‘Laughing at us all’ – How the papers reacted to Sue Gray’s partygate report

While most of Britain’s newspapers focused on the more sordid details unveiled in the report, others called for the saga to be put to bed.

26 May 2022

The fall out from the publication of Sue Gray’s report into the drinking culture at No 10 that led to lockdown breaches dominated the nation’s front pages on Thursday.

As the Prime Minister refused to resign despite accepting the “bitter and painful” conclusions of the partygate inquiry that revealed lurid details, he sought to shift attention to the cost-of-living crisis.

Boris Johnson “overwhelmingly” believes he should stay in power to tackle the nation’s soaring costs of food and energy.

While most of Britain’s newspapers focused on the more sordid details unveiled in Ms Gray’s report, others called for the saga to be put to bed so the Government could concentrate on solving the cost-of-living crisis.

“Failure of leadership” the i‘s front page declared, reporting Mr Johnson faced anger from all sides after the inquiry revealed a culture of heavy drinking, open rule-breaking and abusive behaviour to staff inside No 10.

It adds that despite large gatherings being illegal at the time, civil servants and political advisers held several parties where individuals drank so much they were sick, fought with each other and left via the back door to avoid being spotted.

Elsewhere in the paper, columnist Ian Dunt wrote: “Tory backbenchers can no longer ignore that a liar is sitting at the heart of government.” He added: “The Prime Minister must be removed from office. He is a threat to (Conservatives’) election prospects and his continued presence in Downing Street degrades the basic legitimacy of British governance.”

The Guardian is equally damning of claims Government officials “spilled red wine on the walls of No 10, vomited, got into a fight, used a karaoke machine, and continued festivities until 4am while the country was subject to strict curbs on socialising”.

In an accompanying analysis, the paper says Mr Johnson is “a man officially in charge, but not necessarily in control”.

“As such”, it continues, “the prime minister’s appeal to MPs that he ‘had no knowledge of subsequent proceedings because I simply wasn’t there’… resembles the father of a teenager telling police he did not realise a noisy party was disrupting the street because he was in an upstairs bedroom”.

Metro adopts a similar tone, reporting the PM has again apologised but denied he lied to Parliament. Its splash is accompanied by a comment piece that says “a clear majority of voters in the UK think Boris Johnson should resign over partygate”, according to a new poll.

Likewise, the Daily Mirror accuses the PM and other officials of “laughing at us all” while “we were sacrificing and mourning”.

It adds: “The Prime Minister joked with MPs tonight, hoping he had ‘got away with’ the Partygate scandal despite shock revelations in Sue Gray’s report… (which) gave shaming details of events where officials drank so much they were sick, sang karaoke and partied until 4.20am on the morning of Prince Philip’s funeral.”

The paper also has a “body language expert” weigh in on the drama, describing the PM as looking “like a man swimming in porridge”.

The Daily Telegraph adds that Ms Gray has abandoned her investigation into the Downing Street “Abba party”, claiming it was not “appropriate or proportionate” – as Mr Johnson was forced to deny a cover-up.

In an opinion piece, the paper says her 40-page report confirmed “what everyone already knew”.

“What is most striking about the events described in the report is their sheer banality,” it adds.

“We are talking about work colleagues meeting up in the evening to unwind, often with alcohol and snacks available. Questions might well be raised about the predilection of those in No 10 for boozy evenings or their easy access to a karaoke machine; but such matters would usually merit nothing more than a raised eyebrow.”

The Daily Star takes a less sympathetic approach to the scandal, appearing to imply that having the PM remain in power after partygate is more embarrassing than what the football hooligan pictured is doing with a flare and his bare buttocks.

The Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun downplay the revelations in Ms Gray’s report, presenting the cost-of-living crisis as a far more pertinent and pressing issue for the Government and the public to be addressing.

The latter urges Mr Johnson “to put Partygate behind him and focus on what really matters to Britain — the terrifying rise in prices and bills”.

The Express adds that “a ‘humbled’ Boris Johnson has vowed to get on with tackling the big issues facing Britain after avoiding much of the criticism in the Partygate report”.

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