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Delayed partygate report due out this week could renew pressure on Boris Johnson

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British Prime Minister Johnson was fined for attending a surprise birthday party thrown for him in Downing Street in June 2020. Photo: PA

British Prime Minister Johnson was fined for attending a surprise birthday party thrown for him in Downing Street in June 2020. Photo: PA

Britain's Treasury chief Rishi Sunak also paid a fine for attending the prime minister's birthday party. Photo: Peter Nicholls

Britain's Treasury chief Rishi Sunak also paid a fine for attending the prime minister's birthday party. Photo: Peter Nicholls

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British Prime Minister Johnson was fined for attending a surprise birthday party thrown for him in Downing Street in June 2020. Photo: PA

A highly anticipated report into the British government’s Partygate scandal that could determine British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s political fortunes is set to be published this week, after months of delay.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray, who has been tasked with investigating multiple lockdown-flouting gatherings at Mr Johnson’s official residence and other government sites, is widely expected to release her findings within days.

Claims that Mr Johnson and his staff enjoyed illegal office parties while millions in the country stuck to strict Covid restrictions in 2020 and 2021 have dogged the Tory government since they first surfaced late last year.

Critics, including some within Mr Johnson’s own ranks, have called for him to resign.

The Indo Daily: Partygate fines: Is it time for Boris Johnson to resign?

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But while Partygate threatened to topple Mr Johnson’s leadership earlier this year, he has clung on to power partly because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine diverted public and political attention.

Ms Gray’s full report could renew pressure on Mr Johnson if it heavily criticises him and senior officials.

Mr Johnson has apologised after admitting he was fined £50 (€60) for attending a surprise birthday party thrown for him in Downing Street in June 2020.

That made him the first British prime minister ever found to have broken the law while in office.

However, Mr Johnson insisted he did not knowingly break the rules, saying “it did not occur to me” the brief gathering was a party – a claim that drew derision from many.

An investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police that concluded last week said in total, the force issued 126 fixed-penalty fines to 83 people for eight gatherings at Downing Street and nearby government buildings. About two dozen of those received more than one fine.

Police did not identify those who were fined, but Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, as well as Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie, have said they also paid fines for attending Mr Johnson’s birthday party.

Government officials have said the Gray report will be fully published as soon as possible once the police probe is complete.

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A partial version of the Gray report was published in January after police requested her to leave out details to avoid prejudicing police inquiries.

The partial report did not name individuals, but it did criticise “failures of leadership and judgment” that allowed the parties to take place.

While the Gray report is closely watched, the civil servant’s scope for censuring Mr Johnson is limited – and it is unclear the extent to which its publication will help restore public trust in his government.

On Friday, fresh questions were raised after British media reported that Mr Johnson and Ms Gray had met several weeks ago – though what the two discussed is unclear.

Defending Mr Johnson yesterday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said Ms Gray was conducting an “independent” investigation.

“The prime minister has made it very clear that he has never intervened or will seek to intervene or interfere with the investigation,” Mr Zahawi told the BBC.

Opposition parties urged Mr Johnson to explain why he held a “secret meeting” with Ms Gray.

“Public confidence in the process is already depleted, and people deserve to know the truth,” said Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party.


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