Sue Gray’s report has been billed as make-or-break for Prime Minister Boris Johnson — a damning judgment that he broke his own pandemic rules could turn his party against him and force him from office.
But there are more questions than answers so far on Monday, thanks in large part to a late intervention last week by the Metropolitan Police.
Their own investigation means we won’t see Gray’s full findings today — and that leaves several areas of confusion on the road ahead.
How damning is today’s slimmed-down report? Gray is understood to have delivered some overarching findings to Downing Street, without details on several events that the police are probing. If this version of her investigation is underwhelming, the government will likely try to draw a line under the scandal. It’s unclear if that will wash with the British public, however, which has been united in anger over the allegations of parties while the rest of the country was living under strict restrictions.
On the other hand, if Gray’s conclusions are critical of Johnson, the scandal will only deepen — and anticipation for the full report will increase.
Will we ever see the full findings? Gray may decide to publish the full report once the police have finished their investigation. It was believed to be imminent when, last week, the Met said they would probe the parties and asked for “minimal reference” in Gray’s report to the gatherings they’re also looking at.
Downing Street has always said it will publish whatever Gray sends it, but on Monday a spokesperson said they will “keep under review” whether to put the full, unredacted report in the public domain.
If they do try to keep it from the public, they will have a political fight on their hands that would drag the scandal onward for days or weeks. The opposition Labour Party has demanded the full findings be published, as have some Conservatives, and it will be difficult to avoid the appearance of a cover-up if the long-promised inquest never sees the light of day.
What will Boris Johnson do? Johnson has apologized for some of the parties that were made public, but has sought to move the narrative onto the economy and the Ukraine-Russia border crisis in recent appearances in Parliament.
He will likely be hoping that Monday’s findings give him enough leeway to move on from the scandal, possibly by promising a reform of Downing Street culture but refusing to resign.
But he is certain to face questions on the scandal beyond Monday, regardless of what is made public.
Will this end Johnson’s premiership? That all depends on what the report says, who sees it, and which course of action Conservative lawmakers decide to take.
If 15% of the party’s MPs demand a vote of no confidence in Johnson, a poll will take place — and then a simple majority would force the leader out. A vote seemed to be edging closer in recent weeks as more allegations were made public, and a critical report could sway enough backbenchers to trigger one.