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Britain report blames ‘senior leadership’ over illegal Downing Street Covid-19 gatherings

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced calls from opposition politicians and some in his own party for him to resign.

PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) – A failure of leadership at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office was to blame for a culture that led to illegal parties being held during coronavirus lockdowns, a report by a senior civil servant said on Wednesday (May 25).

The report by senior official Sue Gray was commissioned by Johnson after revelations of alcohol-fuelled parties at Downing Street when social mixing was all but banned under stringent laws his government had made to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen,” the report said. “The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture.”

The parties fell short of high expected standards but did not reflect the prevailing culture of government at the time, the report added.

“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,” the report said.

“It is my firm belief, however, that these events did not reflect the prevailing culture in Government and the Civil Service at the time. Many thousands of people up and down the country worked tirelessly to deliver in unprecedented times.”

Gray’s interim findings were published in January, but most details were withheld until the end of a separate police inquiry, which concluded last week with 126 fines handed out.

Both Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak were among those fined over a party to celebrate the prime minister’s 56th birthday on June 2020.

Johnson has faced calls from opposition politicians and some in his own party for him to resign after it was revealed both he and officials had broken the rules which meant people could not socialise outside their households or even, in many cases, attend funerals for loved ones.

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