Sue gray

Inside Sue Gray’s Labour party

At 8.30 a.m. each morning, Keir Starmer holds a meeting with his inner circle to go over the business of the day. Once, these meetings were mainly filled with unelected aides, but now they are attended by senior shadow ministers, such as Labour’s campaign co-ordinator and Blairite old-timer Pat McFadden or the shadow cabinet office minister and Brown-ite Jonathan Ashworth. Starmer’s deputy, Angela Rayner, may drop in too. If Rachel Reeves can’t make it, one of her shadow treasury aides goes in her place. The new setup is one of the many measures Sue Gray has brought in since she was appointed Starmer’s chief of staff a year ago. Her

Boris Johnson’s guilt

An ability to survive narrow scrapes has been one of Boris Johnson’s defining qualities. The pictures of Downing Street’s lockdown social events included in the Sue Gray report were so dull as to be almost exculpatory: staid gatherings of half a dozen people around a long table with sandwiches still in their boxes, apple juice poured into a whisky glass. Far worse happened in No. 10 but Gray did not publish those photos or look into (for example) the ‘Abba’ party in the No. 10 flat, saying she felt it inappropriate to do so while police were investigating. Luckily for Johnson. The more damaging material came from the emails intercepted, with No. 10 staff being clear

James Forsyth

For Boris, the hard bit is just beginning

Boris Johnson has been plunged back into the mire of partygate. The publication of a photograph of Johnson raising a glass to his departing communications chief Lee Cain in November 2020 and the long-awaited report by Sue Gray into lockdown breaches in Whitehall means that once again there are Tory MPs publicly calling for him to resign. Some of those who had gone quiet on the basis that the war in Ukraine meant it was not the right time for a leadership election have renewed their calls for the Prime Minister to go. No. 10’s hope is that apologies and an emphasis on how the new Department of the Prime

Portrait of the week: Sue Gray reports, ScotRail slashes trains and monkeypox spreads

Home Sue Gray starched and ironed her report for publication after the Metropolitan Police wound up its own enquiries into breaches of coronavirus laws in and around Downing Street, with 126 fixed penalty notices being issued, only one to Boris Johnson. Meanwhile the nation contemplated photographs published by ITV News of the Prime Minister raising a glass at Downing Street on 13 November 2020. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said in an interview: ‘I would want to see Moldova equipped to Nato standard. This is a discussion we’re having with our allies.’ A ballot of 40,000 members prepared the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union for a national strike. ScotRail

Six of the worst bits from Sue Gray’s report

Politics’ longest-running farce is at a close. Sue Gray, that pillar of Whitehall officialdom, has today delivered her report into whether Boris Johnson did indeed break lockdown rules during the pandemic. And while there will no doubt be some relief for those in No. 10 that Gray’s inquiries didn’t investigate any further parties to those previously reported, some of the details contained in her findings do make for excruciating reading. Below are six of the lowlights from the Sue Gray report…. 1. The Met torpedoed Gray’s probe Few institutions emerge well from partygate but the Metropolitan Police probably came out worst. Constantly derided for being too opaque, too slow to act

Downing Street’s growing problem

In answers to questions following his statement in the Commons on Monday, Boris Johnson let drop an interesting statistic. He said that, ‘on busy days’, more than 400 officials work in 10 Downing Street. This figure explains a lot — why so many staff there got Covid, why, after long hours in overcrowded conditions, they might want to open bottles of wine, why factions struggle for mastery and leak against each other, and why the heart of government suffers from clogged arteries. With 400 rabbits in that warren, how can most of them know the Prime Minister personally, how can they feel much esprit de corps? The numbers are four

Boris must go!

Conservative sympathisers, Conservative voters and Conservative parliamentarians have a simple choice to make this week. Do they stand by a Prime Minister who besmirches his office and whose moral credibility diminishes a little more each day he remains, squatting, in Downing Street? Or do they, instead, accept the obvious reality that Johnson is not fit for the office he holds, draw the obvious conclusions from that recognition, and do the decent thing? For every Tory MP and cabinet minister who fails to act this week deserves to be judged themselves. These MPs might be weak or venal or cowardly or blind or simply stupid but they cannot claim to be

James Forsyth

Tory rebels are split over Boris

Those Tory MPs who want to oust Boris Johnson are not a single group. They come from all wings of the party and all intakes and would not agree on who should succeed him. This means there is no single view among them about the best way to proceed.  But one of the most influential of their number tells me they have now come to the view it would be best to act after either the police investigation has concluded or the May elections, whichever comes first. Their argument is that, at this point, there would be the greatest consensus in both the party (and among Tory MPs) about the

