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New Forest MP Julian Lewis slams government after Sue Gray's 'Partygate' report released



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NEW Forest MP Julian Lewis has hit out at the "indefensible behaviour at the heart of government" following the publication of a damning report by Sue Gray detailing boozy No.10 lockdown parties.

The document, which was delivered to the Prime Minister today (Wednesday), listed numerous gatherings at No.10 and the Cabinet Office, some of which lasted for "several hours" and where there was "excessive drinking", a Secret Santa and even a karaoke machine.

New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis told the A&T such behaviour was "utterly unnecessary", adding he "must carefully consider what to do next".

19th June 2020: A gathering in the Cabinet Room in No.10 Downing Street on the Prime Minister's birthday (picture: Sue Gray Report)
19th June 2020: A gathering in the Cabinet Room in No.10 Downing Street on the Prime Minister's birthday (picture: Sue Gray Report)

However, Sir Desmond Swayne has defended Boris Johnson's actions in attending these parties, arguing the Prime Minister had "genuinely believed" they were work events.

"Had the PM invited his friends and family to a gathering then the level of outrage that has been expressed would be justified," he said. "They were populated by civil servants and officials who were at their place of work, with the people with whom they worked daily.

"Far from being the PM’s mates, they probably didn’t even vote for him."

13th November 2020: A gathering in No.10 Downing Street on the departure of a special advisor (picture: Sue Gray Report)
13th November 2020: A gathering in No.10 Downing Street on the departure of a special advisor (picture: Sue Gray Report)

Responding to Sir Desmond's comments, spokesperson for the New Forest Lib Dems, Cllr Jack Davies, said: “He is taking local people for fools by defending this dishonest Prime Minister.

"I didn’t see any of our fantastic doctors and nurses downing bottles of wine on shift at the height of lockdown.

“The people of New Forest West need somebody who will fight for them on the issues that matter, not somebody who will fight for a Prime Minister who believes the rules don’t apply to him.”

Cllr Jack Davies
Cllr Jack Davies

Christchurch MP Sir Chris Chope did not respond to requests by the A&T for comment.

After seeing Mrs Gray's report, Mr Johnson told MPs he takes “full responsibility” for the scandal and for "everything that took place on my watch".

The probe had highlighted one event held in the garden of No 10 on 20th May 2020 – a time when the public was allowed outdoors only for exercise or recreation with one person from another household. It was said to have been "for the purposes of boosting staff morale following a challenging period for staff".

Mrs Gray stressed that "even allowing for the extraordinary pressures [they] were under, the factual findings of this report illustrate some attitudes and behaviours inconsistent with Covid guidance at that time".

Senior civil servant Sue Gray (picture: Gov.uk/PA)
Senior civil servant Sue Gray (picture: Gov.uk/PA)

She continued: "It is important to remember the stringency of the public health regulations in force in England over the relevant periods, and that criminal sanctions were applied to many found to be in breach of them.

"The hardship under which citizens across the country worked, lived and sadly even died while observing the government's regulations and guidance rigorously are known only too well."

The report also stated that government staff had witnessed or been subjected to "behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about".

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

Mrs Gray concluded: "Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of government.

"The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this."



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