Boris Johnson is gearing up for a final day of scrutiny over illegal parties on Downing Street during the epidemic, a scandal that has plagued his administration for months and almost ended his political career.
Civilian Sue Gray, who has led an internal investigation into what has been described by the UK media as a “partisan”, will hand over its full findings to Johnson next week. The Prime Minister is committed to fully disclosing these and will eventually make a statement in Parliament to try to draw a line under the subject.
Gray’s report has long been seen as the most potentially dangerous moment for Johnson, when the full scale and, importantly, the level of his own knowledge and involvement will be emptied. Many critics of his Conservative party have said they will wait for an investigation before deciding whether they still want him as leader. “Waiting for Sue Gray” has even become a Westminster punchline.
The police were before the decision was – delayed – they will also investigate the allegations. Greece was forced to release interim results, which were detrimental to Johnson but not terminal, and in the following weeks Tory’s attention shifted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the crisis of life.
Steps against Johnson were overturned, and even when police fined him – for a rally on his 56th birthday – and made him the first incumbent prime minister to be found guilty of breaking the law, it did not trigger a revolt.
It will probably be next week, especially after Johnson escapes further punishment for attending other rallies – despite other officials receiving fines at the event.
“The government hopes they can just run it,” Alice Lilly, a senior researcher at the Institute for Government Think-Tank, said in an interview. “There doesn’t seem to be any impending risk for the prime minister.”
Yet Gray’s report still has the potential to hurt the prime minister, although the risks take longer. Much will depend on the level of detail of the civilian employee, whether he includes the name and especially if his photographic evidence proves to be true.
Images of the party and alcohol will once again highlight the inequality between the behavior of officials during the epidemic and the sacrifices that politicians have asked the public to accept, even now that the British are facing record pressures on living standards due to massive inflation.
The anger of the people
Vernon Bogdaner, a government professor at King’s College London, said in an interview: “It seems to me that members of the public who have not been able to visit elderly or deceased relatives feel strongly about this.” “The Sue Gray report could still hurt the government.”
Another risk for Johnson is if Gray’s results contradict his various statements in Parliament on “Participate” and his overriding defense that he was either aware of the parties or believed the rallies were in compliance with the rules.
On Dec. 1, Johnson told lawmakers that epidemic guidelines were “fully followed” at 10 Downing Street. He told parliament two weeks later: “I certainly did not break any rules.”
Making misleading statements in Parliament is traditionally seen as a breach of ministry rules and a reason for resignation. Johnson is facing a separate parliamentary inquiry into whether he lied about “Partigate” and will begin after the Gray results are released.
But Johnson has long denied the traditional rules of politics and has repeatedly said he will not resign, at a time when the impact of parliamentary investigations is likely to be weakened by the expectation that the committee will be Tory-led.
In fact, one of the “Partigate’s” grievances is that the politician most at risk of losing his job is opposition Labor Party leader Kier Starmer, who promised to resign if police fined him for beer and curry during a campaign last year. Several Tory MPs pressed Starmer to investigate, a move that also managed to get some focus from Johnson.
Prime Minister Gray has taken steps to address criticism of his leadership in an initial report, which said there had been a “serious failure” to maintain high standards and called for a review of the power structure.
Some Tory MPs made a condition of their support for Johnson and in response he replaced senior staff and set up a new office of prime minister. He has strengthened again this week, pulling more functions, a move his spokesman said was a direct response to Gray’s investigation.
Within the Conservative Party, Johnson seems to have done enough.
“It’s time to dump her and move on,” said James Sunderland, a Tory MP from Bracknell. “At least not the cost of living.”
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