Downing Street officials have been accused of trying to dilute Sue Gray’s account in the Partgate scandal, in which calls have been reported to conceal the identity of employees who violated coronavirus rules and to change the way people are reported about the so-called “oppa party”.
The Sunday Times reported that partial drafts of the findings were circulated at No. 10 the day before the final report was delivered on Wednesday.
Sources told the newspaper that three senior officials urged Gray not to reveal the names of some of the people involved in the 12 events under investigation.
One last attempt was made to persuade her on Tuesday evening [Gray] She removed Asmaa from the report, but made it clear to them that this would only happen if they gave her an order,” a source in Whitehall said.
The newspaper claimed that the main aisles were changed at the request of the number 10, including the ‘Abba Night’ party allegedly held at the Prime Minister’s house in November 2020. An earlier draft indicated the music being played and the time it was said to have been modified by Steve Barclay Johnson’s chief of staff.
A government source told the Guardian that Barclay did not edit the report or influence it in any way.
The Cabinet Office denied allegations that the report was edited due to pressure or that no events were investigated due to requests from dignitaries.
They cited the text of the report, in which Gray explained her reasons for dropping her investigation into what happened at the home Johnson shares with his wife, Carrie. Gray said she halted her work after gathering only “limited” information about the gathering as the Metropolitan Police launched its own investigation.
Finally, Gray’s 37-page report on party culture in Downing Street included nine photos and the naming of some of the top officials.
The findings detailed how each event occurred, including a farewell party on June 18, 2020, where “one person was ill” and “there was a minor quarrel between two others”.
The report included safety records showing that some employees continued to party until 4 a.m. after Director of Communications James Slack left, and cleaners provided evidence of wine spilled on walls and letters warning employees to come through the back entrance to go so that reporters wouldn’t see them.
Gray also highlighted a number of occasions when Number 10 employees asked questions about whether events should be held, or about drunkenness in Downing Street, and their concerns were ignored.
Johnson apologized to lawmakers on Wednesday for the culture that has grown up in Downing Street during the pandemic, saying he took “full responsibility”.
But the Prime Minister stressed that he considered it a “basic administrative responsibility” to attend the farewell events and thanked the departing employees because “it was appropriate to acknowledge and thank them for the work they did.”
He also said at a press conference on Wednesday: “The first thing I saw and read the entire report – and to my knowledge the first any member of my team saw – was when we received the report shortly after 10 am.”