Downing Street Denies Boris Johnson Told Sue Gray To Abandon Plans To Publish Partygate Report
Downing Street has rejected claims that the prime minister called on Sue Gray to ditch plans to publish her full report into the Downing Street parties during lockdown.
The Times quoted two Whitehall sources on Tuesday saying Boris Johnson suggested to Gray she abandon the conclusion to her long-awaited investigation. Johnson reportedly asked Gray: “Is there much point in doing it now that it’s all out there?”
But a Number 10 spokesperson said they “don't recognise that characterisation” and that the meeting between the PM and the senior civil servant was “a legitimate meeting about process”.
Johnson’s official spokesperson said it was not a discussion about the contents of the report, which was delayed until the end of the Met police inquiry, dubbed Operation Hillman, into the illegal gatherings, which completed last week. Gray is now expected to publish her report in the coming days.
“The Prime Minister wants the report to be published,” they said. “He's looking forward to the conclusion of the report and it being put in the public domain.”
Johnson's spokesperson said they did not wish to "get into the details of the private meeting", but insisted "the Prime Minister did not ask for that report to be not proceeded with or to be dropped".
The spokesperson added: “The Prime Minister commissioned the report, initially by the Cabinet Secretary, and wants it to be published.”
Minutes of the meeting, which was initiated by officials in Downing Street, have not been published, but he PM’s spokesperson said he believed “a record was kept it the normal way”.
Gray’s report is yet to be handed to Number 10 for publication, but us still expected to arrive this week.
On Monday photos of an apparent party in Downing Street were published by ITV News, sparking new questions about Johnson’s involvement in the gatherings and whether he potentially misled the House of Commons when talking about them. The image showed Johnson and several others drinking alongside a table full of empty wine bottles.
His spokesperson declined to answer whether the images, believed to have been taken at an event to mark the departure of former Downing Street director of communications Lee Cain, constituted a work event.
It is understood that several of those in attendance received fixed penalty notices from police for the event on November 13, 2020, but Johnson was not. Earlier on Tuesday transport secretary Grant Shapps argued that the presence of the ministerial red box in the images indicated that Johnson, shown holding a glass of wine aloft, was working.
Johnson's spokesperson said they “could not speak to decisions taken by the Met with regards to who did not receive fines”, but added the PM would address the mater when he delivers a statement to MPs in Parliament after the report is made public.
They also said they did “not recognise that characterisation” after media reports suggested it was Johnson himself who initiated the drinks for Cain.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe