Boris Johnson’s fate hangs in the balance
So it all boils down to that. Boris Johnson’s colorful and charismatic career is defined once and for all in a very matter-of-fact black-and-white report from a senior official charged with investigating a culture of partying and carefree breaking of Covid rules.
Sue Gray’s report could provide some cover for the wounded Prime Minister to somehow hold out behind for a while longer, the British public has made up its mind. And so does a growing list of Conservative MPs who believe Boris must go.
The opinion poll numbers are pretty damning. Almost 70 percent of Brits believe Johnson lied and is no longer fit to run the country. The opposition Labor Party has gained a 10-point lead over the ruling Conservatives – their widest lead in more than a decade – and that lead is growing by the week, or certainly with each new report that emerges on drinks, parties and gatherings Whitehall while the rest of the UK was sealed off, kept separate or ordered not to mix and mingle.
Just not in Downing Street.
Highest Death Rate
There are so many parties now that it’s difficult to keep track of when there weren’t any — and this in a country where the Johnson administration has faced claims that it did not act quickly or harshly enough to curb the spread of the coronavirus. And that in a country that has the highest death rate from Covid 19 in Europe.
Gray is being described in some Whitehall neighborhoods as “the most powerful person you’ve never heard of” – a label that seems ominously true for Johnson as she examines evidence surrounding the social soirées that at first glance Violations of pandemic legislation appear to be .
Boris may have thought some of the meetings were work meetings, but she’ll judge whether they were boozy parties or business brunches. According to his own statements in Parliament, Boris apparently cannot see any difference.
Dominic Cummings, once Johnson’s right-hand man, apparently could and says he warned the PM the drink gatherings were illegal and he must stop them. Cummings says he is willing to swear it under oath – as have other senior Number 10 officials – and testify to Gray.
When it was announced, the Gray inquiry was to look at meetings at Downing Street on 27 November and 18 December 2020, and one at the Department for Education on 10 December.
If only. Now she looks at numerous events that have contributed to a general feeling across Britain that there is one rule for those in Downing Street and another for everyone else. Rules preventing loved ones from saying a final goodbye to thousands who died of Covid during the long partying season in the corridors of power.
Two separate parties
And perhaps the report that has done most damage is that of two separate parties at the office complex that is the Prime Minister’s evening and late night residence on April 16, 2021 – the eve before Queen Elizabeth made a formal, lonely and stoic ceremony said goodbye at Prince Philip’s funeral.
Johnson has officially apologized to the Queen for this. And for that alone he has earned so much scorn from the monarchy-loving British public that it’s hard to imagine his image ever being restored, even if he is somehow to survive this septic pit of scandal.
Gray’s team will “look at all relevant records” and be allowed to “speak with staff” as witnesses. Yes, that means sifting through tons of emails, electronic schedules, calendar invites, and mobile apps to see what happened where. And who was there?
Arguably one of the safest complexes in the world, Downing Street protects the UK’s political leadership.
And that means every corner of the complex is covered by video surveillance – certainly enough to show Boris’ whereabouts at almost any moment once he’s outside his private apartments.
Yes, and there are logs of comings and goings, electronic footprints also left by ID cards that are commonplace in most office environments.
Although no timeline has been set for the report, there have been some reports that it could appear as early as this weekend. Act too hastily and there are fears it may not be complete. Act too late and fear a cover-up.
A political swamp
Any waiting prolongs the scandal that has paralyzed the government and only increases the likelihood that there will be more damning revelations that will plunge Boris further into political quagmire.
But inquiries from the authorities take time. An internal investigation into allegations of staff bullying by Home Secretary Priti Patel lasted six months, while that into MP Damian Green and pornographic images on his work computer lasted around two months.
Keep in mind that the Gray Inquiry does not have the judicial powers of a parliamentary or independent inquiry. Instead, it will be a methodical collection of facts, likely to be presented in a very clear manner, without unnecessary detail or embellishment. And it is the work of the Cabinet Office – and by extension the Prime Minister – that has the final say.
However, should Johnson be tempted to redact or soften his words, alter his facts, or perform a William Barr-like suppression of the most damning details, there is a grave risk that the original report would be leaked – which would certainly spell the PM’s fate seal that would actually happen and become known.
This work, these 50 Shades of Gray, is the most anticipated publishing event in years. However, most Brits have already made up their minds. It’s pretty much black and white for them.