Sue Gray, the second permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office, does not name any specific individuals or directly criticize any politicians, as expected. However, she stresses that there were “failures of leadership and judgment” by “different parts of Number 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times.” He concludes that some of the events “should not have been allowed” and others should not have been “allowed to unfold as they did.” Finally, he points out that all government departments should have a “clear and robust policy” on drinking at work.
For weeks now there has been a steady trickle of exclusives in the British media about Downing Street celebrations in full confinement. The scandal has caused the Prime Minister to lose popularity in the street and authority in his own ranks. It had always been said that rebel MPs would wait to see the findings of the internal investigation before deciding whether to finally mount a challenge to Johnson’s leadership. So it remains to be seen now if they finally reach the 54 letters necessary to demand a motion of confidence. The “premier” will appear this afternoon at 15:30 local time in the Commons to give explanations and at 18:30 he plans to meet with his ranks.
Gray has investigated up to 16 events that took place on a dozen dates between May 2020 and April 2021, in full social restrictions. All of the events took place at Downing Street or the Cabinet Office, except for one at the Department for Education.
For its part, Scotland Yard is investigating 12 of these meetings and has asked for “minimal reference”, so Gray has not been able to go into much detail as he explains that it is “extremely limited”.
Nevertheless, the information that has been made available so far is a ticking time bomb in Westminster. “We have conducted interviews with more than 70 people, some more than once, and have examined relevant documentary and digital information, such as emails; Whatsapp messages; text messages; photographs; and records of entering and leaving the building. Official records have also been searched,” the six-page document states.
For the leader of the opposition, Labour’s Keir Starmer, British citizens had made “heartbreaking sacrifices” and endured “collective trauma” during the pandemic.
“The prime minister played us all for fools,” Starmer asserted. “He belittled people’s sacrifice. He showed he is unfit for office.”
“Honesty and decency matter,” the Labor leader wrote on his Twitter profile. “After months of denials, the prime minister is now under criminal investigation for breaking his own confinement laws,” Starmer added. “He needs to do the decent thing and resign.”