Several senior politicians and civil servants have been criticised in Sue Gray’s damning report that shone a light on Covid rule-breaking parties in Westminster.
While she said she onlywanted to name only “the most high-ranking individuals” who knew about, attended or organised such gatherings, Gray decided it was in the public interest to confirm their identity.
The prime minister was found to have attended eight of the 15 events investigated. He provided cheese and wine from his flat for the infamous garden party on 15 May 2020, and was present at several other gatherings where Gray said alcohol was available.
Though he escaped being criticised by name, Gray said that “the senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility” for the culture of rule-breaking.
She said Johnson was “not aware” of the birthday event he was fined by police for attending, though newly published pictures in her report show him brandishing a can of beer in the cabinet room.
Gray admitted she did not properly investigate a “meeting” with food and booze in the Downing Street flat on the evening of 13 November 2020, which Johnson and five unnamed special advisers attended.
As Johnson’s most senior civil service aide, the man who became known as “party Marty” for organising a “bring your own booze” gathering and still holds a senior post in government was found to have ignored warnings about the event.
Reynolds signed off the invite to the drinks, telling an official who drafted it: “That is great – please issue.” He also sent an individual invite to other senior civil servants.
About 200 people were invited, and up to 40 attended – including Johnson. Reynolds left for a meeting halfway through but then re-joined.
In a WhatsApp message on an unknown date, Reynolds appeared to suggest he knew the gathering was wrong. He told a special adviser No 10 appeared to have “got away with” it.
Reynolds also discussed a leaving event in June 2020 for No 10 official Hannah Young, which he was also warned risked breaking the rules, and approved plans for the Johnson’s birthday gathering.
Reynolds’ deputy was also present at several events.
After being advised against a leaving do for Young, an unnamed No 10 official said in an email to her that Reynolds and Glassborow “would like to do speeches tomorrow when we have your drinks which aren’t drinks”.
The event took place in No 10 and continued in the Cabinet Office, and Gray said door logs showed Glassborow and Reynolds used the link door between the two buildings.
Having had to recuse himself from leading the Whitehall investigation after being found to have attended a gathering himself that ended up being examined by Gray, Simon Case also bore the brunt of some criticism.
He attended a leaving do in the cabinet room, where alcohol was consumed, and is pictured laughing as Johnson raised a glass at the birthday bash.
Though Gray also did not level criticism directly at him, she appeared to blame him for the attendance of other officials by appearing to legitimise the events. She concluded: “Some of the more junior civil servants believed that their involvement in some of these events was permitted given the attendance of senior leaders.”
As the director of communications in No 10, Cain was revealed to have had serious concerns about the impression that gatherings being held in defiance of Covid laws would have given.
He wrote in an email to Reynolds ahead of the “bring your own booze” party that “a 200-odd-person invitation for drinks in the garden of No 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment”.
Cain said he also attended, but just to check who was there.
WhatsApp messages also show he told Reynolds not to hold the leaving do for Young, writing: “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.”
However, one of the events investigated by Gray was the leaving drinks for Cain held in November 2020. Johnson attended and drink alcohol there.
Relatively little mention is made of the prime minister’s former most senior aide.
Gray said Cummings raised concerns with Reynolds about the drinks gathering in writing but that she had not been given “any documentary evidence of this”.
Cummings also attended Young’s leaving do.
During the much more raucous second part of the party to mark Young’s departure, the deputy cabinet secretary attended.
MacNamara provided a karaoke machine, and Gray noted that during the evening there was “excessive alcohol consumption”, one person was sick and a fight broke out.
After the chancellor was fined for attending the prime minister’s birthday event, pictures were published by Gray that showed him leaning on a chair next to Johnson.
However, the report said Sunak was only there briefly, had “arrived early” for a meeting and had “no advance knowledge about what had been planned”.
A special adviser to Dominic Cummings, Watson said she was asked to organise Johnson’s birthday gathering.
He got only a minor mention in the report, but the then health secretary was acknowledged for having attended the 15 May 2020 garden gathering for about 25 minutes.
Gray said it came just after a press conference at which the public were urged to follow all Covid rules, but that the nearly two dozen officials pictured in the Downing Street garden was “actually a number of separate meetings”.