Its conclusions will weigh on the political future of Boris Johnson: the administrative investigation into the “partygate”, made public on Wednesday May 25, directly implicates the leaders of Downing Street, called upon to “take responsibility” for the parties held in the residence of the Prime Minister in violation of anti-Covid-19 confinements.
“I take full responsibility for everything that happened under my leadership,” the Conservative leader told MPs, renewing his apologies, but did not respond to opposition calls to resign.
If Boris Johnson had seemed in recent weeks in a position to overcome this scandal capable of dislodging him from power, the affair was relaunched this week by the publication of damning testimonies and photos in the media.
After police sanctions relating to this scandal were inflicted last week, it was senior civil servant Sue Gray, reputed to be intractable, who delivered her conclusions in a report detailing, event by event, e-mails and supporting photos, this which took place behind the scenes of power while the British were forced to make heavy sacrifices.
Without naming blame or recommending sanctions, she blames the power at the highest level for these events, which “should not have been allowed to happen.”
“It is also true that some of the less experienced officials believed that their participation in some of these events was permissible, given the presence of senior leaders. Senior leaders, whether political or official, must take responsibility for this culture,” she said.
The soap opera is relaunched
The question now is whether these new elements will be sufficient to rekindle the anger within the majority, a time of appeasement, or even to demonstrate that the head of government has lied to Parliament, which could hasten his departure.
Boris Johnson speaks in Parliament on Wednesday on the subject, in addition to his weekly session of answering questions from MPs, and the media are talking about a possible press conference during the afternoon.
After seeing his popularity plummet over the winter due to “partygate”, Boris Johnson managed to improve his image by showing himself at the forefront of Western support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion.
His party, however, suffered heavy losses in local elections in early May, chipping away at the image of a winning machine at the ballot box that has long protected the former mayor of London, and historic inflation is fueling discontent. The government is to announce a new aid plan for households strangled by soaring energy bills, which the opposition has linked to a desire to forget about “partygate”.
One hundred and twenty-six fines, including one for Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson’s explanations promise to be tricky on this day, which marks the end of a long suspense around the work of Sue Gray, long delayed by the parallel launch of a police investigation. The latter ended last week, revealing the extent of the violations of the anti-Covid-19 rules imposed by Downing Street in response to the pandemic which has killed nearly 180,000 people in the United Kingdom.
A total of 126 fines issued for breaches in eight events, including one to Boris Johnson himself, for a surprise birthday drink in June 2020.
This record was, despite everything, considered relatively lenient for the Prime Minister, who had participated in seemingly more serious rallies.
Boris Johnson apologized when he received the fine, but refused to resign. But if the new elements published convince more than fifty members of the majority to let go of him, he risks finding himself targeted by a motion of no confidence, almost three years after his triumphant arrival in Downing Street in the midst of the psychodrama of Brexit.
The report could also fuel the accusations of lies, which will be examined by another investigation, this one parliamentary. If the latter concludes that he knowingly lied in the gallery of the House of Commons by claiming not to have broken the rules, he will be supposed to resign.
Criticism from the opposition, who were loudly calling for his resignation, however, has waned since police opened an investigation into Labor leader Keir Starmer. The latter has promised to resign if the police fine him for violating anti-Covid-19 rules during a campaign trip in 2021, during which he ordered curries and beers for his team.