THE Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of the need to “rediscover” standards in public life in the wake of Sue Gray’s report into lockdown parties in Downing Street.
Ms Gray’s report, published on Wednesday morning, detailed 15 gatherings that occurred despite lockdown restrictions, eight of which were attended by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (News, 31 January).
Following the publication of the report, Mr Johnson told the House of Commons that he would “take full responsibility”, but rejected calls to resign.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Archbishop Welby said that the report showed that “culture, behaviour and standards in public life really matter.
“We need to be able to trust our national institutions, particularly in times of great trouble.
“Jesus commands us to serve the most vulnerable and those in need. To help achieve this we must recover the principles of mutual flourishing and the common good in the way we are governed.”
He concluded that “standards in public life are the glue that holds us together — we need to rediscover them and abide by them.”
Ms Gray’s 60-page report on rule-breaking in Downing Street found that many of the gatherings breached Covid rules in place at the time. Several involved “excessive” alcohol consumption. Emails and messages examined by Ms Gray’s investigation showed that several events were planned in advance and discussed by senior figures.
“Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen,” Ms Gray said. She suggested that the presence of senior members, including Mr Johnson, encouraged junior staff to believe that the events were permitted. And she concluded that “the senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture.”
Mr Johnson has faced repeated calls to resign over the revelations of lockdown law-breaking in Number 10. Last month, he received a fixed-penalty notice for his attendance at a birthday gathering in June 2020 (News, 20 April). In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, he said: “I believed that they were work events. They were part of my job.”
On 21 April, MPs voted for an investigation by the House of Commons privileges committee into whether Mr Johnson had knowingly mislead Parliament when he said that lockdown rules were “followed at all times” in Downing Street (News, 29 April). The committee has yet to report its conclusions.