Inside Boris Johnson’s showdown with Tory MPs

After Tory MPs spent the afternoon laying into Boris Johnson over Sue Gray’s summary of her report, the Prime Minister finds himself in a much more fragile position than when he started the day. Tonight he addressed Tory MPs at a meeting of the 1922 committee. Given Johnson’s Commons appearance rattled MPs rather than improving relations, Johnson went into the meeting on the backfoot. The demand to hear the PM speak was so great that MPs arriving late were turned away. The demand to hear the PM speak was so great that MPs arriving late were turned away Johnson began the meeting by telling MPs he had a really torrid

Katy Balls

Johnson faces a mauling from his own MPs

Ahead of the publication of Sue Gray’s report into partygate, there had been talk that the police investigation — which meant the most tricky parts of Gray’s investigation were left out — would help Boris Johnson by ensuring he got off lightly. However, anyone watching the reaction from MPs to the Prime Minister’s statement in the chamber will have been left wondering what the full report would have triggered. While the shortened report meant the Prime Minister was spared embarrassing details coming to light, it did not stop Johnson from facing a mauling from his own side. While a number of supportive MPs asked the Prime Minister to focus on channel crossings and

Isabel Hardman

Johnson’s defence deteriorates

That Boris Johnson regards the Gray update as an opportunity to come up for air was very clear from his statement on the report in the Commons. The Prime Minister’s opening remarks struck what seemed to be a reasonable balance between apologising, offering some operational changes to No. 10 (to show he was taking the report’s recommendations for ‘learning’ seriously) and trying to buoy up Tory MPs with a reminder of what his government was achieving. Brexit, freeports and the comparatively early end to Covid restrictions all came up. He might have been pleased with himself as he commended his statement to the House, but things went downhill after that. The

The Met calls for the redaction of Sue Gray’s report

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:  Pushing the report into the long grass is not without risk for the Prime Minister ‘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

The Tory party is split on one issue: Boris

‘I can’t put into words how awful this is’ remarks one Tory MP. The party is split not on the kind of policy issue that people can debate but on the question of one man: the Prime Minister. Neither side is finding this struggle rewarding. The Johnson loyalists feel that they spend all day trying to bail water out of the boat, only to be hit by another wave as yet another story breaks. Those who want Johnson gone fear that the police investigation may slow every-thing down and that the current mantra, ‘Wait for the Sue Gray report’, will simply morph into ‘Wait for the Met report’. In No.

My encounter with Sue Gray

I only voted in one no-confidence motion. The leader was Iain Duncan Smith, and it was a bit awkward. I spent hours every week helping Iain with Prime Minister’s Questions, and felt sorry for him. At the same time, his leadership was a disaster. Indeed, Tony Blair was going easy on him in the chamber just to keep him alive. So what to do? On the morning of the vote, I conferred with two other new MPs in the PMQ team — David Cameron and Boris Johnson. We all agreed he had to go and swore a pact. So off I went to cast my ballot. A few hours later,

A rather pointless PMQs lets Boris off the hook

Given the extraordinarily low expectations, Prime Minister’s Questions went reasonably well for Boris Johnson today. That is partly because it was a pointless session: everyone is waiting for the publication of the Sue Gray report, so most likely it will be forgotten very quickly and will make no difference to the main event (whenever that comes). Most likely it will be forgotten very quickly Johnson decided to make a forceful argument that he and the government were focused on more important things than cakes and parties. He lectured Keir Starmer for raising the matter at all when he was busy bringing the west together to threaten Russia with the toughest package of

James Forsyth

Team Boris’s scorched earth strategy

Jacob Rees-Mogg is now arguing that the UK system has become so presidential that a new prime minister would feel obliged to call an election. The message to Tory MPs is clear: depose Boris Johnson and you’ll be going to the country in months — and do you really want to do that given the polls? Rees-Mogg’s argument is being used by the shadow whipping operation too. It has, from what I have been hearing, had some effects on new intake MPs. But among older intakes, there is a bit of a backlash to it.  There is a view that the argument takes them for fools. Yes, Labour and the

Who is Sue Gray?

She’s the name that’s on everyone’s lips in Westminster. As Tory ministers flounder to defend their beleaguered leader over partygate, their oft-repeated line ‘let’s wait for Sue Gray’s inquiry’ has elevated the little-known civil servant investigating No. 10’s parties into something of a Delphic oracle, the woman whose judgements could make or break a Prime Minister. But just who is the mandarin dubbed by her colleagues ‘Deputy God?’  Gray is, in some respects, a classic Whitehall mandarin. Now in her mid-sixties, she’s spent the bulk of her career climbing the rungs in the civil service since the 1970s, with stints in the Transport, Health and DWP ministries. Yet what distinguishes