'We got away with it': New Partygate details revealed in Sue Gray report

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand meets the families, bereaved by Covid, who say they feel 'sickened' by the details that have emerged

The fallout from Sue Gray's report into Covid-rule-breaking in Downing Street continues, after the 60 page document revealed highly-damaging details of the Partygate saga.

Senior leadership at Number 10 was heavily criticised in the report, with top civil servant Ms Gray saying they must "bear responsibility" for the party culture in Downing Street, which came about due to a "failure of leadership".

The Prime Minister said he took "full responsibility" for the rule-breaking which took place on his watch - but defended himself by saying he was not present for a number of the illegal gatherings, and resisted calls to resign.

Boris Johnson also insisted he's always been honest to the Commons with his denials of law-breaking, saying he believed at the time that the rules had always been followed in government. Mr Johnson apologised but sought to downplay the significance of Covid breaches in government and his role in them.

How have politicians reacted to Sue Gray's report? Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports

He told MPs: "Over a period of 600 days, gatherings on a total of eight days have been found in breach of regulations." Seeking to explain his role in attending some events, he said part of his leadership duty is to "recognise them and thank" staff when they are leaving government.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Commons that report "laid bare the rot" in No 10 and told Mr Johnson he must "pack his bags".

He said "they think it is everyone else's fault but theirs. They expect others to take the blame whilst they cling on.

"They pretend that the prime minister has somehow been exonerated, as if the fact that he only broke the law once is worthy of praise.

"The truth is they set the bar for his conduct lower than a snake's belly and now they expect the rest of us to congratulate him as he stumbles over it."

The report contained several photographs, including images of Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case at the PM's birthday celebration.

Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Sunak were fined for attending that event, however Mr Case was not.

What do our reporters think the impact of the Sue Gray report will be? ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand and ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston give their answers

Here are some interesting aspects from the report:

  • Official says 'we seem to have got away' with party

Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister Martin Reynolds boasted "we seem to have got away with" the infamous BYOB garden party in a WhatsApp message to a special adviser.

Mr Reynolds has become known as person who invited around 100 staff to "make the most of the lovely weather" in the Number 10 garden, adding: "Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!"

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 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)."

It appears some officials within Number 10 were well aware the party would break the rules.

Former communications chief Lee Cain warned Mr Reynolds and Dominic Cummings the party was "somewhat of a comms risk" and urged for the event to be cancelled.

Another adviser said sent a message to Mr Reynolds by WhatsApp, 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."

Mr Reynolds replied: 'Will do my best!", according to the report.

  • The prime minister personally provided the cheese and wine for a separate garden party

The PM, his wife and Mr Reynolds were photographed chatting in the Number 10 garden, at an event on May 15, 2020, which was first reported by the Guardian.

According to Ms Gray's report, Mr Johnson brought the cheese and wine pictured in the garden gathering from his flat.

She wrote that the PM 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."

  • Child's slide damaged and last guest left after 4am on eve of Prince Philip's funeral

Some of the lockdown parties went on until 4.20am, the report found. Two leaving events took place on April 16, 2021, on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral.

The two groups eventually "joined together" in the Downing Street garden. Shortly before 9.30pm, there were over 20 people in the garden. Ms Gray found that a child's swing and slide was damaged due to people "leaning on and playing with it".

Entry logs show that a number of people left Number 10 at around 9.30pm, and were "encouraged by the custodian to use the rear exit of No 10".

But some remained and continued drinking "until the early hours".

Some left after midnight, while others stayed between 1.45am and 2.45am.Two staff members stayed later, with one leaving at 3.11am and the last leaving at 4.20am.

  • Senior leadership must take responsibility for party culture on Downing Street

The report said the public would be "dismayed" by a series of breaches of coronavirus rules in No 10 and Westminster.

"The events that I investigated were attended by leaders in government. Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen," she said.

She condemned the wider culture that had been allowed to develop under Mr Johnson's leadership.

She said some of the more junior officials who attended parties "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," Ms Gray said.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know

  • PM does not deny he asked Sue Gray to scrap plans to publish full report.

