What a party really is explained as damning Sue Gray report on No10 is published

Sue Gray’s 37-page report into the Downing Street Partygate saga has been published – but what exactly constitutes a party, and how is it different from a meeting?

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Sue Gray report: Staff warned to be ‘courteous with sound’

Top civil servant Sue Gray had her long-awaited report into lockdown breaches in government published today, and it consisted of 37 pages that were stuffed with details about how events were planned by Downing Street staff during lockdown.

The report also included nine photos of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in No10, including one taken during the 19 June 2020 birthday party, where top civil servant Simon Case is laughing and Boris Johnson is holding a can of Estrella.

Another photo shows the leaving do for aide Lee Cain which took place on 13 November 2020, where Mr Johnson was seen raising a glass of fizz – even though he later said no party took place.

For more news about Sue Gray’s report, follow our live blog here.

What do you think about Partygate? Let us know in the comments…

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pictured drinking fizz at an aide’s leaving do



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Prior to the release of the full report, Mr Johnson had insisted it “did not occur” to him that his gatherings “might have been a breach of the rules”, and education secretary Nadhim Zahawi had claimed that Downing Street’s Christmas quiz couldn’t have been a party because there was “no alcohol on the table”.

So with senior Tory MPs continuing to claim that the “bring your own booze” events and garden gatherings were work meetings rather than parties, what actually constitutes a party?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a party is defined as: “A social event at which a group of people meet to talk, eat, drink, dance, etc., often in order to celebrate a special occasion.”

Mr Johnson previously said it ‘did not occur’ to him that his gatherings were breaching rules


UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Image)

Sue Gray’s report also features a note about how one email invitation for a “wine and cheese evening” was later changed to reflect that the gathering would actually be a “meeting” – even though the food and drink were still present.

The report read: “On the 18 December 2020 at 13.19, the email invitation of 3 December 2020 was reissued. Instead of ‘Wine & Cheese Evening’ it subsequently read ‘End of Year Meeting with Wine & Cheese’.”

And with that in mind, how does Cambridge Dictionary define a meeting?

They say: “A planned occasion when people come together, either in person or online, to discuss something.”

So it would seem the difference between the two is the presence of food, drink, and/or dancing, as well as whether or not there is a specific topic being discussed as opposed to the general social conversation of a party.

Scotland Yard handed out 126 fines for lawbreaking gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall on eight dates in 2020 and 2021.

Mr Johnson received a fixed penalty notice for attending a surprise gathering for his birthday in June 2020 in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street, while the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were also among those fined.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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