BORIS Johnson has claimed staff thought they were “working” when they held parties in Downing Street until 4am.
The Prime Minister was challenged over why his team of spin doctors told journalists that no parties were held, despite them organising and attending the parties themselves.
He was speaking during a press conference following the publication of a damning report, which found failures of leadership at a senior level, extensive lockdown-breaking across Whitehall and abuse of low-paid cleansing and security staff by officials.
Mr Johnson said the report had not ‘swept anything under the carpet’ and he took “full responsibility” for the events which occurred.
However when challenged about why his officials had denied any parties had taken place, despite them organising and attending the events, Mr Johnson claimed they believed they were qworking.
The Sue Gray report details events lasting until 4am, with staff fighting, being sick and even doing karaoke.
Mr Johnson said: “I don’t know what exactly they told you, but having talked to people in this building about what happened and what was said, it’s my strong impression that they genuinely believed that what they were doing was working and they were working round the clock.”
Mr Johnson also said he was not excusing the behaviour or what happened, but that he wanted now to get on with the job of running the country and tackling the cost of living crisis.
It is understood that the government may be preparing to announce a u-turn on the windfall tax on oil and gas companies tomorrow.
The Prime Minister said: ” I overwhelmingly feel it is my job to get on and deliver.
“No matter how bitter and painful that the conclusions of this may be – and they are – and no matter how humbling they are, I have got to keep forward and the Government has got to keep moving. And we are.
“We will get on and continue to do the tough things. “
He also said he believed, and still does believe, that the events he attended were “work events” .
Mr Johnson said: “I’ve tried to explain the context of why I was at other events where I was saying farewell to valued colleagues.
“I know that some people will think it was wrong to even do that. I have to say I respectfully disagree, I think it was right.
“When people who were working very hard, for very long hours, when they are giving up a huge amount to serve their country and they are moving on to some other part of government or leaving government service altogether, I think it is right to thank them.
“I repeat what I said in the Commons earlier on, I believe that they were work events, part of my job, and that view appears to be substantiated by the fact that I wasn’t fined for those events.
“For the rest, I just want to say I appreciate that things didn’t go in the way I would have wanted. The events proceeded afterwards in a way I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to see.
“What happened with the custodians and the cleaners was plainly utterly unacceptable and I apologise for that, as I have apologised to them personally.”
Mr Johnson also said he had begun investigating who had been rude to cleansing and security staff in Downing Street, as mentioned in Ms Gray’s report.
He said: “On the behaviour of staff and alleged rudeness, I don’t know who is specifically guilty of that.
“In the course of my apologies today, I began to make some inquiries and I will, of course, continue them.
“As I said earlier on, I think it is utterly intolerable for people to be rude to hard-working staff.
“At the very least, they should apologise but I don’t yet have the names of those who were responsible.”