Tory leader is refusing to walk as he waits on crucial findings
Legal checks have delayed the publication of the long-awaited “Partygate” report, sparking fears in Westminster its findings may not become public until Monday.
Sources close to Sue Gray’s inquiry confirmed her report is complete and is expected to be handed to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson within days.
But a process of “legal scrubbing” has been taking place to ensure the final report does not unfairly identify junior staff, nor cut across the separate investigation by Metropolitan Police.
Sources insist there has been no interference from Downing Street in the process of finalising the document, which is expected to be highly uncomfortable for Mr Johnson.
Ms Gray is believed to be determined to deliver the report in a state which ensures further redactions are not required before publication.
No day has yet been fixed for it to be handed over, and senior Labour backbencher Chris Bryant said it now appeared Monday was the most likely day for publication.
Mr Bryant said No 10 had to give “plenty of time to allow people to read it before the prime minister comes to the house”, so they could “digest it properly”.
Downing Street said it was Mr Johnson’s “intention” to publish the report as received from the Whitehall mandarin as soon as possible after it reaches No 10, with a statement to MPs following shortly afterwards.
However, he refused to rule out further changes at No 10’s hands, sparking demands from Labour for publication unchanged and in full.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said Mr Johnson’s conduct over alleged breaches of Covid restrictions at No 10 had become a “national embarrassment” and a distraction from vital issues like Russian aggression in Ukraine.
“You aren’t telling me that all of those people in No 10 right now are focused on the crisis in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis or the ongoing challenges for the NHS,” Mr Streeting said.
“I think Boris Johnson is trying to fight a war of attrition here. He’s hoping that we’ll all get bored and move on. Bluntly, I am bored of talking about Boris Johnson’s lies and deceit. But we can’t let Boris Johnson get away with it, because we have basic standards to uphold.”
Appearing before MPs in the House of Commons, however, Mr Johnson accused the opposition of putting questions about the inquiry ahead of the pressing matters which he said were preoccupying ministers.
Buoyed by a wall of cheers from packed Tory benches at Prime Minister’s Questions, the PM told Labour leader Keir Starmer he was “getting on with the job”.
Asked directly by the Labour leader if he would resign, Mr Johnson replied flatly: “No.”
The prime minister appeared to acknowledge the dissatisfaction of his own MPs, some of whom have signed letters of no confidence in his leadership, telling the Commons he could not deny that “for all sorts of reasons, many people may want me out of the way”.
But he said Mr Starmer wanted him out because “he knows that this government can be trusted to deliver”.
The Labour leader retorted that Mr Johnson and his government had shown “nothing but contempt for the decency, honesty and respect that define this country”.
“We now have the shameful spectacle of a prime minister of the United Kingdom being subject to a police investigation, unable to lead the country, incapable of doing the right thing,” Mr Starmer said.
“And every day his Cabinet fail to speak out they become more and more complicit.”
There were indications that a concerted effort by Mr Johnson to shore up support among wavering MPs may be bearing some fruit.
Red wall MP Mark Logan, who last week issued a call for “honest leadership”, said a conversation with the PM had persuaded him Mr Johnson has the “heart” to make the changes necessary to restore public confidence.
However, rebels insisted the eventual publication of the Gray report will trigger the 54 letters needed to force a confidence vote. (© Independent News Service)