Norfolk Tory MP calls for 'serious changes' following Sue Gray report

George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk

Conservative MP George Freeman called for "serious changes" to be made in government, following the publication of the Sue Gray report. - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

A Norfolk MP has called for “serious changes” to be made to “repair damaged public trust”, following the Sue Gray report into parties at Downing Street - but he has stopped short of calling for prime minister Boris Johnson to resign. 

Unlike many of his colleagues, Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman did not comment on the long-awaited report when it was published on Wednesday (May 25). 

But on Thursday (May 26), he broke his silence, saying he had taken the time to read the report in full.

Mr Freeman said: “The Sue Gray report makes clear there was a shocking culture of routine office drinking amongst staff in parts of the Downing Street/Cabinet Office complex – seemingly accepted by both senior civil servants as well as more junior staff – which is seriously concerning and inappropriate.

Sue Gray, who is investigating the government lockdown parties.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray had been responsible for investigating whether a number of parties and other gatherings took place in Downing Street and Whitehall during the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. - Credit: PA

“Whilst the prime minister is ultimately responsible for the culture of the administration, and is right to take responsibility and make clear it was wrong and needs to change, the report makes clear this is a deeper problem in the culture of No 10 as a 24/7 crisis management ‘bunker’ at the heart of government.

“Whilst I think most people could understand and forgive staff working closely together on the frontline in crisis management of the Covid pandemic – whether in the NHS, Department for Health and Social Care or at the Cabinet Office/No 10 – taking a moment occasionally to share a meal break together, the Sue Gray report suggests a culture of heavy drinking and routine late night partying by staff in No 10 – which is shocking and deeply worrying.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a gathering in 10 Downing Street for the departure of a special advi

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a gathering in 10 Downing Street for the departure of a special adviser. - Credit: PA

“For the majority of citizens who made such huge sacrifices by following the rules – many of my constituents unable to visit dying family – this will be all the more shocking.

“To repair damaged public trust, serious changes now need to be made to show the lesson have been learnt.”

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Asked whether those “serious changes” include the PM’s resignation, Mr Freeman - who serves as minister for science, research and innovation - clarified that he was not calling for that change. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson adjusts his tie at the start of a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street,

Prime Minister Boris Johnson adjusts his tie at the start of a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 24, 2022. - Credit: PA

Since the report’s publication, three further Conservative MPs have called for Boris Johnson to resign: Julian Sturdy, John Baron and David Simmonds.

More locally, Waveney MP Peter Aldous called for the PM’s resignation in February - and he said on Wednesday his position had not changed.