The full Sue Gray report into lockdown-breaching gatherings in and around Downing Street could be published as early as Tuesday. Here is what we know about its likely contents – and their impact.
This is the final version of the report led by Gray, a senior Cabinet Office official, who was asked by Boris Johnson to uncover facts about the parties. An initial, 12-page version was published at the end of January, with the rest delayed because the Metropolitan police had begun their own, parallel inquiry. That was completed on Thursday, and Gray can now send No 10 a much more thorough version, which is likely to name some officials at fault and could include photographs.
We don’t know, but it is likely to be Tuesday or Wednesday. It is expected this week, and Johnson has promised to update MPs swiftly after it is published. The Commons is paying tribute to the Queen on Thursday, and then goes into a week of recess, so it is probable before then. The expected – but not confirmed – chronology is that Gray would send her report to No 10 in the morning, and it would be published by Downing Street soon after, with Johnson addressing MPs that afternoon.
That is the big question. There have been some anonymous briefings on what might come, but it is by no means certain that any have come from Gray’s team. The interim report, while light on detail, was strongly critical of leadership and judgment inside No 10, and it is fair to say that nothing to emerge since then would make such a verdict unlikely again. According to the Sunday Times, Gray has said she was surprised Johnson was only fined once by the police, and believes he was responsible for other wrongdoing.
The report is expected to name two dozen or so senior staff, alongside Johnson, in its description of what went wrong. Among those likely be identified include Simon Case, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service; Martin “Party Marty” Reynolds, Johnson’s former principal private secretary, who sent No 10 staff an email inviting them to “bring your own booze” to a drinks event on 20 May 2020; and Helen MacNamara, who was head of ethics at the Cabinet Office.
It seems likely that Gray will, as she did in her interim report, point to a mixture of institutional failings and a lack of leadership within No 10. This would very much implicate Johnson, as he is in ultimate control, but it remains to be seen if the fuller report will point to others acting without the MP’s knowledge. Some reports have suggested Case could be used as a scapegoat by Downing Street once the report is out.
That is the key political question. For months, Conservative MPs unhappy with his tenure as PM have said they wanted to wait for both the end of the police inquiry and Gray’s full report before deciding whether to seek a confidence vote in his leadership. However, the length of the police inquiry, and the fact Johnson was – to the surprise of many lawyers – fined only once for lockdown breaches, has taken the wind out of much of the rebellion. It would take some particularly damning passages, or photos, to prompt a concerted rebellion. That said, a damaging report followed by Tory losses in next month’s byelections in Wakefield and in Tiverton and Honiton could rebuild momentum for change.
No. The Commons privileges committee will examine whether Johnson misled parliament when he initially said he had no knowledge of parties and that he was confident all lockdown rules were followed. While the convention is that a prime minister who misleads parliament is expected to resign, Johnson is no fan of parliamentary convention. He says he did not deliberately mislead MPs, and intent can be hard to prove. Perhaps more sinister for him is the prediction by Dominic Cummings, his former chief aide, that photographs will soon emerge which will prove Johnson lied about parties.