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'Partygate' culture in UK faces report reckoning

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-26 09:51

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his statement on the Sue Gray report, in the House of Commons in London, on May 25, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he takes "full responsibility "after the publication of a report into parties at his Downing Street office that broke lockdown rules and saw him fined by the police.

Sue Gray's report, which was released on Wednesday, said: "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, ... it is also clear... that a large number of individuals who attended these events breached COVID regulations and, therefore, COVID guidance."

This is despite Johnson's statement to the House of Commons on Dec 1 that "all guidance was followed completely in (Downing Street)", a claim subsequently repeated in a BBC broadcast interview.

After the report's publication, Johnson said: "I want to renew my apology to the House (of Commons) and to the whole country. … I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch."

The BBC's Panorama program on Tuesday interviewed people who attended another leaving party in November 2020, describing a rule-breaking culture with dozens of people crowded into the room.

"Everyone grabbed all the drinks, the food, everything, and went into the garden," said an eyewitness. "We all sat around the tables drinking. People stayed the night there."

A security guard was mocked when he tried to stop a party in full flow, people who attended told the BBC.

Another staff member spoke of arriving at work to find "bottles, empties, rubbish-in the bin, but overflowing-or indeed sometimes left on the table".

'Treated like dirt'

Support group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK said it was appalled by the revelations.

"It's clear there has been a culture at (Downing Street) that said the law did not apply to those who worked and lived there, … (Boris Johnson) has treated us like dirt, and anyone who thinks he won't treat the victims of any future crisis the same way is either naive, or as disingenuous as the Conservative MPs who defend the inexcusable are," it said in a tweet.

Dal Babu, a former chief superintendent with London's Metropolitan Police service, which initially declined to investigate, told Sky News that the police had been "dragged kicking and screaming "into action.

"Look at the picture, you've got the prime minister standing with a glass of wine, empty wine bottles so the drinking has been going on for some time … this is clearly a party, which was illegal at the time," he said. "I'm just flabbergasted he wasn't fined."

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