Boris Johnson went into every room in No. 10 to apologize to staff above partygate, his former communications chief said.
Guto Harri recalled how Mr Johnson made it a point to express his regret directly after Sue Gray’s report on lockdown rallies was published in May 2022.
The former prime minister had told MPs he was “appalled” by the treatment of security guards and cleaners during the celebrations.
On the third episode of his LBC podcast Unprecedented, Mr Harri said: “The pain he spoke of was caused by individuals, men and women in issue 10 who worked hard.
‘On his (Johnson’s) return from the Commons room, I suggested we stop by and see the real victims, and we did.
“And to his credit, he went into all those rooms and said, ‘I’m so sorry, I had no idea what you went through. And it’s unforgivable, and no one should have to put up with that, especially in a place like this.’
“The response was very reassuring. Almost to a man and to a woman, they made it clear – ‘sir, you were never rude to us, you were served badly.’ Essentially, the people Sue Gray was referring to were unnamed officials or special advisers, not Boris Johnson himself, though he wore the can.
Mr Harri went on to say Downing Street guards greeted the apology with “utter bewilderment”, with some replying that no one was ever “rude” to them.
“Haven’t we all heard enough?”
He also expressed skepticism about the new partygate police investigation launched amid allegations that Mr Johnson had broken lockdown rules at his grace-and-favour home.
“I struggle to see that it is in anyone’s interest to open a whole new front with allegations of breaches of the Prime Minister’s official country retreat, Chequers, raking up the same old ground and the outcome of the Privileges Committee slow down further,” he said.
‘Haven’t we all heard enough and made up our minds? Let’s see.”
Mr Johnson has strongly denied the new rule-breaking allegations, with his political allies labeling the new inquiry a “smear”.
Elsewhere, Mr Harri revealed that Mr Johnson was ‘hysterical’ the night before the Sue Gray report.
The publication followed a police investigation that saw Mr Johnson handed a single fine for a “birthday party” in the cabinet room on June 19, 2020.
“As Boris put it, the media felt duped by a scalp, so they looked to Sue Gray to deliver the next bullet,” Mr Harri told listeners.
“He expected her to be tough, but he also expected her to be honest, and that changed. The pressure started to come on Boris and sometimes the emotions ran over reason.”
‘Destroyer of the Nation’
As well as Mr Johnson calling Ms Gray a “psycho”, Mr Harri added: “On another occasion she was the ‘destroyer of the nation’ and tried to reel us in.”
There is an ongoing investigation by the parliamentary committee on multi-party privileges into whether Mr Johnson knowingly and recklessly misled parliament about partygate.
If the committee rules against Mr Johnson, he could face a range of sanctions, including suspension from the House of Commons, which could lead to a by-election.
Mr Harri stressed that the vote of Tory MPs to approve the committee’s work was the moment when “the game was lost” for the Johnson government.
“The police had already investigated, Sue Gray had already investigated. The party had already had a chance to vote Boris out. After all, they still said they needed one last try to allow political opponents to bring down Boris.
“That was the moment for me when I thought this party would self-destruct. This is mass suicide by Conservative MPs.
“This is when they show their propensity for self-harm, and their willingness to see one of the most successful leaders they’ve ever had — in terms of winning elections, at least — destroyed.”
Harri also labeled Downing Street revelers on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral “inexcusable”.
“I think this was when it went up in the air, although it was also when it became clear that Boris Johnson was not the prime suspect. Not even being number 10 on that occasion, he was 40 miles away at his Chequers country retreat.