A long-awaited report into the UK government’s ‘partygate’ scandal that could determine Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s political fortunes is set to be released this week after months of delay
Senior civil servant Sue Gray, who has been tasked with investigating several gatherings flouting the lockdown at Johnson’s official residence and other government sites, is expected to widely release her findings within days.
But as “partygate” threatened to topple Johnson’s leadership earlier this year, he clung to power in part because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine distracted public and political attention.
Gray’s full report could renew the pressure on Johnson if he strongly criticizes him and senior officials.
However, Johnson insisted he had not knowingly broken the rules, saying ‘it hadn’t occurred to me’ that the brief gathering was a party – a claim that sparked controversy. derision of many.
An investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police which concluded last week found that in total the force issued 126 fines to 83 people for eight gatherings in Downing Street and nearby government buildings. About two dozen of these people received more than one fine.
Police did not identify those who were fined, but Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Johnson’s wife Carrie said they also paid fines for attending the birthday party. of Johnson.
Government officials said the Gray report would be fully released as soon as possible once the police investigation is complete.
A partial version of Gray’s report was released in January after police asked him to leave out details to avoid prejudice to police investigations. The partial report did not name individuals, but it criticized the “flaws in leadership and judgment” that allowed the parties to take place.
Around 30 people, including Johnson, have been contacted by the Cabinet Office over the past few days to alert them to the contents of the report ahead of its publication.
While the Gray report is closely watched, the official’s leeway to censor Johnson is limited – and it is unclear how much its release will help restore public trust in the Conservative government.
On Friday, new questions were raised after British media reported that Johnson and Gray met several weeks ago – although exactly what the two discussed is unclear.
Defending Johnson on Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said Gray was conducting an “independent” investigation.
“The Prime Minister has made it very clear that he has never intervened or that he will seek to intervene or interfere with the investigation,” Zahawi told the BBC.
Opposition parties have urged Johnson to explain why he held a “secret meeting” with Gray.
“Public confidence in the process is already depleted and people deserve to know the truth,” said Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labor Party.
Johnson also faces a separate investigation into whether he knowingly lied to Parliament when he told lawmakers earlier that no laws were broken in Downing Street. Ministers who have done so are generally expected to have resigned.