There was fury this week when it was confirmed Mr Johnson had met Ms Gray ahead of publishing her report and the Times newspaper reported that he'd asked her not to publish her report.

Number 10 denied this when journalists asked at a briefing on Tuesday but Mr Johnson did not when asked by a Tory MP in the Commons.

Aaron Bell asked: “I was very surprised to read in the Times that he may have asked Sue Gray not to publish a report at all. Is there any truth to that suggestion?” Mr Johnson responded: "What Sue Gray has published is entirely for Sue Gray. It is a wholly independent report."

  • Someone was sick at a karaoke party and there was even a minor altercation

On June 18, 2020, a gathering took place in No 10 to mark the departure of an official, which appears to have descended into chaos.

Helen MacNamara, who was at the time deputy Cabinet secretary, attended for part of the evening and provided a karaoke machine for the event.

"The event lasted for a number of hours, Ms Gray said, adding: "There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals.

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

  • Boris Johnson apologises to cleaners and security staff for their appalling treatment by some of his staff

Ms Gray said she had learned of multiple examples of "unacceptable" treatment of security and cleaning staff during her Partygate investigation.

She wrote: "I found that some staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly.

"I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. This was unacceptable."

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson apologised for their appalling treatment, saying he was "surprised and disappointed" to hear about them.

Number 10 has released a photograph of Boris Johnson reading Sue Gray's report. Credit: Number 10/Flickr
  • Downing Street flat "Abba" gathering not investigated as it wasn't "appropriate" following police probe

A gathering in Downing Street during which Abba songs could reportedly be heard coming from Mr Johnson's flat was not looked into by Sue Gray as it wouldn't have been "appropriate" after the police concluded their investigation.

The November 13, 2020, event reportedly took place after two of the prime minister's senior advisors - Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain - left government.

Allegations of the gathering first came from Mr Cummings, who also claimed that there were photographs of the event and that Abba songs, including The Winner Takes It All, could be heard by others in the building.

In the report, Ms Gray states that a "leaving speech and drinks" were hosted later that day at Number 10 to mark Mr Cain's departure.

Photographs of the November 13 gathering, which were first leaked to ITV News, are also contained in the report. Credit: Sue Gray report

This event was not pre-planned, Ms Gray was told, but it did take place around the same time that "Wine Time Friday" would typically take place.

The prime minister attended on his way to his Downing Street flat, having left his office at 7.17pm.

The Tory leader made a leaving speech for Mr Cain and those attending, including Mr Johnson, drank alcohol.

The PM is in hot water after the photographs of this gathering were released by ITV News, with critics saying it proves he lied to Parliament when denying in the Commons on last year that the party took place.

December 8, 2021: Boris Johnson denies November 13 party took place:

He was asked specifically about the event on December 8, telling Labour MP Catherine West in the Commons that, "no" there had not been a gathering on that date, adding: "I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times."

Ms Gray wrote that food and alcohol were available at the gathering, and the discussion "carried on later into the evening with attendees leaving at various points".

But just as Ms Gray was in "the process of obtaining evidence", the Metropolitan Police announced their own investigation.

She said that at this point, she stopped her investigation "given the need to avoid any prejudice to the police investigation".

After the police announced that their Partygate probe came to a conclusion last Thursday, the senior civil servant dropped enquiries into the flat gathering.

"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," Ms Gray's report read.

What's been the political fallout within the Conservative Party?

Conservative MP for York Outer Julian Sturdy has called for Boris Johnson to resign.

Mr Sturdy tweeted that the Sue Gray report “clearly shows the prime minister has presided over a widespread culture of disregard for the coronavirus regulations."

Mr Johnson met with the 1922 committee of backbench Conservatives on Wednesday evening.

ITV News North of England Correspondent Hannah Miller visits 'Red Wall' seat Wakefield to gauge how local people feel about the partygate scandal which is threatening to derail Boris Johnson's premiership

UK editor Paul Brand reported on what one critical Tory MP said about what the prime minister had to say: “Saying sorry at 1922 & then reducing everything to a joke. Tractors & farmers, drinking at work and something about the Second World War. Everything is a joke & some laugh along. Making us all the clowns in his circus.”

