Drunkenness, vomiting and quarrel at UK government lockdown parties

By Andrew MacAskill and William James

LONDON (Reuters) – A clash broke out, one attendee fell ill and consumed excessive amounts of alcohol when Downing Street workers were partying in the midst of a coronary heart attack in Britain as the rest of the country adhered to strict quarantine rules.

The incidents occurred at a retirement party on June 18, 2020, which began in the cabinet room and was later moved to the adjoining cabinet room with the last staff member leaving at 3:13 p.m. next morning.

Former head of government ethics Helen MacNamara attended for part of the night and provided a karaoke machine, according to a report of lockdown violations in government buildings during the pandemic.

“The incident lasted for several hours. There was excessive alcohol consumption by some people. One person was ill. There was a small altercation between two other people,” the report said on Wednesday.

At that time, large concentrations were banned to reduce the spread of infections.

Johnson, who was fined by police for attending one of the parties, told parliament Wednesday that he had taken full responsibility for the culture on Downing Street and said he was shocked by what happened at events where he was not present.

On the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021, people attended a party where the prime minister’s son’s cot broke in the Downing Street garden and the last staff member left at 4:20 p.m.

Some drunken employees were encouraged to leave the back exit of No. 10, but others “remained in the building and continued to drink alcohol until the early hours of the morning,” the report said.


Senior Gray Sue Gray, who conducted the investigation, said she was informed of “many examples” of “unacceptable” behavior towards Downing Street security and cleaning staff.

Johnson said it was “disgusting” that staff had been mistreated and said he had begun investigating to find out who was responsible.

Gray also highlighted cases in which staff raised questions about whether events should continue or intoxication on Downing Street, and their concerns were dismissed.

“I found that some staff members had witnessed or behaved at work that they were concerned about, but at times felt unable to report properly,” the report said.

After a Dec. 18 party at Downing Street Press Office, a cleaner found red wine spilled on the walls and in boxes of photocopy paper, the report said.

In another incident, Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s former chief secretary, boasted to his colleagues on WhatsApp that the staff seemed to be “escaping” with drinks at the Downing Street Garden in May 2020.

Reynolds resigned from his position on Downing Street earlier this year and took up a role at the State Department.

Asked why Reynolds remains in government, Johnson said it was unfair to talk about individual officials.

But he said: “Anyone involved in all this sad work must learn the lessons.”

(Report by Andrew MacAskill and William James; Edited by Elizabeth Piper, Elaine Hardcastle and Jonathan Oatis)

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