Partygate: Drunken fights and vomiting – but Sue Gray report relieved Boris Johnson | Political news

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We waited five months for Sue Gray and when it landed it was, in some ways, as bad as it was billed.

A meticulous report documenting 15 gatherings, it detailed occasional disregard for rules and dismissive treatment by security and cleaning staff.

There, in black and white, were tales of drunken altercations, vomiting, karaoke machines, take-out pizzas and loud parties past midnight.

And amidst all the grim detail, this remark from one of Downing Street’s most senior officials after an event: “We seem to have got away with it.” The whole 37 pages are embarrassing, clumsy, shameful even.

And yet, for the Prime Minister personally, this report was a relief.

You might do a double take on this given the brazen rule-breaking Sue Gray uncovered and documented, but especially for Boris Johnson there was no compelling evidence in this report that further incriminated him when it came to the events he attended or their planning.

When he stood up in parliament to explain and apologize he was almost optimistic – to him Mrs Gray had ‘vindicated’ it.

Yes, there were events that broke the rules, but he attended them because he thought they were work events and left before they got out of hand. He repeatedly pointed out that he had only been fined once and denied lying to MPs.

For Ms Gray, this report documented “failures of leadership” at the heart of government as the senior civil servant concluded that many “will be appalled that behavior like this has taken place on this scale at the heart of government”.

She went on to say, “The centre’s senior management, both political and official, must take responsibility for this culture.

For this, the Prime Minister has emptied the bridges of his head team, with his director of cabinet, his director of communication, his main secretaries of cabinet and the two missing deputies.

But the two most senior officials – his own and civil service chief Simon Case – did not roll.

Because, whatever the failures of culture or leadership, or the fines encountered, for Mr Johnson, this whole sorry saga has really been about whether it was possible for him to survive.

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PM: “I just wasn’t there”

At times earlier in the year, he clearly feared that might not be the case.

Today he looked like a politician who most certainly survives as he bounces through his triumvirate of excuses – parliament, press conference and then MPs – with one key message in mind: I’m sorry but it’s time to move on.

He probably thought he got away with it.

One of his critics told me that in the meeting with backbenchers this evening the Prime Minister seemed to suggest that he should look contrite because people were upset, but in reality he been proven – by the police and Sue Gray – that he was not doing much wrong and soon he will be able to return to his bubbling old self.

This approach did not impress some.

The attacks may not have been many on Wednesday – Tobias Ellwood called him out and was heckled by colleagues – but neither were the voices of support, with just 16 MPs speaking – and not all of them entirely in favor – in the bedroom.

There were other dissenting voices.

Julian Sturdy has become the 16th Tory MP to say the Prime Minister should resign. Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said the prime minister should step down when the war in Ukraine ends.

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Partygate report published in full

Stephen Hammond, a former minister, told me on Wednesday he could not ‘defend the indefensible’ and was struck by ‘a number of colleagues who were genuinely concerned that it would be next to impossible for the Prime Minister to say that I want to move on, and yet we haven’t regained the public’s trust. I’m not sure we can.”

“We haven’t regained the trust of the public. I’m not sure we can. A lot of colleagues may be realizing today that unless something happens, we may not be able to. be unable to win the next general election.”

When I asked Mr Hammond if the Prime Minister should resign, he did not quite say yes: “I think the Prime Minister does not enjoy the confidence of the British people and I think he must think about it very carefully.”

This really is the litmus test. The Prime Minister can survive, but can he really thrive in No 10 if he has lost the trust of the public and many of his MPs?

A YouGov snap poll on Wednesday found that three in five Britons believe the PM should resign in light of the report, and 74 per cent believe the PM knowingly lied about breaking lockdown rules, including a majority of conservative voters.

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I remember in 2017, when Theresa May called a snap election and then lost her majority.

The next morning, her nemesis and former Chancellor George Osborne went on TV and said she was a “dead walking woman” – in power but without authority. She was ousted less than two years later.

Is this where his whole terrible business left Mr Johnson too – as a walking dead man? He is, of course, a different operator, an accomplished campaigner and has a majority of 79 seats.

But it is undoubtedly deeply damaged and now faces a huge economic challenge and a cost of living crisis.

He will continue regardless, but at some point his MPs will have to decide if they want to. Decision day was further delayed.

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