Without directly naming the Prime Minister, the survey pinpoints the culture of “laxity” in Downing Street during Covid.
Correspondent in London
This is – perhaps – one of the last acts of “Partygate”. After six months of revelations and rumours, the long-awaited report of the internal investigation led by senior civil servant Sue Gray into the confinement “parties” held in Downing Street fell on Wednesday. An important moment for the political future of Boris Johnson.
As in its intermediate version published in January, the 37-page report blames leadership errors. Precise, with photos and e-mails in support, and more nuanced than some would like to say, it often describes leaving parties – which can be assimilated to work events – which have gone on too long. And which, for some, have given rise to alcoholic excesses, to the point that some are sick or almost come to blows…
Without naming names, Sue Gray says “senior leaders” must take responsibility for a culture of letting go that has allowed “these events, which should not have taken place, to take place”. Rather spared in fact, Boris Johnson sinned for lack of control of his troops. The police investigation, closed last week, imposed 126 fines. Boris Johnson received one for attending a drink for his 56and birthday, June 19, 2020. A small celebration he hadn’t been made aware of in advance, the Gray report acknowledges.
He’s a Boris Johnson “filled with humility” who spoke in the House of Commons at midday. He reiterated his apologies, assuring to take the “full responsibility for everything that happened under his watch”. While affirming that it was his duty to greet employees leaving their post. He assured that “the lessons had been learned”, with a new Downing Street leadership structure in place. And called to now turn to the real priorities of the British, in particular the crisis in the cost of living. Its Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is also due to make announcements this Thursday.
Opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer has once again called on the Prime Minister to resign. Himself under investigation for having shared beers and curry with collaborators during confinement, he called on the Tory deputies to finally get rid of their leader. The whole question is there, whether the report can tip the Conservative parliamentarians who are hesitant about the fate to be reserved for Boris Johnson. Many of them said they were indeed waiting for the conclusions of the Gray report.
Lately, “BoJo” seemed rather “saved” after being in bad shape in February. The war in Ukraine was a bit of a distraction, the police did not issue further fines and, while the Conservatives suffered a few slaps in recent local elections, the party fared fairly well. Can the rebellious deputies remobilize and collect the 54 letters necessary for a vote of no confidence? Everything remains possible, especially under media pressure. “Are you ready, day after day, to publicly defend his behavior?”, launched the Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood. The biggest threat to Boris Johnson would be the resignation of a minister, which could have a ripple effect. Foreign Office boss Liz Truss, who was said to have ambitions to take Johnson’s place, however, said she supported him “100 %”.
According to the press, many Conservative MPs felt yesterday that the Gray report was not as devastating as one might have thought. If he passes this obstacle without incident, Boris Johnson will still have to cross another hurdle, that of the parliamentary inquiry which must determine whether he deceived the House of Commons by claiming not to have broken the rules. In the event of a positive response, he should resign. But this report should not be published for several months.
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