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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has responded to an investigative report on government parties that took place during coronavirus lockdowns by saying he takes “full responsibility for everything that took place.”

But while the report published on Wednesday said the blame for rule-breaking lies at the top of government, Johnson insisted again that he did not knowingly break any rules. He ignored calls from opponents to resign.

The prime minister said he was “humbled” and had “learned a lesson” but that it was now time to “move on” and focus on the government’s priorities.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street for PMQs on May 25, 2022 in London, England.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other senior officials bear responsibility for a culture of rule-breaking that resulted in several parties that breached the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown rules (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Senior civil servant Sue Gray’s long-awaited report said the “senior leadership team … must bear responsibility” for a culture that allowed the flouting of rules to happen.

Revelations that Johnson and his staff repeatedly flouted the rules they imposed on others have elicited outrage in Britain and led to calls from opponents for the prime minister to resign. But most lawmakers in his party have so far stood by him, and it’s not yet clear if the much-anticipated report will change that.

Gray investigated 16 gatherings attended by Johnson and his staff in 2020 and 2021 while people in the UK were barred from socialising, or even from visiting sick and dying relatives, because of coronavirus restrictions.

Gray said there had been “failures of leadership and judgment in No. 10,” a reference to the address of the prime minister’s office.

19 June 2020; a gathering in the Cabinet Room in No 10 Downing Street on the Prime Minister's birthday
Photos inside the report show a gathering in the Cabinet Room in No 10 Downing Street on the Prime Minister’s birthday on 19 June 2020 (UK GOVERNMENT/SUE GRAY REPORT)
19 June 2020; a gathering in the Cabinet Room in No 10 Downing Street on the Prime Minister's birthday
Treasury head Rishi Sunak was also spotted alongside the Prime Minister on one of the June 19 photos from inside the Cabinet Room (UK GOVERNMENT/SUE GRAY REPORT)

“Those in the most junior positions attended gatherings at which their seniors were present, or indeed organised,” she said.

A separate police investigation resulted in 83 people getting hit with fines, including Johnson — making him the first British prime minister ever found to have broken the law while in office.

Johnson has previously apologised but insisted he didn’t knowingly break the rules. The British media and opposition politicians have found that hard to square with staff member’s accounts of “bring your own booze” parties and regular “wine time Fridays” in the prime minister’s 10 Downing St. office at the height of the pandemic.

Much of Gray’s 37-page report is devoted to a detailed account of the events, including a May 2020 party in the Downing Street garden to which “the Prime Minister brought cheese and wine from his flat” and a party the following month at which “one individual was sick” and “there was a minor altercation between two other individuals.”

13 November 2020; a gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser
Photos in the report from 13 November 2020 show the Prime Minister with a drink at a gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser (UK GOVERNMENT/SUE GRAY REPORT)
13 November 2020; a gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser
The Prime Minister also appeared to be giving a toast at the party (UK GOVERNMENT/SUE GRAY REPORT)

At another party, revelers in the garden broke a swing belonging to Johnson’s toddler son Wilf and partied until 4am.

“Many will be dismayed that behavior of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of government,” Gray wrote. “The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this.”

Critics, some of them inside Johnson’s Conservative Party, have said the prime minister has lied to Parliament about the events. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament are expected to resign.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street for PMQs on May 25, 2022 in London, England.
Gray’s conclusions could revive calls from Conservative lawmakers for a no-confidence vote in the leader (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Johnson has clung on to power so far, partly because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine diverted public and political attention. Some Conservatives who considered seeking a no-confidence vote in their leader decided it would be rash to push Johnson out in the middle of the war, which is destabilising Europe and fueling a cost-of-living crisis.

The prime minister got a further reprieve when the Metropolitan Police told him last week that he wouldn’t be getting any more fines even though he attended several events under investigation.

But Gray’s conclusions could revive calls from Conservative lawmakers for a no-confidence vote in the leader who won them a big parliamentary majority just over two years ago. Under party rules, such a vote is triggered if 15 per cent of party lawmakers — currently 54 people — write letters calling for one.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street for PMQs on May 25, 2022 in London, England.
Gray investigated 16 gatherings attended by Johnson and his staff in 2020 and 2021 while people in the UK were barred from socialising (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

If Johnson lost such a vote, he would be replaced as Conservative leader and prime minister. It’s unclear how many letters have been submitted so far.

Environment Secretary George Eustice defended the prime minister on Wednesday but acknowledged that the “boundary between what was acceptable and what wasn’t got blurred, and that was a mistake.”

“The prime minister himself has accepted that and recognises there were of course failings and therefore there’s got to be some changes to the way the place is run,” Eustice told Times Radio.

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