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Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson. Photo: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

Despite being heavily redacted thanks to the Met Police's intervention, Sue Gray's report is still damning of Johnson and his government, writes Terina Hine

The long-awaited Gray report was published today. Although not the report - the full un-redacted version is under lock and key in Gray's safe - we were instead given a 12-page “update”. And although it is brief and thin on facts, it is ultimately damning.

Yes it lacks details - withheld under the Met polices instruction in a thinly-veiled attempt to help save Boris Johnsons skin - but even this heavily censored outline makes clear that while the rest of us were in lockdown, Downing Street partied hard in flagrant disregard of the Covid regulations they devised.

The evidence was so incriminating that almost every gathering under Gray’s investigation has been referred to the police.

Gray lists 12 events which reached the threshold of criminal investigation - crucially one which took place in the private flat of Boris and Carrie Johnson on 13 November, and another which the prime minister has already admitted attending. This short report provides both evidence of criminal activity at No. 10 and evidence that the prime minister lied to parliament.

Gray refers to a Downing Street culture of excessive alcohol consumption, and of disregard for the laws which Johnson and his Cabinet staff wrote. She says the behaviour in Downing Street was “difficult to justify”, risked public health and showed “failures of leadership and judgement”. Harsh words indeed from a civil servant reporting on her boss.

She dismisses the excuse offered by Johnson supporters that the overworked Downing Street staff deserved some light relief saying “the challenges” of the Covid regulations “also applied to key and frontline workers across the country who were working under equally, if not more demanding conditions, often at risk to their own health.”

She comments on how those in Downing Street acted as if rules did not apply to them:

“At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”

The report provides irrefutable evidence that Boris Johnson blatantly lied in the House of Commons, a lie that SNP leader Ian Blackford called out today in parliament no less than three times. But thanks to the nonsense of parliamentary rules it was Blackford, the MP telling the truth, who was kicked out of the chamber, while the liar-in-chief was given leeway to continue peddling his untruths.

A snap poll by Opinium reveals that 64% of voters now want Johnson to resign, 83% believe he broke the law and 75% think that he is lying. Surely now Tory MPs must see his number is up.

That today’s publication was just a teaser and not the full report, begs the question of what on earth is in the sequel. To the ire of many of his own MPs, Johnson repeatedly refused to commit to the publication of the report in full, even after the police inquiry is complete. For many, this marked the final straw - recognising its mistake, No. 10 has since backtracked, but the fact that reassurances of full publication were initially refused shows just how desperate Johnson is to keep the findings hidden.

While the parliamentary debate was in full flow and Johnson smirked and demeaned himself further, Scotland Yard revealed they had received 500 pages and 300 photographs in evidence. This story is obviously not going anywhere.

Every day the PM continues to hold the support of his MPs, he, they and the Conservative party sink deeper into the murk. This is not a scandal about wine and cheese or birthday parties, but about trust, arrogance and contempt. The lies and callous disregard in which Johnson holds ordinary people have been apparent for years, yet the Conservative party offered Johnson its full support, promoted him to the top job, and even now continue to prop him up.

Johnson has been called the Houdini of politics, always managing to miraculously escape from entanglements of his own making, but today’s performance was a car crash and today’s report, which he had hoped would get him off the hook, has only made things worse. His attempt to hide behind the civil service has failed, needing to now hide behind a criminal investigation into himself is a new low indeed. He must go and the rest must surely follow.

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