Johnson Tries to Use Police Investigation Into Downing Street Parties to Block Sue Gray’s Report
The Prime Minister is now in the desperate position of hiding behind a police investigation into himself, reports Adam Bienkov
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Tuesday that Sue Gray will not publish her report into illegal parties in Downing Street while the Metropolitan Police investigates them, despite multiple reports suggesting the police do not want her report suppressed.
The spokesman said that “any work being taken forward by the Met which relates to that [being investigated] under the report will be paused”.
They added that the Prime Minister would also decline to answer questions in Parliament about those parties under investigation by officers, saying that “he’s not able to comment, and nor am I, on issues that are being taken forward by the police”.
However, multiple news organisations have reported that the police made no such request for Sue Gray’s report to be blocked and indeed want it to be published.
ITV News’ political editor Robert Peston reported that the Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick saw “no evidential reason” to delay its publication, while Sky News reported that the police “want the whole Sue Gray report published” and were surprised that it had not been.
Following these reports Johnson’s spokesman backtracked later on Tuesday and held open the possibility that the report could still be published.
“There are discussions still ongoing between the investigations team and the police”, the spokesman said.
“That still needs to be worked through both in relation to what may or may not be published and the ongoing work of both the police and the investigation.”
However, Dick’s announcement that she will launch an investigation into Downing Street parties came just days before Gray was due to publish her full report, after which a challenge against his leadership had seemed likely.
Conservative MPs had told Byline Times that significant numbers of their colleagues were preparing to submit letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister as soon as the report was published.
Under the party’s rules, a vote of no confidence will be held if 15% of the Conservative parliamentary party submit such a letter.
It is unclear how long the Met Police’s investigation will take. However, previous sensitive police investigations into the actions of UK governments have taken many months.
Johnson’s supporters appear willing to wait it out in the hope that public anger over the parties will dissipate by the time the Met Police’s investigation completes.
Conservative MPs supporting the Prime Minister lined up in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon to attack those calling for Johnson to resign.
Richard Bacon said that compared to the actions of other politicians, Johnson had only been guilty of “a relatively minor offence”, while his colleague Stuart Anderson suggested that any call for him to resign would only be “strengthening Putin’s hands” in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Mark Jenkinson MP accused opposition parties of being “in cahoots with media to undemocratically depose this Prime Minister”.
However, despite this fight-back from his supporters, Johnson’s position is now incredibly precarious.
The Met’s investigation is likely to paralyse an already embattled Downing Street, with other damaging revelations about the Prime Minister likely to emerge in the coming days and weeks.
Indeed, the fact that Johnson’s hopes for survival now rely on hiding behind a criminal investigation into his own conduct shows quite how desperate his position now is.
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