'Failure of leadership': How the front pages reacted to the Sue Gray report

·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·5 min read
Newspaper front pages review on Sue Gray report
Newspaper front pages review on Sue Gray report

Briton's national newspapers have given their verdict over the Sue Gray report - with the written press offering a mixed view on the review which found "serious failures of leadership" in the heart of British democracy.

Boris Johnson has held firm in his refusal to resign, and although he accepted the "bitter and painful" conclusions made in the report, has tried to shift attention to the cost of living crisis.

The report follows the end of the police investigation into the allegations of rule breaking - which saw 126 fines issued, including to the PM himself.

Downing Street’s chief of staff denied Johnson tells lies the morning after the report was released, telling Sky News he "has honour".

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay said his leader had got the "big calls right", but accepted that "in terms of some of these incidents, that there were lessons to be learned.”

Labour criticised the response of Tory MPs to the report, with Lisa Nandy saying the rhetoric from them was about "whether it was in the interest of the Conservative Party to junk him or not.", rather than looking at whether the party had done the wrong thing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in Downing Street, London, following the publication of Sue Gray's report into Downing Street parties in Whitehall during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture date: Wednesday May 25, 2022.
Downing Street’s chief of staff denied Boris Johnson tells lies the morning after the report was released, telling Sky News he "has honour". (PA)

Some of the issues raised in the report included;

  • Senior staff discussed the fact that events were in breach of the COVID rules.

  • During a leaving do, one member of Downing Street vomited after drinking too much.

  • Two others got into a "minor altercation" at the same event.

  • Principal private secretary to the PM, later boasted “we seem to have got away with” a BYOB garden party.

  • "Lack of respect and poor treatment" of security and cleaning staff, which Gray said was "unacceptable".

  • Red wine was spilled up the walls during one event, leaving the cleaners to get rid of it.

  • The night before a funeral for the Duke of Edinburgh, two leaving parties were held in Downing Street simultaneously - and became so raucous the final partygoer left at 4.20am.

  • A panic button was triggered during one of the weekly "Wine Time Fridays", causing police to attend.

Read more: Sue Gray report reveals shocking details of drunken behaviour inside No 10

(Daily Mail)
(Daily Mail)
(Daily Express)
(Daily Express)
(Guardian)
(Guardian)

Most of Britain's front pages honed in on the sordid details revealed, with others calling for the saga to be dropped so the country can focus on future struggles.

Included in the report were nine pictures of the PM at some of the events in question which some of the publishers opted to go with.

The Daily Mail led with a scathing evaluation of the report - titling the page with "Is that it?" alongside a picture of Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak at the event they were both fined for attending.

The images show jugs of juice on the table of the Cabinet Office, with Marks and Spencer sandwiches.

Daily Express readers were met with a similar tone - with the front of the paper asking: "Really...is this what all the fuss is about?" with a similar image.

(Telegraph)
(Telegraph)
(MIrror)
(MIrror)
(Financial Times)
(Financial Times)

The Sun echoed those sentiments, saying "The Party(gate) is over" before calling for the government to put the issue behind them and move on to deal with the cost of living crisis.

But other papers went into detail about what went on in the parties,

Metro chose to run with one of the WhatsApp messages which were shared by Martin Reynolds, who was then the principal private secretary to the PM, who boasted “we seem to have got away with” the BYOB garden party in a message to a special adviser.

Daily Mirror - who have been one of the dominating publications to release stories on Partygate - drove home the emotional aspects, saying those who broke the rules were "laughing at us", and offering a picture of the COVID memorial wall in central London, marking the tens of thousands who died in the pandemic.

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(Metro)
(Metro)

Some of the less attractive revelations were highlighted on the Guardian which went with the headline: "Drinking, fights, vomiting: all in a day's work, says PM", in reference to Johnson's repeated insistence that he believed the gatherings held within Downing Street and Whitehall were "work events",

The Financial Times went with "Johnson unbowed as Gray lays bare lurid details of No 10 Parties", opting to splash with the full details of the report, coupled with his determination

Boris Johnson's apology

The prime minister was keen to get one message across to the public following the report - while he attended some of the events, he left before they got out of hand.

He doubled down on his claim he was unaware there had been parties, saying he thought events were necessary for work purposes.

He told the Commons: "I briefly attended such gatherings to thank them for their service, which I believe is one of the essential duties of leadership and particularly important when people need to feel that their contributions have been appreciated and to keep morale as high as possible.”

As he was heckled, the PM said: “I’m trying to explain the reasons I was there. It’s clear from what Sue Gray had to say that some of these gatherings then went on far longer than was necessary and they were clearly in breach of the rules and they fell foul of the rules.”

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