By Bill Heaney
It’s hard hat time for Prime Minister Boris Johnston – and the boiler-suit’s on to handle all the dirt that is bound to be flying his way over the Partygate scandal.
BBC News is reporting that top civil servant Sue Gray is finalising her report into events during lockdown and is expected to publish her findings this week.
The release of the full report had been delayed until an inquiry by the Metropolitan Police concluded.
That inquiry ended last week with 126 fines being handed to 83 people, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A number of people were informed over the weekend they were likely to be named in Ms Gray’s findings.
They had until 17:00 BST on Sunday to register any objections, a development that Whitehall sources told the BBC could have further delayed the release of the report.
The BBC understands that no-one is yet known to have lodged an objection.
Ms Gray’s report is expected to be critical of those overseeing a culture in Number 10 in which lockdown breaches could occur.
- What could the Sue Gray report reveal?
- Deadline up for those set to be named by Sue Gray
- The Covid rules when Downing Street parties were held
- A timeline of the lockdown parties
An interim version, published in January, did not name individuals but did criticise “failures of leadership and judgement”, and said some events should not have “been allowed to take place”.
The evidence in the report is said to include a total of 510 images. The BBC understands it is unlikely all the images will be released, although it is possible some will be published to illustrate the nature of the gatherings.
Asked on BBC One’s Sunday Morning programme whether all the evidence would be released, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi replied: “I would absolutely welcome it. It’s the right thing to do.”
Mr Zahawi also had to rebut claims by opposition figures that a meeting between Ms Gray and the prime minister that took place several week ago but only came to light over the weekend, could undermine confidence in the investigation.
“The [prime minister] has always said that Sue Gray can take the report to wherever the evidence takes her. The prime minister will not interfere or intervene in the report,” he said.
“Sue Gray… is professional and has the highest level of integrity. She is independent.”
The prime minister faces a further inquiry by the Commons’ Privileges Committee about whether he lied to Parliament when he previously told MPs that no laws had been broken in Downing Street.
Under government guidelines, ministers who knowingly mislead the House of Commons are expected to resign.
Meanwhile, today (Tuesday, May 24) the Liberal Democrats have called on Boris Johnson to hand over the minutes of his meeting with Sue Gray to the Privileges Committee, which will be investigating whether Boris Johnson misled Parliament.
The party is also calling for the records of contact between Downing Street and Sue Gray on her inquiry to be released to the Committee and made public, including emails, letters and messages.
It comes following reports that the Prime Minister ‘pressured’ Sue Gray to drop her report in a recent meeting.
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP, right, commented: “The suggestion that Boris Johnson pressured Sue Gray to drop her full report is a new low.
“The Privileges Committee must be given access to the minutes of this meeting as well as any other contact between the Prime Minister and Sue Gray. It’s finally time to uncover the truth after months of Johnson’s lies and cover ups.
“These latest reports serve as a timely warning of the sort of tactics Johnson will resort to in order to save his own skin and exert pressure on those looking into his lies and illegal behaviour.
“If Johnson did really try to block publication of the report, the public deserves to know. Any hint of a stitch up would do even more damage to public trust.”
On the publication of a series of photographs of a party in Downing Street in which the Prime Minister can be seen raising a toast, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These photographs obliterate the Prime Minister’s claims that he did not know of any rule-breaking during lockdown and that the rules were followed at all times. While the public made huge sacrifices, he partied in Number 10.
“The public are not stupid. They understood perfectly well that the Prime Minister was lying to them. The only people who fell for it were Conservative parliamentarians.
“This is a key moment for Douglas Ross [pictured above]. He should condemn the lawbreaking and lies of a Prime Minister who is only out for himself and finally resubmit his letter of no confidence. If he doesn’t do that then he will be proving to the public that he will always put the interests of the Conservative party ahead of the interests of the country. Every day Boris Johnson remains in office will do more damage to public trust and to our democracy.”