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New 'partygate' report hits Boris Johnson for thoughtless, booze-filled lockdown escapades: 'Should not have been allowed to take place'

Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images

While the rest of the country remained in lockdown, often restricted from gathering in public or even with close family and friends, Downing Street under British Prime Minister Boris Johnson maintained an inappropriate workplace culture of frequent partying and "excessive" drinking, according to a highly anticipated U.K. government report released Monday.

What are the details?

Civil servant Sue Gray called the behavior of Johnson and his staff during the COVID-19 lockdown a "serious failure" of leadership and "difficult to justify" in her final report issued this week.

Gray had been commissioned by Johnson to look into the matter following a national firestorm over allegations of frequent "bring your own booze" parties taking place at 10 Downing Street, the U.K. prime minister's residence.

In all, Gray found that 16 potentially inappropriate parties took place on government property over the last 20 months while British residents suffered under strict government-imposed lockdowns. The "partygate" scandal has threatened Johnson's leadership in recent weeks.

"Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify," Gray wrote in the report.

"At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time," she continued.

"There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did," she added.

Elsewhere in the report, Gray criticized Downing Street staff for the "excessive consumption of alcohol," noting it "is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time."

At the request of London's Metropolitan Police, Gray scrubbed from the report some of its potentially most damaging findings, the Guardian reported. The police launched their own probe into 12 of the 16 lockdown parties last week and were reportedly concerned that a prior public release of details could damage their investigation.

She also refrained from publicly implicating Johnson by name.

What else?

Nevertheless, in response to Gray's report, opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer once again called for Johnson to resign, adding the prime minister is a "man without shame."

"The prime minister took us all for fools," he said. "He held people’s sacrifice in contempt. He showed himself unfit for office."

Speaking before a raucous House of Commons on Monday, Johnson apologized for his actions and promised he would make "changes" to the way Downing St. and the Cabinet Office are run.

"Firstly, I want to say sorry. Sorry for the things we didn’t get right," he said, adding, "I get it, and I will fix it."

Johnson had earlier said he understood the "rage" that many U.K. residents felt toward him and the government when they see that "in Downing Street itself, the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules."

But he also has attempted to sidestep responsibility, saying he only briefly attended one "drinks party" to "thank groups of staff" for their work and claiming that he “believed implicitly that this was a work event.”

Gray ended her Monday report by concluding that changes must be made immediately and that the completion of a police investigation is not required before such changes can be implemented.

"There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded," she said.

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