'Is Boris running a country or a frat house?': Ex-Tory comms chief slams No10 culture

26 May 2022, 08:51

By Daisy Stephens

Boris Johnson's former director of communications has hit out at the culture in Downing Street exposed in Sue Gray's report, and questioned whether the Prime Minister was 'running a country or a frat house'.

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Will Walden, who ran Mr Johnson's successful 2019 leadership campaign, said the culture exposed at No 10 would not have been allowed to spread under most of the Prime Minister's predecessors.

"Leadership is about... responsibility," he told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast.

"I don't think it matters whether he spent a long time at these gatherings, he condoned them.

"He went to them and he didn't appear to care what happened next.

"I think that's very worrying."

Read more: Boris: It was 'my duty' to go to lockdown parties at No10 amid Gray report fallout

Read more: Tory MP slammed for saying NHS workers 'also let their hair down' during lockdown

He then said: "What worries me the most is - can we possibly imagine this kind of culture happening under Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron or May?

"I think the answer is no.

"And I have to ask - where are the grown ups? Is he running a country or is he running a frat house?"

Mr Walden said the Sue Gray report did not "inspire confidence about serious governing".

He added that, whilst he was "divided" on whether Mr Johnson should resign, he believed the Prime Minister is "sleepwalking towards the next disaster" unless he was honest about the scandal.

"If he's going to survive into the future, he's got to stop saying that we need to move on," he said.

"This is his mess, it's no one else's mess... and you lead first and foremost by understanding that and doing something about it."

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

Read more: Marr: Boris is an albino gorilla next to timid little Tories who'd rather hide than face him

He said: "Yesterday the Prime Minister couldn't even tell us what lessons he'd learned and what personal responsibility and what mistakes he has made... frankly that's not good enough.

"And look, all of this pains me... I've worked closely with him for the best part of a decade, I count him as a friend, but friendship is about honesty and telling the truth and I fear that the Prime Minister isn't hearing that at the moment

"And that may not matter to Tory MPs but I fear that it matters to voters, and without change Boris is sleepwalking towards the next disaster.

"He has got to think about that for the sake of the country."

Sue Gray's final report into the parties was published on Wednesday after a delay due to the Met Police investigation.

It featured new pictures of Mr Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case at lockdown-breaching events.

It also revealed a number of damning details about the events, including that one party saw someone vomit from alcohol consumption and two people get into a fight.

Messages were also published that suggested staff knew they were breaking the rules, including a message from Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds saying they "seemed to have got away with" a party in the Downing Street garden on May 20 2020.

Afterwards, Mr Johnson told journalists it was his "duty" to go to his former staff members' leaving parties, but apologised to the nation.

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