Boris Johnson's staff got drunk, brawled and abused cleaners during Covid lockdowns, damning report finds

Boris Johnson raises a can of beer at his illegal June 2020 birthday party. Police fined him for attending the event.

London (CNN)Parties that went on until the early hours of the morning. Drunken staff vomiting and fighting with each other. Downing Street walls stained with red wine. And an illegal birthday party for Britain's Prime Minister, complete with six-packs of beer and dozens of sandwiches.

That was the scene at the heart of Boris Johnson's government while the rest of the United Kingdom was banned from seeing friends or relatives, according to a long-awaited probe into lockdown-breaking parties in Whitehall and Downing Street.
Johnson is facing a battle to save his premiership after the report published on Wednesday by senior civil servant Sue Gray criticized a culture of rule-breaking events, and revealed new photographs of him at two separate gatherings.
    Gray wrote that "the senior leadership at the centre" of Johnson's administration "must bear responsibility" for a culture that allowed the parties to take place.
      She added there is "no excuse for some of the behaviour" she investigated, which included "excessive alcohol consumption." Logs of email exchanges were also featured, including some where staff openly discussed hiding their partying from the media.
      The report probed 16 events that took place while the UK was living under strict Covid-19 restrictions.
      A picture of Johnson raising a can of beer at a birthday party thrown in his honor was included in the dossier, alongside more images of the Prime Minister at another event.
        Johnson in front of a table filled with bottles at a November 2020 event. At the time, indoor mixing was banned.
        Speaking in Parliament moments after the report was published, Johnson said he was "humbled" and has "learned my lesson," adding: "I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch."
        But he also repeated previous claims that parties only escalated after he left, and insisted he was "surprised and disappointed" that several drink-fueled events took place.
        And he suggested that the cramped quarters of the government buildings and the "extremely long hours" of his staff responding to the Covid-19 crisis could explain why several parties and social events took place.
        "I briefly attended such gatherings to thank them for their service, which I believe is one of the essential duties of leadership," Johnson said.
        He fielded several interventions by lawmakers who demanded his resignation, but repeatedly rejected those calls.
        According to a snap poll from Savanta ComRes published on Wednesday, two thirds of Britons (65%) said that Johnson should resign over the findings of the Gray report.
        This figure is four points higher than when Johnson was fined by the Metropolitan Police on April 12 (61%), but lower than after the publication of Gray's initial interim findings in January (69%), according to Savanta ComRes.
        The report does not entirely end the "Partygate" saga that has left Johnson's job on a precipice. Its findings raise serious questions about whether Johnson misled lawmakers when previously denying that parties took place, and faces a separate parliamentary committee investigation into that question.
        On Wednesday in Parliament he was savaged by opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who said the inquest "provides definitive proof of how those within the building treated the sacrifices of the British people with utter contempt."
        "This report will stand as a monument to the hubris and the arrogance of a government that believed it was one rule for them, and another rule for everyone else," Starmer said.
        "You cannot be a lawmaker and a law-breaker. It's time to pack his bags."

        Staff told to bring booze and avoid media

        Gray found that Johnson attended a garden party in May 2020 for around half an hour, where approximately "30-40 people" were present.
        An invitation to that event told staff about "socially distanced drinks" in the Downing Street garden, open to "whoever is in your office."
        "Could you also suggest they bring their own booze! Not sure we will have enough," the email from Martin Reynolds, Johnson's principal private secretary, said, according to the report. The next day, Reynolds noted the media had not reported on the party, writing to a colleague: "We seem to have got away with (it)."
        In one email exchange, staff were told to avoid "walking around waving bottles of wine" while reporters were in the building, and to keep the sound down at gatherings when a Covid-19 ministerial press conference was taking place.
        Before a December 2020 virtual quiz that Johnson attended part of, an official sent a message to staff relating to "drunkenness" and advised them to leave Downing Street through the back exit to avoid press photographers.