No 10 still waiting for Gray report as Boris Johnson faces further questions
By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent
The Prime Minister is set to face further questions over a police investigation into partygate as No 10 braces for the submission of a report into possible lockdown breaches.
A Downing Street source said that Sue Gray had not, as of Tuesday evening, handed in her findings about alleged coronavirus rule-breaking parties held at the top of Government.
The senior civil servant’s inquiry had been expected to be finalised this week, with reports suggesting it could be published to coincide with Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, or possibly on Thursday.
It comes as police launched their own probe into multiple events in No 10 after being passed information from the Gray inquiry.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said investigations into historic allegations of Covid regulation flouting were carried out in cases of the “most serious and flagrant” breaches, and when it was considered those involved “ought to have known that what they were doing was an offence”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman signalled that Boris Johnson would be willing to speak to those at Scotland Yard investigating the alleged breaches of coronavirus rules over the past two years.
However, he said Mr Johnson believes he has not broken the law.
Sky News reported officials have handed over to investigators photos of parties in Downing Street which include images of Mr Johnson.
The broadcaster said the pictures show people close together with wine bottles.
The FT said the final report was likely to list Ms Gray’s conclusions but that it would not include a “significant amount of evidence” from interviews, such as photos or messages.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s allies looked to defend their under-fire leader, with one Cabinet minister arguing ousting Mr Johnson would inevitably lead to a general election.
Some Conservative MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson’s resignation, but others have said they will await the publication of the Gray report before trying to trigger a vote of no confidence.
In what is likely to be read as a warning to wavering rebels, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the modern precedent was for a new incumbent in Downing Street to go to the polls to seek a fresh mandate.
He told BBC’s Newsnight: “It is my view that we have moved, for better or worse, to essentially a presidential system and that therefore the mandate is personal rather than entirely party, and that any Prime Minister would be very well advised to seek a fresh mandate.”
Mr Rees-Mogg, asked whether the Prime Minister should resign if there is a photograph of him at a drinks party in No 10, urged for people to wait for Ms Gray’s report to be published.
“Trying to speculate on bits of gossip and tittle-tattle around the report doesn’t really get us anywhere,” he added.
Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns defended Mr Johnson’s presence at a surprise birthday bash in the Cabinet room on June 19 2020 when social events indoors were banned, saying he had been “ambushed with a cake”.
Mr Burns said it was “not a premeditated, organised party”, adding: “They came to his office with a cake, they sang Happy Birthday, he was there for 10 minutes.
“I don’t think most people looking at that at home would characterise that as a party.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, one of those tipped to succeed Mr Johnson should he resign over the partygate affair, is due to face broadcasters on Wednesday morning when she is likely to field a flurry of questions about the Gray report and the police investigation.