Monday, 31st January, 2022

[Day 686]

Today it was announced fairly on that Sue Gray had delivered her interim ‘update’ (rather than a report) to the Prime Minister. So to a large extent, the rest of the day was a holding operation until the heavily redacted summary of the report is published, Boris Johnson has appeared in Parliament and the reaction of the Tory MPs in Westminster can be gauged. Meg and I took a hard look at the weather forecast and decided that we would walk down to collect our newspaper and then to pop into Waitrose to get some supplies. This we did and then we made our way to our normal bench in the park where the weather was generally fine but it was somewhat on the cold side. We were just preparing to leave when we were recognised by a member of the congregation at our local church so we lingered for quite a lengthy chat about her dog which seemed incredibly enthusiastic and friendly not to only to us but to every similar dog of a similar heritage (broadly a variety of poodle cross) We walked home and realised that we did not enough time to have a proper cooked lunch in view of the fact that we knew that Boris Johnson was about to make a statement to the House of Commons at 3.30. Whilst we having our ‘quickie’ lunch (a microwaveable beetroot risotto supplented by a tin of tuna and some petit pois), the Sue Gray interim report was published and we had a quick journalistic summary of some of its findings. From what we could tell, there were some pretty damning things even in the interim report whilst we must still await for the 12 most serious incidents of parties which were investigated for criminality by the Met investigation.

After we had lunched, we prepared to go down the road for a little ‘tea party’ in the house of our French friend where we were also to be joined by some of our Catholic friends who are near neighbours. We spent over two and a half hours of really interesting chat whilst we consumed our tea and biscuits. All in all, we spent a wonderful afternoon and then raced home to be seated before the TV in order to get the full political news. It seems that Boris Johnson is under serious political threat even though the available published evidence is lightweight in volume. But what is published is damning in the extreme and tonight Boris Johnson is to have a meeting with all of his MPs and it will be fascinating to see what some members are prepared to reveal of this meeting once it has concluded.

Some of the key findings even in the abridged Gray report are show below:

– 16 events in 2020 and 2021 were investigated – the Met Police are looking into 12 of them

– Some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify

– A number of the gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did

– At least some gatherings represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of government but also of the standards expected of the entire population

– There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office

– The garden at 10 Downing Street was also used for gatherings without clear authorisation or oversight. This was not appropriate

– Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so

– Steps must be taken to ensure every government department has a “clear and robust” policy over excessive alcohol consumption in the workplace which is ‘not appropriate’

Of these observations, possibly the most damning of all is the statement concerning ‘failures of leadership and government’, whilst a close second is ‘a number of gatherings should not have been allowed to take place’ In the House of Commons, Teresa May asked some devastating questions saying 'So either my right honourable friend had not read the rules or didn’t understand what they meant and others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to Number 10. Which was it?' This drew only a fluffed reply from Boris Johnson. Some more revelations from the report are that Sue Gray has several more (damning) findings that have to be kept under lock and key until after the Met investigation is completed. In addition some 500 pieces of paper and 300 photographs have been handed over in evidence. One view that is emerging in a fast moving situation is that there may be enough MPs to send in letters demanding confidence vote in the PM but there is a serious division about tactics. There are two schools of thought one of which is to strike now before the issue ‘fades’ whilst the other is to wait for an event such as the May elections which may ultimately prove to provide the fatal blow.