‘Excoriating’ Sue Gray Partygate Report 'Could Be Enough to End’ Boris Johnson
06:25 GMT 25.04.2022 (Updated: 08:57 GMT 25.04.2022)
Scotland Yard has been investigating a total of 12 gatherings at Downing Street and Whitehall that reportedly breached strict coronavirus lockdown rules in the UK between 2020 and 2021, with more than 300 images and 500 pages of information concerning the “partygate” scandal handed to the police by civil servant Sue Gray.
Sue Gray's long-awaited report into so-called “partygate” will be so incriminating that Boris Johnson will be forced to resign as UK Prime Minister, daily newspaper The Times has reported.
The full findings of the investigation into alleged parties in Downing Street between 2020 and 2021 which breached lockdown strictures, were even more critical of the person of the Prime Minister, with his premiership hanging in the balance, according to sources cited by the publication.
“Sue's report is excoriating. It will make things incredibly difficult for the Prime Minister,” an official familiar with the contents of the complete report was quoted as saying.
“There's an immense amount of pressure on her - her report could be enough to end him,” added an insider.
Scotland Yard previously confirmed they are investigating 12 alleged events held between 2020 and 2021 after receiving "significant evidence", which include a “bring-your-own-booze” garden party, a “surprise” birthday party for Boris Johnson in the Cabinet Office and a host of leaving dos.
Currently, the police have at their disposal a dossier of more than 300 images and 500 pages of information received from Gray, the civil servant who led a Cabinet Office inquiry into the matter. She published an interim report on purported lockdown-violating gatherings at Downing Street in early February.
It said that the incidents were “difficult to justify”, and there had been “failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times”.
However, once the Metropolitan Police investigation was launched, Gray was forced to delay publication of her investigation.
‘Partygate’ Rumbles On
Boris Johnson has been in the crosshairs for months over “partygate”, and never more so as when he became the first incumbent UK Prime Minister found to have broken the law by breaching his own COVID-19 rules.
Recently, Johnson, his wife, Carrie, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak were fined by the Metropolitan Police over a surprise birthday party for the Prime Minister in the Cabinet Room in June 2020 that was ruled to have breached lockdown restrictions. Although the PM had apologised in Parliament for the aforementioned gathering, he had also insisted it had not occurred to him that the event in question was a breach of coronavirus rules. More penalties are anticipated to be issued next month. Varied reports suggest the Prime Minister attended from at least two to six of the 12 events being investigated by the Met Police.
The fallout from the scandal fired speculation of a leadership challenge, which has reportedly been brewing for some time.
Conservative rebels are preparing to oust Johnson if their party puts in a poor showing at the local elections on 5 May, or if further fines are issued to him, reported the i newspaper.
Downing Street is believed to be bracing itself for the PM to be slapped with a second fixed-penalty notice (FPN) after police reportedly began issuing fines relating to a “bring your own booze” gathering in the No 10 garden on 20 May 2020.
Johnson has already admitted attending this event at the height of the UK's first national lockdown. According to a leaked email, one of the prime minister's chief aides had summoned Number 10 staff to enjoy the spring sunshine that evening. The PM said he was there with "groups of staff" for 25 minutes, but believed it was a "work event".
‘Discreet Preparations’ For Leadership Contest
Amid the developments, senior backbenchers, such as former minister Steve Baker, have been mounting calls for Boris Johnson to resign, reported the i. They are believed to be waiting for results of the local election on 5 May or for further FPNs.
A total of 46 letters calling for a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson have been sent to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench Conservative 1922 Committee, sources were cited by UK media outlets as saying. Some rebels have prepared no confidence letters to be submitted en masse if the party takes a battering at the local polls.
Allies of former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and trade minister Penny Mordaunt are already engaged in “discreet preparations” for a leadership challenge if Tory MPs move in on Johnson, reported The Guardian.
A revolt of up to up to 40 Government ministers, ministerial aides and senior Tories is believed to have been behind the Downing Street move not to delay the vote on a Commons investigation into whether Johnson misled Parliament regarding his role in “partygate”.
On 21 April, MPs backed a Privileges Committee inquiry to determine whether Johnson misled Parliament with his repeated assurances that COVID-19 rules were followed in No 10.
On Sunday, cabinet ministers defended the Prime Minister, with Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden cited by Sky News as saying it was “quite a speculation” to suggest Johnson was facing more FPNs.
Dowden also conceded that forthcoming council elections will be “challenging”.
Nevertheless, according to Dowden, there was a “very strong case for the Prime Minister to remain in office”.