The senior official investigating claims of at least nine parties breaking lockdown in Downing Street has had access to a detailed record of staff movements in and out of the building from security data, including magnetic cards.
Whitehall figures say the investigation by Sue Gray, who is expected to publish a 25-page report this week, has been “forensic,” looking in “granular detail” at who was in the building for social gatherings, some of the which continued. until dawn, and the precise times of their arrivals and departures.
Johnson and his staff, as well as officials and others who attended the investigation, are eagerly awaiting Gray’s conclusions this weekend. He has been assisted by six experienced HR staff.
Many Conservative MPs say they are refraining from deciding whether to ask for the prime minister’s resignation until they see his conclusions and hear the reactions of their constituents.
Rumors have also been circulating in the government in recent days that Gray may have details of another meeting in Downing Street, possibly at the prime minister’s apartment and involving close friends of his wife, which has yet to come to light. . The discovery of a tenth meeting when Covid restrictions were in place would seriously undermine Johnson’s attempts to survive the crisis.
But senior Whitehall sources also say information from data logs recording movements for security purposes could be decisive, as they will have given Gray conclusive proof of who was where and when, and how many people remained after the attack. normal working hours, details she would know. otherwise they are missing.
“This information is conclusive,” said a source who knows Gray. “He’s not someone who says ‘I saw him at a party.’ This is proof of who was where, how many people were inside the building at any given time.
“She will have been looking at all that information, which is much more valuable than what people say. It’s the evidence.”
The source added that security checks would also have allowed Gray to draw conclusions about the culture at No. 10, which appears to have allowed the parties to become regular events. “If you get the data and find a large group that left at 1 a.m. in the morning, then it looks like it was a party and if that was happening regularly, you can judge by that.”
Grey’s friends who have worked with her say she will be scrupulously fair but also “ruthless” in her pursuit of the truth. A former colleague and friend said she was in no mood to let officials take the heat. “She has shown before in previous investigations that she will hold officials to account because she is very strong on civil service behaviour, but if she believes that politicians or others should take responsibility, she will make that very clear,” he said. the fountain.
While Gray may mention some high-ranking officials and senior government figures in his 25-page main report, he is expected to follow precedent and not make the identities of junior officials or special advisers public.
Their names are expected to be included in another document that will remain confidential and will be sent to the human resources teams in their respective departments, who would then be responsible for determining what sanctions, if any, should be imposed.
After another torrid week for Johnson, which saw the defection of Conservative MP Christian Wakeford to the Labor Party, the prime minister has spent the weekend calling MPs to try to shore up his position.
Fewer than a dozen Conservative MPs are believed to have written to the chairman of the 1922 Committee to demand a vote of confidence, but many more say they will if the Gray report concludes the prime minister breached lockdown rules and more incriminating information emerges. . . If they write 54 or more, a vote of confidence must be taken. If Johnson loses that, he has to resign. A meeting of the 1922 Committee on Wednesday will be a key judge of the Tory mood.
Wakeford told the Observer that Johnson was doomed. “If Boris Johnson expects Sue Gray’s report to save his bacon, then he’s in for a surprise. The rot has already set in and many of my former colleagues have already concluded that he is not fit to lead the Conservative Party. Not only because he is an electoral ballast, but because he is not really fit to lead the country.
“Are there enough of them to trigger a leadership election? I’m sure there are. Will they go ahead with that? That is their business. What I do know is that in seats like Bury South the voters have decided for him. So it’s just a question of whether MPs choose to listen to their constituents or to the party whips.”
Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish Conservative leader, said the prime minister was unfit for the job. “I think one of the reasons why he is in such a dangerous situation is not just because of the apparent breach of the rules, although that is a big part, but because there is fatigue even within the party and certainly from my colleagues. parliamentarians. because of the drama that has been emanating from No 10,” she said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism