Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday got here underneath renewed criticism following the publication of images reportedly displaying him consuming with officers in 2020 whereas England was underneath a four-week lockdown.
The photos, first revealed by ITV News, had been launched as senior civil servant Sue Gray prepares to publish her long-awaited report into gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall in the course of the pandemic.
The report is anticipated to be strongly crucial of the prime minister but additionally of the civil service, which union leaders say is going through “rock bottom” morale due to looming workers cuts.
According to ITV News, the images had been taken at an occasion at Number 10 on November 13 2020 to mark the departure of then communications director Lee Cain.
Johnson was fined for attending a gathering in Downing Street on June 19 2020 to have fun his birthday however was not fined for attending the Cain leaving occasion.
Opposition events mentioned the photographs referred to as into query Johnson’s integrity. “Boris Johnson said repeatedly that he knew nothing about lawbreaking — there’s no doubt now, he lied,” argued deputy Labour chief Angela Rayner. “The prime minister has demeaned his office. The British people deserve better. ”
However, Downing Street performed down the images. “The Cabinet Office and the Metropolitan Police have had access to all information relevant to their investigations, including photographs,” it mentioned. “The Met have concluded their investigation and Sue Gray will publish her report in the coming days, at which point the prime minister will address parliament in full.”
Gray met Johnson earlier this month to debate the report, prompting strategies that the prime minister had tried to steer the senior civil servant to water it down.
Downing Street admitted on Monday that the assembly was proposed by Number 10 officers however mentioned it was solely to debate logistics and timings across the report’s publication.
Gray’s report had been delayed whereas the Met carried out their investigation, which resulted within the issuing of 126 fastened penalty notices, together with for Johnson’s spouse Carrie and chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Those inside the civil service are additionally braced for a scathing evaluation of their working practices, with officers speculating that cupboard secretary Simon Case might be pressured out of his job.
Unions and senior figures inside the service have warned that workers morale is low within the wake of elevated ministerial criticism.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Cabinet Office minister, has condemned the “working from home” tradition whereas Johnson lately ordered ministers to chop division headcounts, with the purpose of slashing round 90,000 jobs.
“Civil servants have pretty thick skin and are used to being criticised without being able to respond,” mentioned Alex Thomas, programme director on the Institute for Government think-tank. “But there are concerns about staff morale and motivation given the way in which some of the information particularly around staffing and working from home has been communicated.”
According to knowledge from the Office for National Statistics, there have been 505,000 civil service workers in September 2021, a rise of round 7,000 in contrast with June 2021.
The authorities has mentioned the introduced job cuts would cut back the headcount to pre Brexit, pre-Covid ranges, however the information got here as a shock to many mandarins, who had the awkward activity of explaining the coverage to frightened workers.
Mark Serwotka, basic secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, argued that the job cuts had been indicative of a authorities that had proven “no gratitude” or “loyalty” in direction of civil servants.
“That the jobs announcement was made in the Daily Mail, with no prior warning or consultation, tells you all you need to know about the way the government treats its workers, so is it any wonder morale is at rock bottom,” he mentioned.
Insiders warned that repeated assaults towards the civil service would speed up the departure of proficient workers. “We are seeing record attrition rates in the fast stream,” argued Dave Penman, basic secretary of the FDA civil service union.
One civil servant mentioned the overwhelming majority of workers loved their jobs and believed within the worth of their work, including: “So to be criticised by Jacob Rees-Mogg on the front pages of national press is pretty galling.”.
In her interim report revealed in January, Gray mentioned there have been “failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of Number 10 and the Cabinet Office” and in addition voiced issues concerning the “excessive consumption of alcohol” inside Whitehall.
One senior Conservative MP mentioned that calls for workers cuts had been “legitimate” and voiced issues that some senior civil servants had grown more and more out of step with the challenges going through the nation.