When he asked another MP about the prime minister's words to the committee, the MP replied, "I couldn't bring myself to go to listen to him."

Meanwhile, political editor Robert Peston reported veteran Tory MPs have accused the media of exaggerating the seriousness of how Covid laws were systematically broken in No. 10.

The majority of other Tory MPs have, however, stressed the PM has apologised and called for people to move on.

Environment Minister Victoria Prentis told ITV's Peston show the report "isn't a good read" but insisted it "couldn't happen" again under "new structures" brought in at Number 10.

Asked if Mr Johnson would lead the Tories into the next general election, she said: "Yes, I think he will. Today is clearly not a great day".

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, who has been critical of the PM over the scandal, told the show if Mr Johnson lasts as leader the partygate scandal will "dominate and distract" the party from other issues.

Who is Cabinet Secretary Simon Case?

Simon Case is the UK's most senior civil servant, who provides advice to the PM and his ministers as well as leading the civil service.

There was speculation he would resign after being pictured in the Partygate report however it is now understood that he will stay in post.

Simon Case is pictured here with the prime minister for his 56th birthday celebration. Credit: Sue Gray report

He was initially given the role of carrying out the inquiry Ms Gray was eventually tasked with but was relieved of that duty after reports implicated him in potential rule-breaking.

Mr Case was not fined by officers conducting the Operation Hillman investigation.

He was appointed Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service in September 2020.

Before this he was permanent secretary at No 10, focusing on Covid-19 and the response to the pandemic.

He has also served in the Royal Household, having previously been Prince William's private secretary.

What was the report investigating?

Under the terms of reference for Ms Gray's report, the civil servant was asked to "establish swiftly a general understanding of the nature of the gatherings, including attendance, the setting and the purpose, with reference to adherence to the guidance in place at the time". She is also able set out whether disciplinary action is required.

Ms Gray investigated 16 events held on government premises during the coronavirus pandemic which were said to have broken lockdown rules.

She passed evidence of potential criminality to the Metropolitan Police, which announced it was launching its own investigation just days before she was due to publish her findings.

The police investigation prevented Ms Gray from publishing her report in full, due to concerns in the force about the potential for prejudice, meaning an interim update was set out instead.

The update condemned a "failure of leadership" in Downing Street during the pandemic, said a number of events "should not have been allowed to take place" and even criticised the "excessive consumption of alcohol", which she said was inappropriate.

Just four of the events Ms Gray investigated were not looked into by police.

According to her interim report, here are the gatherings she investigated:

  • May 15, 2020 - "A photograph showing a number of groups in the garden of No 10 Downing Street."

  • *May 20, 2020: "A gathering in the garden of No 10 Downing Street for No 10 staff."

  • *June 18, 2020: "A gathering in the Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall on the departure of a No 10 private secretary."

  • *June 19, 2020: "A gathering in the Cabinet room in No 10 Downing Street on the prime minister's birthday."

  • *November 13, 2020: "A gathering in the No 10 flat."

  • *November 13, 2020: "A gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser."

  • November 27, 2020: "A gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser."

  • December 10, 2020: "A gathering in the Department for Education ahead of the Christmas break."

  • December 15, 2020: "A gathering in No 10 Downing Street for an online Christmas quiz."

  • *December 17, 2020: "A gathering in Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall to hold an online Christmas quiz for the Cabinet Secretary's private office."

  • *December 17, 2020: "A gathering in Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall on the departure of a senior Cabinet Office official."

  • December 17, 2020: "A gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a No 10 official."

  • *December 18, 2020: "A gathering in No 10 Downing Street ahead of the Christmas break."

  • *January 14, 2021: "A gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of two No 10 private secretaries."

  • *April 16, 2021: "A gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of No 10 official."

  • *April 16, 2021: "A gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of another No 10 official."

*These events were also investigated by police.