British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has received a version of an eagerly-awaited report into claims of lockdown-breaking parties at his Downing Street office, the government said on Monday.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray has been investigating a series of revelations about boozy get-togethers held while the government told the public to remain socially distanced.
The public and political anger at the apparent double-standards has put Johnson’s position in jeopardy, prompting speculation he could be ousted or have to resign.
But doubts about Johnson’s immediate future have subsided after London’s Metropolitan Police announced last week detectives had begun their own probe into the events.
The Met ordered Gray not to publish the report in full, so as not to prejudice their investigations, giving Johnson breathing space while detectives conduct enquiries.
The Cabinet Office issued a carefully-worded statement indicating Gray had submitted a redacted version of her report to Downing Street.
“We can confirm that Sue Gray has provided an update on her investigations to the prime minister,” it read.
Johnson will make a statement to MPs in the House of Commons at 1530 GMT, according to parliament’s updated daily schedule.
The prime minister’s official spokesman confirmed Downing Street received the report on Monday morning, adding: “We will publish it as received.”
Johnson’s opponents have accused him of misleading parliament by insisting the events at Downing Street were within the rules at the time and were work-related.
Ministers found to have done so are normally under pressure to resign but on a visit on Monday, Johnson told reporters: “I stick absolutely to what I’ve said in the past.”
Room for manoeuvre
Weeks of revelations in the British media since December have seen leaked photographs and emails indicating repeated breaches of social distancing rules the government set.
They include a drinks party in May 2020 in the Downing Street garden, as well as Christmas celebrations, and also a boozy get-together before Prince Philip’s funeral in April.
A police inquiry into events at Downing Street will delay the publication of the full internal report
A police inquiry into events at Downing Street will delay the publication of the full internal report Daniel LEAL AFP
Details of that event, at which staff reportedly brought a suitcase-full of alcohol and danced until the small hours, caused outrage given the socially distanced memorial.
An enduring image of the funeral was Queen Elizabeth II, sat alone in the chapel at Windsor Castle, mourning her husband of 73 years.
Downing Street later apologised to the monarch.
The revelations have posed the greatest threat to Johnson’s position since he became prime minister in 2019 on a wave of support for his populist Brexit agenda.
But the report’s delay has given him room for manoeuvre.
A handful of his own Conservative party MPs are on record as saying they had no confidence in his leadership. More have been expected to join them.
Fifty-four Tory MPs are required to force a no-confidence vote but many have been keeping their counsel until the Gray report comes out.
With it now not the full version, and the police inquiry potentially lasting months, that has allowed Johnson to regroup his supporters and get back on the front foot.
In recent days he has talked tough against Russia in the simmering tensions with Ukraine, and is keen to push on with his post-Brexit agenda addressing economic inequality.