After a week of speculation about the release of Sue Gray’s report into partygate, its publication has now been complicated further. This morning the Metropolitan police released a statement confirming that they have asked the government to make ‘minimal reference’ to the eight events they are now investigating after being passed evidence from the Cabinet Office that triggered a police investigation.
A Met spokesman said:
‘For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report.’
The police add that they did not ask for ‘any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed’. But this puts the government in a pickle – and explains the delay to its publication.
If the Sue Gray report is released and only properly references the parties which have not been deemed serious enough to warrant a police investigation – and leaves out the majority of the details of the ones that were – Gray will be accused of a whitewash.
Instead, the government is already coming under pressure to delay the publication entirely until the police investigation has concluded – which could take months. If the government does publish the partial report, it is unlikely to bring matters to a close. It means that we are effectively back where things were immediately after the police announced its investigation – with the expectation that the report could be kicked into the long grass. The Met’s decision is already leading to accusations of a cover up – with questions over how the report would really prejudice any police investigation.
If the report is delayed for several months, there are pros and cons for the Prime Minister. It reduces the chances of a confidence vote next week given that most MPs have wanted to wait to see the contents of Gray’s investigation. But pushing the report into the long grass is not without risk for the Prime Minister. While it could give him time to try to turn attention back to his domestic agenda, a police investigation will be rumbling on in the background and if he fails to turn things around in the coming months a delayed report and a damaging police investigation could be the final trigger for his MPs.
Update: The Met Police has released the following statement: