The Derry MP said the contents of the report into breaches of lockdown rules in Downing Street completed by senior civil servant Sue Gray would, in a functioning democracy, spell the end of Boris Johnson’s Tory administration.
The personal, professional and political failures detailed in the report, he added, fall squarely at the feet of Boris Johnson and make a mockery of the immense sacrifices that others made throughout the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sue Gray’s Report following an investigation into ‘Alleged Gatherings on Government Premises during the Covid-19 Restrictions’ was published today. It called for immediate action from the government to address a series of failings uncovered.
Her report states: “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.
“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.
“At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public.
“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.
“The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time. Steps must be taken to ensure that every Government Department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace.”
The report also states that the use of the garden at No 10 Downing Street was used as an extension of the workplace but also “for gatherings without clear authorisation or oversight. This was not appropriate. Any official access to the space, including for meetings, should be by invitation only and in a controlled environment”.
Speaking following the publication of the report today, Colum Eastwood MP said: “All across these islands, ordinary, decent people were thrust into the most extraordinary circumstances over the last two years and faced with every day choices to bend or break the severe restrictions placed on them, the vast majority stuck by the rules.
“They stuck by the rules when it meant missing a loved one’s funeral. They stuck by the rules when it meant giving up precious time with friends and family that they would never see again. The very least they could expect is that the Prime Minister would stick by those rules too.
“The conclusions of the report completed by Sue Gray could not be starker.” He accused the Prime Minister on not only breaking the rules himself, but creating ‘a culture of breaking the rules’ among others.
“He has trampled on the pain that so many endured for so long,” he said while claiming: “There is no expectation that Johnson will resign. He has no shame, no sense of public duty.... So, he must be removed from office.”
Meanwhile British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, responding to the report today, resisted calls for his resignation while apologising.
He said: “It is clear from what Sue Gray has had to say that several of these gatherings then went on far longer than was necessary, They were clearly in breach of the rules and they clearly fell foul of the rules.
“I have to tell the house because the house will need to know this, and again this is not to mitigate or extenuate. But I had no knowledge of subsequent proceedings because I simply wasn’t there, and I have been as surprised and disappointed as anyone else in this House as the revelations unfolded.
“And frankly, Mr Speaker, I have been appalled by some of the behaviour, particularly in the treatment of the security and the cleaning staff. And I would like to apologise to those members of staff and I expect anyone who behaved in that way to apologise to them as well. And I am happy to set on the record now, that when I said - I came to this house and said in all sincerity - the rules and guidance had been followed at all times it was what I believed to be true. It was certainly the case when I was present at gatherings to wish staff farewell, and the House will note that my attendance at these moments – brief as it was – has not been found to be outside the rules.”