NUMBER 10 staff behaved ‘inappropriately and shamefully’ during the pandemic and ‘things happened which should not have done’ – that’s the verdict from Worcester’s and Malvern’s Conservative MPs to the Sue Gray report.
Robin Walker and Harriett Baldwin spoke out after publication of the report on Wednesday (May 25) which laid bare the ‘failures of leadership and judgment in No 10 and the Cabinet Office’ over the so-called ‘Partygate’.
Mrs Gray’s report includes WhatsApp messages between Downing Street officials, which reveal some of the events were pre-planned, despite doubts being raised about whether they were allowed or how they might be perceived.
On May 20, 2020, senior civil servant Martin Reynolds invited staff to a ‘socially distanced garden party’. Lee Cain, who was No 10’s director of communications at the time, replied ‘a 200-odd person invitation for drinks in the garden of no 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment.”
Mr Reynolds also referred to the events in a separate message at a later date and said ‘we seem to have got away with it’.
Among the stark findings in the report was a ‘pizza and prosecco’ leaving party on June 17, 2020 which included a karaoke machine, a member of staff being sick and a ‘minor altercation’ between two others.
Her probe into the much-reported party in the Number 10 flat on November 13 2020, was halted after the police announced they were investigating it and Ms Gray said some of the events had only been raised after ‘disappointing’ reports in the media.
Neither Mr Walker or Mrs Baldwin sought to openly criticise Boris Johnson, however the West Worcestershire MP said she had sought assurances the behaviour exposed in the report was no longer accepted.
It’s reported Mrs Baldwin suggested at a meeting of the Tory 1922 committee alcohol should be banned in Downing Street and Government departments only to be allegedly told by the Prime Minister that Britain ‘would not have won the Second World War’ had booze readily available.
“Having read the report I conclude many staff at 10 Downing Street behaved inappropriately and shamefully in their workplace during a pandemic. It is clear changes needed to be made and many people have left or moved jobs,” Mrs Baldwin said.
“I did not see anything in the text or in the photos to make me think this should be a sackable offence for our Prime Minister. However I will ask him for assurances that this kind of behaviour is no longer allowed to occur in what is a workplace.”
Mr Walker said: “Although the Prime Minister was not involved in any of the wild parties which happened, he was right to apologise for the actions of some and it was right that heads rolled and changes in Number 10 have been made.”
The Worcester MP added he felt Boris Johnson was the right man to lead the country and the party into the next election.
“He has made the right decisions on a number of important issues – during the pandemic, after the pandemic and to address the cost-of-living crisis.”