Booze, fighting, being sick: Has Sue Gray delivered the final nail in the coffin for Boris Johnson?

‘Wine’ is mentioned 20 times in the report, while ‘beer’ is mentioned four times and ‘alcohol’ 28 times

Victoria Richards
Wednesday 25 May 2022 17:35
<p>The question is, as ever, what will happen now</p>

The question is, as ever, what will happen now

At last, we have Sue Gray’s report. It would feel a little like Christmas, if it wasn’t so serious; if it hadn’t left vast swathes of the country angry, raging and embittered. For those who lost loved ones to Covid during the pandemic, the publication of the long-awaited and much-anticipated document, alongside damning photographs which appear to show the prime minister, Boris Johnson, having a whale of a time at a lockdown bash, can bring no real relief – only closure.

We know, now, that Gray – previously a largely-unknown civil servant – thinks little of the leadership of the country when it comes to Partygate. She has criticised No 10, has heaped scathing attack on the “serious failure” to abide by the “standards expected of the entire British population” during the pandemic.

What she is really saying is that those in power have let us down – badly.

Her report went as far as to note that one partygoer was sick due to “excessive alcohol consumption” at the clandestine gatherings. There was also a “minor altercation” between two others.

So that’s booze, fighting and being sick – no different from a Saturday night out on the town, in any town in Britain; except that this was lockdown. Many of us were fighting, only not with others, but with our ourselves and the restrictions we were placed under – overwhelmed by sorrow and loneliness and grief. Some were raging against the simple fact that they were unable to hold the hands of loved ones dying in hospital. Yet we still followed the rules.

We now know that “wine” is mentioned 20 times in the report, while “beer” is mentioned four times and “alcohol” 28 times. One person was said to have left one event at 4.20 in the morning – a “proper” party, then, by any stretch of the imagination; and by the estimation of your average university student, I’d hazard. It was also at this event that the child’s swing got broken in the garden of No 10. That particular gathering took place on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral – what a way to send off the Duke of Edinburgh.

Gray’s report comes after the Metropolitan Police concluded its own investigation into breaches of the Covid regulations in Downing Street last week, with the force issuing 126 fixed penalty notices. The findings of the inquiry – which includes nine photographs – have now been made public for the first time, and let us not forget what the rest of us were doing while those in government partied.

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On one occasion, at the leaving do for a No 10 official held on 18 June 2020, most of us were feeling pretty solitary. The rules stated that two or more people were banned from meeting indoors at the time, with an exception allowing gatherings that were “reasonably necessary” for “work purposes”. If, on reading Gray’s report – and seeing the snap of the PM holding a wine glass aloft, while hearing him deny any knowledge of a “party” – that feels rather like a sick joke, you’re not alone.

The question is, as ever, what will happen now? From bitter experience, we might find ourselves answering: not much. Or, Sue Gray may have just delivered the final nail in the coffin for Boris Johnson – after all, two-thirds (66 per cent) of voters previously said they believed Boris Johnson should resign if he was heavily criticised in the report.

What looks most likely is that the story will move on in this way: after being issued with a fixed penalty notice and fined by the Met Police for breaking his own lockdown rules, the PM will now be investigated by a Commons committee over whether he deliberately misled MPs – which he denies (on 19 April, on being asked if he had “deliberately mislead the House at the dispatch box”, he answered “no”). If he is now found guilty of breaching the Ministerial Code, he will be expected to resign – or it might be up to his own MPs to force him to do so.

Whether he will go or not (and which outcome you consider cause for celebration) still hangs in the balance –you could say, much like a broken child’s swing. But one thing’s for sure: if and when he does, the rest of us are long overdue a party.

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