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Downing Street “Haven’t Managed To Identify” Staff Who Abused Cleaners And Security

Downing Street “Haven’t Managed To Identify” Staff Who Abused Cleaners And Security

(Alamy)

4 min read

A Cabinet minister has claimed that Downing Street has not yet identified the staff accused of abusing cleaning and security staff in Sue Gray’s “partygate” report.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told Sky News that Number 10 “haven’t managed to identify who those people were”, as far as he was aware, and repeated Boris Johnson’s claim that the prime minister had personally apologised to staff “for what they suffered”.

“I don't think anybody's aware of exactly who has committed that in the first place. But we've got to be clear, that kind of behaviour, that kind of attitude towards anybody is completely unacceptable,” he said.

But the Prime Minister is believed to have suggested to MPs that those responsible were no longer employed by Downing Street.

He reportedly told the 1922 committee of backbench MPs on Wednesday that he’d been assured that those who had "behaved most offensively in that regard" have now “left the building”.

In her long awaited report into lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street, Gray accused some of those working in the building of “a lack of respect and poor treatment” towards cleaners and security officers.

Her report, which was published on Wednesday afternoon, detailed the "unacceptable" treatment of cleaning and security staff by those working in Downing Street. 

Lewis also dismissed reports in The Sunday Times that three senior civil servants had put pressure on Gray to water down parts of her seismic report the night before it was published.

It is claimed that they also asked for the names of some of those who had attended to be taken out, and that references to the PM’s wife Carrie Johnson should also be removed.

“I don't recognise any of that… having worked with Sue Gray in my previous roles, I wouldn't in any way question [her] independence and determination to deliver a report that she is comfortable is a full and complete report, which is what she's done,” he said.

Asked to categorically confirm that no one in Number 10 tried to influence Gray’s report, Lewis said: "I am absolutely confident that is the case.”

Lewis disputed that the Prime Minister was on track to face a no confidence vote in the coming weeks, despite an increasing number of his MPs announcing they have submitted letters to the 1922 committee’s chairman Sir Graham Brady.

“I don't think he will. And actually, I don't think it's in the interest of the country. I know it's not in the interest of the Conservative Party,” he said.

“I'm somebody who was chairman of the party through the last Prime Minister having not only a confidence vote, but I was the chairman who ran that leadership campaign. I've seen this from both sides. 

“I don't think it's in anybody's interest. No, I don't think we will see that happen.”

Since the publication of Gray’s final report, seven MPs have publicly called for the Prime Minister to go: Julian Sturdy, John Baron, David Simmonds, Stephen Hammond, Alicia Kearns, Sir Bob Neill, and Steve Brine.

There is a widespread expectation that Johnson would survive such a vote and lead the party to the next general election, which some MPs fear they would lose as a result. 

One backbencher elected in 2019 told PoliticsHome this week that they now deemed Johnson to be a "loser", while many MPs in the North and the Midlands elected for the first time at the last general election are said to be "resigned" to the belief that they will lose their seats.

According to new YouGov polling, the Conservatives would hold on to just three of 88 battleground seats if a general election were held tomorrow.

This would include many of the “Red Wall” seats gained in 2019 — such as Burnley, Blyth Valley, Leigh, and Stoke-on-Trent North — and Boris Johnson’s own seat.

But Lewis dismissed the polling as a “snapshot”, and pointed out that “there’s not a general election in the next few months”.

“It could be a fair way away. And actually there's a lot of what we're doing to deliver for people and I hope by the time we get to that general election we’ll have delivered.”
 

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