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Crucial Sue Gray Partygate report could come as soon as next week

Tory MPs waiting for full report after PM avoided further fines

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
,Adam Forrest
Thursday 19 May 2022 12:55 BST
Partygate: Boris Johnson's repeated denials and excuses

Whitehall mandarin Sue Gray’s long-awaited report into Partygate could be published as soon as next week, now that police inquiries have concluded, a source close to her team told The Independent.

Publication of the report will be a moment of maximum danger for Boris Johnson’s hopes of holding onto office as prime minster, with many Tory MPs waiting to see how much personal blame is apportioned to him before deciding whether to submit letters of no confidence.

Ms Gray’s report into a series of alleged breaches of Covid lockdown in 10 Downing Street and Whitehall was completed in January, but she delayed the publication of the full document at the request of the Metropolitan Police to avoid any danger of influencing their investigation.

Following today’s conclusion of the Met’s Operation Hillman, with 126 people fined, a source close to the Gray team said that the senior civil servant now intends to publish her report “as soon as possible”, adding that it could come as early as next week.

The source said that Ms Gray wants to “digest” the findings of the police investigation before finalising her report for publication.

Metropolitan Police acting deputy commissioner Helen Ball said: “We have no objection to Sue Gray publishing her report and she will make her own decision now on what action she wants to take.”

Publication is expected to trigger a slew of no-confidence letters to the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, who must call a vote on Mr Johnson’s future if he receives 54 letters.

It will also allow another Partygate inquiry, this time conducted by a cross-party panel of MPs on the House of Commons Privileges Committee, to get under way, with the potential for further embarrassing revelations for the prime minister.

An edited version of Ms Gray’s report, released in January, condemned “a serious failure” in standards of leadership and said that a string of gatherings were “difficult to justify” while millions were unable to meet their friends and relatives due to lockdown restrictions.

The career civil servant - who was previously Whitehall’s head of propriety and ethics - took over the investigation into Downing Street parties in December, after cabinet secretary Simon Case was forced to step down from the inquiry after he was accused of hosting a party.

Her inquiry covered 16 events in 2020 and 2021, of which only 12 were investigated by police.

Ms Gray’s remit asked her to “look at the nature of the gatherings in government buildings, the attendance, and what Covid rules were in place at the time”.

But the contents of her interim report suggest that she has not confined herself to simply laying out the facts behind the events, but will also pass judgement on those responsible for any breaches.

In her interim report, she said she was “extremely limited” in what she could say while police inquiries were under way.

She said that some behaviour at the gatherings was “difficult to justify” given the public was being asked to “accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives”.

There were “failures of leadership and judgement“ by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events “should not have been allowed to take place”, while others “should not have been allowed to develop as they did”.

She also criticised a drinking culture within No 10.

Boris and Carrie Johnson have avoided further fines (Jacob King/PA) (PA Archive)

It is not clear whether Ms Gray will include photos of law-breaking parties in her report. Downing Street said it intends to publish her report as it is received.

Asked if No 10 intends to publish any photos or other documentary evidence included in Ms Gray’s report, the PM’s spokesperson said: “It’s a hypothetical situation, but our intention will be to publish the report as received as much as possible.”

He added: “We will need to carry out any sort of requisite data protection checks. But again, just to be clear ... as it didn’t before, I don’t envisage that to be an issue.”

Her staff questioned 70 individuals and examined emails, Whatsapp messages, and text messages as well as photographs and building entry and exit logs.

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