Artillery Row

The Ensueing

Sue Gray’s report certainly can’t make anything worse

This morning some in Downing Street spotted a silver lining to the news that the head of the Met, Dame Cressida Dick, had decided to investigate the parties in Downing Street after all. It me­­ant the report by senior civil servant, Sue Gray, into the alleged gatherings could be kicked far back into the Downing Street garden, hopefully never to be seen again. In one of the more interesting subplots to the current crisis, many in Westminster claim that Dick had been set to be fired by Priti Patel but was only saved by the intervention of Boris Johnson.

But now, after the Met have reportedly said they have no objection to Gray producing her report, the political occupants of No.10 (as opposed to the civil servants who will no doubt suffer far less) are faced with the double whammy of a police investigation and the imminent publication of the Gray report. (The PM will be given it tonight according to Pippa Crerar, but it won’t necessarily be made public straight away).

Save for another war in the South Atlantic the publication is now the only thing that could help No.10

Leaving Cabinet today, Jacob Rees-Mogg strolled over to reporters to assure them everything was fine: “The leadership of Boris Johnson this country has had has been so brilliant that he has got us through this incredibly difficult period and he’s got all the big decisions right”. He added that he was “honoured to be under his leadership”. But as Sam Coates reported, Mr Johnson didn’t tell his Cabinet colleagues about the police investigation during the weekly meeting (later No.10 said it was too “sensitive” to share with them) meaning the fact that the police were now looking into the matter was public knowledge as Mr Rees-Mogg was speaking to reporters but not, it seems, known to him.

In the Commons today during Labour’s UQ on Partygate, Tory MP Mark Harper mischievously asked the Paymaster General Michael Ellis if the Government will tell the house if Boris Johnson is interviewed as a witness or potential suspect in the criminal investigation. Ellis declined to answer. But, just like David Davis’s PMQs call on him to resign, it highlights just how little some anti-Boris MPs care what he thinks of them.

All this came after ITV published yet another party story last night, reporting that up to 30 people are thought to have attended a Birthday party for the Prime Minister. Boris Johnson’s wife and Lulu Lytle, the interior ­designer who was working on the Downing Street flat at the time, are among those said to have attended. Carrie apparently presented a cake to him on the Cabinet table, alongside a platter of M&S food.

We’re now at the point where it’s so hard for things to get worse that, save for another war in the South Atlantic — so one we might actually win — the publication of the report is now the only thing that could help No.10. True, Cabinet Ministers had been able to use the civil servant’s name to avoid answering any questions for weeks, but they’ll now be able to pull off the same trick with Cressida Dick.

The reality is that the report has been so over-hyped that it’s bound to disappoint. Written by a master civil servant, it will be harsh enough on Spads and the PM himself to be credible, but stop short of saying anybody broke the law. In short, its publication will briefly take the wind out of the sails of the anti-Boris plotters. No.10 may actually be relieved when it’s published.

Until, that is, the police investigation concludes.

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