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Sue Gray finds 'failures of leadership and judgement in No 10 and the Cabinet Office' that led gatherings which breached Covid guidance


By Scott Maclennan

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson at one of the gatherings that were probed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at one of the gatherings that were probed.

In Brief:

– The Sue Gray Report on 'Partygate' is finally released

– Many of the gatherings and were not in line with 'Covid guidance at the time'

– Senior Downing Street government and civil service leaders bear responsibility for breaches of guidance

– The Public have a right to 'expect the very highest standards of behaviour' in government and the civil service and 'clearly what happened fell well short'

– Sue Gray: 'no excuse for some of the behaviour set out'

– The report should not be used as the basis for disciplinary action

“The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this” – the damning Sue Gray report into ‘Partygate’ is released.

The investigation was delayed due to a request from the Metropolitan Police not to publish until the force had concluded its own inquiries with 83 people given 126 fines between them for eight different events.

Now the high ranking civil servant’s report into a series of gatherings confirms multiple failings by those in leadership roles in both government and the civil service who attended some of the events in question.

That was combined with similarly multiple examples of cleaning and security staff subjected to poor treatment and disrespectful behaviour at Downing Street, which Ms Gray said an outlier within both government and the civil service.

Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen

In her findings which were accompanied by photographs, Ms Gray stated: “I have already commented in my update on what I found to be failures of leadership and judgement in No 10 and the Cabinet Office. The events that I investigated were attended by leaders in government.

“Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen. It is also the case that some of the more junior civil servants believed that their involvement in some of these events was permitted given the attendance of senior leaders.

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

Multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security

General behaviour was also considered an issue in the context of the gatherings as staff had “witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly.”

Ms Gray stated: “I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. This was unacceptable.

“I am reassured to see that steps have since been taken to introduce more easily accessible means by which to raise concerns electronically, in person or online, including directly with the Permanent Secretary in No 10.

“I hope that this will truly embed a culture that welcomes and creates opportunities for challenge and speaking up at all levels.”

Dismay about behaviour at the heart of government

In her conclusions, Ms Gray was at pains to contrast what went on at No. 10 and the rest of the government and the civil service, stating: “Many thousands of people up and down the country worked tirelessly to deliver in unprecedented times.”

She said: “Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of Government. The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this.

“It is my firm belief, however, that these events did not reflect the prevailing culture in Government and the Civil Service at the time.”

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