'Spineless, cowardly Tories' blasted by Streeting for keeping PM in No10 after Partygate

25 May 2022, 19:15 | Updated: 25 May 2022, 20:03

By Megan Hinton

Wes Streeting blasted "spineless" Tory MPs for allowing Boris Johnson to remain in Number 10 after Sue Gray's damning report on Partygate was released.

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The Shadow Health Secretary said the Prime Minister "presides over a culture where Number 10 staff get so smashed they're sick" as he called for "cowardly" Conservative MP's to "get him out of office".

Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, Mr Streeting said: "Boris Johnson is on two issues, one is obviously the cost of living crisis where people have seen very clearly now the choices that he makes as Prime Minister, shielding the big windfall profits of oil and gas companies, hiking up taxes on working people.

"I mean that’s about values, it's about choices and he has shown how out of touch he is. And I think in the end that could be more fatal for Boris Johnson at the next general election than even this sorry saga.

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June 19 2020; a gathering in the Cabinet Room in No10 Downing Street on the Prime Minister's birthday.
June 19 2020; a gathering in the Cabinet Room in No10 Downing Street on the Prime Minister's birthday. Picture: Cabinet Office

"Where I think Boris Johnson today has been caught again bang to rights for breaking the rules, for lying to parliament and presiding over a culture in Number 10 where we are supposed to believe that the security guards… who were ridiculed for trying to enforce the rules with people more powerful than them, knew it was rule breaking but Boris Johnson didn't.

"Where the cleaners who were brought in to wash the red wine off the walls of Number 10 knew they were breaking the rules but Boris Johnson didn’t.

"I mean, give me a break, this is a guy who lies so effortlessly and repeatedly.

"The reason he is still standing is because, fundamentally, Conservative MP’s are completely spineless and have forgotten their fundamental responsibility in a situation like this which is unprecedented.

"It is their job now to hold him to account and get him out of office, but they are too cowardly to do so."

Read it in full: Sue Gray's much-anticipated final Partygate report

Adding: "What kind of Prime Minister do we have where we have to change the machinery of government around him, to account for the fact that he presides over a culture where Number 10 staff get so smashed their sick, where there’s red wine up the walls and we are meant to believe that Boris Johnson didn’t have a clue what was going on under his own roof."

Reacting to Mr Streeting's comments, Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, defended the PM by saying he had "got the big decisions right".

The MP for Great Yarmouth said Boris Johnson "has an ability to connect with people" and "is the right man for the job" despite the "painful and difficult" revelations made today in Sue Gray's report.

But Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, slammed Boris Johnson's handling of Partygate, telling Andrew: "On what he is good at, Boris Johnson gets an A+, campaigning mode and so forth, that energy, that zest, that determination, that ability to reach parts of the country in campaign mode.

"But attention to detail, a vision, a strategy of moving forward and then having good quality people willing to stand up to him around him, I am afraid he gets a D-, and that's now lead us into trouble."

He compared the Prime Minister to Margaret Thatcher, saying whether you "liked it or loathed it" the former PM had a "very clear vision of where she wanted the country", adding if she had walked into a Number 10 party "she would have shut it down".

He added: "The big concern I have is that we have eroded the trust with the British people and we can't gain that back in time for the next general election under the current trajectory."

On Wednesday the Prime Minister spent his afternoon grovelling over the fallout from Sue Gray's report into Downing Street events during Covid restrictions as continued to cling on to his job.

He apologised to the nation again and in a press conference, saying: "OK, I was in the Cabinet room for a short period, standing up, at my desk, on June 19 2020 and some people came in to congratulate me on my birthday.

"Now, there weren’t very many of them, it didn’t occur to me then that this was a breach of the rules, I'll be frank with you, it didn’t occur to me. That’s just the way it was."

In her full report, Sue Gray said many of the events she looked into "should not have been allowed to happen" and blasted the culture at the heart of government during the pandemic.

"The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture," she said.

Ms Gray issued a damning indictment of the culture at Number 10 during the pandemic, saying: "The whole of the country rose to the challenge.

"Ministers, special advisers and the Civil Service, of which I am proud to be a part, were a key and dedicated part of that national effort. However, as I have noted, a number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did."

She criticised "serious failings" that allowed the parties to take place and a culture of "excessive drinking."

She also said some staff "wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so".

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November 13 2020; a gathering in No10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser
November 13 2020; a gathering in No10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser. Picture: Cabinet Office

In a series of new images released in the full report, Mr Johnson can be seen in the Cabinet Room for his birthday party celebration in June 2020.

In further images, he can be seen at a November 13 2020 leaving party for departing adviser Lee Cain.

He is seen holding a glass, raising it up in a toast and smiling broadly. On the table near him can be seen several open bottles of alcohol.

In the conclusion of her report, Ms Gray says her initial findings from her interim report "still stand".

"Whatever the initial intent, what took place at many of these gatherings and the way in which they developed was not in line with Covid guidance at the time.

"Even allowing for the extraordinary pressures officials and advisers were under, the factual findings of this report illustrate some attitudes and behaviours inconsistent with that guidance."