GREEKS ABROAD
Boris Johnson to ask Sue Gray for new ‘partygate’ report

Boris Johnson will ask Sue Gray to produce a new report into “partygate” allegations in an attempt to quell growing anger from his Tory backbenchers and save his premiership.

Ms Gray, a senior civil servant, published a 12-page “update” into the claims that revealed a gathering in the Prime Minister’s own Downing Street flat was one of a dozen events being criminally investigated.

The civil servant said there had been a “failure of leadership”, warned against “excessive” drinking from government officials inside Number 10 and declared that some of the events should never have taken place.

However, Ms Gray also said she was unable to produce a “meaningful” report, because Scotland Yard had told her not to reveal details of events being looked into by police.

The Metropolitan Police later confirmed that officers were looking at a dossier of relevant material which includes more than 300 photographs and 500 pieces of written evidence.

During a bruising appearance in the House of Commons, in which he was attacked by Theresa May, the former prime minister, Mr Johnson was asked by Tory MPs – including Mark Harper, the former chief whip – if he would publish the report in its entirety.

Mr Johnson repeatedly refused to give such assurances, saying the police inquiry meant he was unable to do so.

While he was on his feet in the chamber, the Metropolitan Police issued a statement saying that such a prohibition would no longer apply once its inquiry was complete.

And just 15 minutes after he left the Chamber, Downing Street issued a statement saying that Ms Gray would be asked to publish another “update”, which would be published once received.

On Monday night, it was unclear whether that report would contain the photographs, text messages, emails and witness statements gathered by Ms Gray’s team as they interviewed more than 70 people.

Jacob Rees Mogg, the Commons Leader, said on Monday that Mr Johnson “would like the report to be published in full – all the evidence, everything”.

Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, said: “I would imagine in the fullness of time, as he is given more information, he will come and publish more and come back to the despatch box.”

The timing of any new report was also uncertain, with the Metropolitan Police’s investigation – which could last for weeks – only just getting going. That potentially buys Mr Johnson vital weeks as he tries to save his premiership.

As Mr Johnson faced a growing backlash among his own MPs, Tobias Ellwood MP, a former Tory defence minister, warned: “If the PM fails to publish the report in full then he will no longer have my support.”

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson repeatedly said “sorry” for the behaviour in Downing Street and vowed to bring in a new senior civil servant and create an “Office of the Prime Minister”.

“Sorry for the things we simply did not get right and sorry for the way that this matter has been handled,” Mr Johnson said, adding: “I get it and I will fix it.”

But he also failed to name a single adviser or official who will leave his inner circle as a result of the “partygate” revelations.

Video player from: YouTube (Privacy Policy, Terms)

A string of Tory MPs, led by Mrs May, joined opposition figures by criticising the behaviour revealed by Ms Gray’s report.

“What the Gray report does show is that No 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public,” Mrs May said.

She said the Prime Minister had either “not read the rules, or didn’t understand what they meant… [or] didn’t think the rules applied to No 10,” adding: “Which was it?”

During heated questions to the Prime Minister, Andrew Mitchell – the ex-Cabinet minister, said that Mr Johnson “no longer enjoys my support”, while Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, was thrown out of the chamber for claiming the premier had “wilfully misled Parliament”.

Another Conservative MP asked Mr Johnson if he had been a “fool” for obeying the Covid rules while attending the funeral of his grandmother. A third said he no longer supported the Prime Minister.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, told MPs: “There can be no doubt the Prime Minister himself is now subject to criminal investigation.” He said that Mr Johnson was a “man without shame” for failing to resign over the matter.

Sir Keir joined Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, and Mr Blackford in calling for Mr Johnson to resign over the partygate revelations.

Unexpected support came from Tory MP Gary Sambrook, thought to be a leading rebel, who tweeted his backing for the PM. He said of Mr Johnson: “He’s made promises on … how he wants to deliver for my constituents and the UK, and I support him in doing that. Let’s get on with the job.”

At a meeting of all Tory MPs on Monday, Mr Johnson attempted to reassure his colleagues, revealing that Sir Lynton Crosby, the Australian campaign guru, was to play a more central role advising him.

However, attempts to shore up party unity were cracking on Monday night as Downing Street suffered its first resignation from the Tory benches over the saga.

Angela Richardson announced she was quitting as a parliamentary private secretary to Michael Gove, citing her “deep disappointment” in Mr Johnson.

She wrote on Monday: “Sue Gray’s report published today clearly states that there were failings at No 10 that let us all down … there could have been an early acknowledgement and apology.”

Ms Gray’s long-awaited report into “partygate” claims included no specific details about what went on at the 16 events she looked at and named no individuals who attended.

But it did announce broad findings and a string of criticism about the events – some reportedly attended by more than 30 people with alcohol served – that took place during lockdowns.

“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify,” Ms Gray wrote.

“At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”

Of the 16 events Ms Gray looked into, a dozen were now being investigated by the Metropolitan Police, Ms Gray confirmed.

They include a gathering on November 13 2020 in the Downing Street flat, where Mr Johnson now lives with his wife, Carrie Johnson, and two children.

That was the day Dominic Cummings had been forced out of Downing Street after serving as Mr Johnson’s senior adviser.

The Mail on Sunday reported that during the evening attendees in the flat played Abba songs, including The Winner Takes It All. Mr Johnson has previously denied it was a party.

At least three other events which the Prime Minister may have attended are also being investigated: a Downing Street garden drinks event, an alleged birthday party and a farewell gathering for a special adviser.

When asked in the Commons, the Prime Minister refused to confirm whether he had attended the Downing Street flat gathering.

He also declined to promise that he would resign if he is fined by the police for breaching Covid laws.

A statement from a Number 10 spokesman said: “Given the police have said they are investigating a number of events, it would not be appropriate to comment further while the Met’s investigation is ongoing.

“But, at the end of the process, the Prime Minister will ask Sue Gray to update her work in light of what is found. He will publish that update.

“However, the Prime Minister is clear we must not judge an ongoing investigation and his focus now is on addressing the general findings.”

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

About the author

Related Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *