday party for the PM

Downing Street admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room after a meeting. Reports suggested up to 30 people attended and the PM was presented with a cake. 

The PM, his wife Carrie Johnson – said to have organised the bash – and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have all received fines.

Reports said Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of Mr and Mrs Johnson’s No 10 flat, briefly attended while undertaking work in Downing Street.    

– November 13, 2020: Leaving party for senior aide and Abba Party

According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and a close ally of Dominic Cummings. 

The latter walked out the front door of Downing Street carrying a box of his belongings that night after losing a bitter power struggle with Mrs Johnson.   

There were also claims a party with loud Abba music was held in the No11 flat that evening to celebrate the ousting of Mr Cain and Mr Cummings. 

The premier is thought to have insisted he was interviewing one of those present for a potential job at the second event. 

– December 17, 2020: Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’

A gathering was held in the Cabinet Office on December 17.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is said to have attended the party in room 103 of the Cabinet Office.

It was apparently organised by a private secretary in Mr Case’s team, and included in digital calendars as: ‘Christmas party!’

The Cabinet Office confirmed a quiz took place, but a spokesman said: ‘The Cabinet Secretary played no part in the event, but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office.’

– December 18, 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street

The claim that kicked off the rule-breaking allegations is that a party was held for Downing Street staff on December 18.

Officials and advisers reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts, although the PM is not thought to have attended.

Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, quit after being filmed joking about it with fellow aides at a mock press conference – although it is not clear whether she attended. 

– January 14, 2021: Number 10 leaving do for two staff members

The Sue Gray update previously revealed that an event in Downing Street for the departure of two No10 private secretaries was being looked at by the police. 

– April 16, 2021: Drinks and dancing the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

Advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events on the Friday night.

They were marking the departure of James Slack, Mr Johnson’s former director of communications, and one of the PM’s personal photographers.

Mr Slack, who left his Number 10 role to become deputy editor-in-chief of The Sun newspaper, said he was sorry for the ‘anger and hurt’ caused by his leaving do, while Downing Street apologised to the Queen.

Mr Johnson is not believed to have been in Downing Street that day and is said to have been at Chequers.

Accounts from witnesses said alcohol was drunk and guests danced to music, adding that it had been told that around 30 people attended both events combined.

We thought it was OK because Boris was there too, say No. 10 staffers

Khan’s ‘completely inappropriate meddling’ piles pressure on Met 

Sadiq Khan has asked the acting head of the Metropolitan Police to explain the force’s decisions over Partygate after pictures emerged of Boris Johnson drinking at a gathering for which he was not fined.

The London mayor (pictured) wrote to Sir Stephen House yesterday to seek answers about the Met’s decisions in individual cases in the investigation, Operation Hillman.

He warned that trust in Scotland Yard was being ‘further eroded’ by a ‘lack of clarity’ around how decisions were made during the inquiry into parties which breached coronavirus laws.

One Whitehall source described Mr Khan’s intervention as ‘completely inappropriate’.

‘It looks like a massive level of political interference,’ the source said. ‘You’ve basically got the Labour police and crime commissioner for London interfering in a Met Police investigation into another party [the Tories]. It’s completely inappropriate.’

Mr Johnson received a fixed-penalty notice (FPN) over a birthday party in the Cabinet Room in June 2020 but was told he would face no further action over other gatherings covered by the police’s Operation Hillman inquiry.

Those included the November 13, 2020 gathering to mark former spin doctor Lee Cain’s departure from No 10, an event at which pictures obtained by ITV apparently showed Mr Johnson raising a toast and drinking wine. The Met has issued 126 FPNs to 83 people involved in a series of events in Downing Street and Whitehall, including the leaving do on November 13, 2020.

A spokesman for Mr Khan said: ‘Sadiq has today written to the acting commissioner of the Met to seek a detailed explanation of the factors which were taken into account by investigating officers when decisions were made about whether to take action in individual cases in the Downing Street Partygate investigation.’

She said Mr Khan requested the Met ‘reassure Londoners by making this explanation to them directly’.

Mr Khan had made clear he would not interfere in operational decisions and the Met has confirmed that Operation Hillman, which looked at the lockdown-busting events in No. 10 and Whitehall, has concluded.

 

Downing Street staff have broken cover to say they only joined in lockdown parties because Boris Johnson ‘was grabbing a glass for himself’.

Three anonymous No 10 insiders described in detail regular rule-breaking events while Covid restrictions were in place.

Their evidence to BBC Panorama last night came ahead of the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into Partygate, which is expected today.

Mr Johnson was already under renewed pressure after images obtained by ITV News showed him raising a glass while surrounded by colleagues and bottles of wine.

Days after ordering England’s second national lockdown, images showed the Prime Minister giving a toast for departing communications chief Lee Cain on November 13, 2020. One witness said: ‘There were about 30 people, if not more, in a room. Everyone was stood shoulder to shoulder, some people on each other’s laps.’

‘Unforgivable’ scenes were described at a party on April 16 last year, the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. Attendees told of a ‘lively event… a general party with people dancing around’ that became so loud that security guards told them to go into the No. 10 grounds.

‘Everyone grabbed all the drinks, the food, everything, and went into the garden,’ one source said. ‘We all sat around the tables drinking. People stayed the night there.’ The insiders said the events were weekly, with press office drinks put in the diary as ‘WTF’, standing for ‘Wine-Time Friday’.

One former official described often turning up at No. 10 to find it a ‘mess’: ‘There were bottles, empties, rubbish – in the bin, but overflowing – or indeed sometimes left on the table.’ One said a Downing Street security guard, known as a custodian, was mocked when he tried to break up a party.

‘I remember when a custodian tried to stop it all and he was just shaking his head in this party, being like ‘This shouldn’t be happening,’ they said.

Sources say Friday drinks had long been a tradition. ‘We saw it as our own bubble,’ one said. ‘Everything just continued as normal. Social distancing didn’t happen. We didn’t wear face masks. It wasn’t like the outside world.’

One said they felt they had the PM’s permission because ‘he was there’, adding: ‘He may have just been popping through on the way to his flat because that’s what would happen. You know, he wasn’t there saying this shouldn’t be happening. He wasn’t saying, ‘Can everyone break up and go home? Can everyone socially distance? Can everyone put masks on?’ No, he wasn’t telling anybody that. He was grabbing a glass for himself.’

One staffer described watching Mr Johnson denying wrongdoing in the House of Commons: ‘We just sort of looked at each other in disbelief like – why? Why is he denying this when we’ve been with him this entire time, we knew that the rules had been broken, we knew these parties happened?’

One said younger members of the team ‘did not think they were breaking the rules at the time because the Prime Minister was at [the events], some of the most senior civil servants in the country were at them – and were indeed organising some of them’.



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