Thursday, February 22

Sue Gray report to be completed by end of May at earliest, sources say | gray report

Sue Gray expects to complete her report into Covid law-breaking parties across Westminster at the end of May at the earliest, the Guardian has been told.

Sources said that the senior civil servant, who for months has been forced to sit on her findings about illegal gatherings while Scotland Yard carries out its own inquiry, believes the police investigation could drag on for several more weeks.

It may then take Gray a further fortnight for her to compile her report, meaning that it is possible the final version will not be delivered to No 10 for at least another month.

One insider said they believed Gray was “working towards the end of May as the most likely timetable” for completing her report.

Another admitted it was “wishful thinking” that Gray’s report would be published before the end of next month.

While Gray was muted in her criticism of specific senior government figures in the “update” she published in February, she is expected to be far more critical of specific individuals, including Boris Johnson, in her report.

A separate source said Gray was likely to be deeply critical of “how particular individuals ran No 10 and how that contributed to rule-breaking”.

They added she was likely to offer recommendations about how similar law-breaking, cultural issues and confused lines of accountability should be prevented or dealt with.

No 10 has committed to publishing the full version of Gray’s report.

The Met has said it will not issue any further updates from its Operation Hillman squad which is investigating the partygate issues until after the May local elections.

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Some of those who attended gatherings in Downing Street have still not received questionnaires from Scotland Yard quizzing them on their attendance and whether they had a “reasonable excuse” for breaking the rules.

Of the eight events under investigation by the Met, fines are said to have been handed out for four so far: A Cabinet Office leaving drinks in June 2020, the party held the night before Prince Philip’s funeral in No 10, a “bring your own booze” gathering in the Downing Street garden and a birthday gathering for Johnson in the cabinet room in June 2020, for which the prime minister was among those fined.

Tory MPs are braced for Johnson to receive a second fine, with some preparing to wait for that moment until they submit their letter of no confidence in the prime minister in a bid to trigger a vote on his leadership.

They are also considering a potential poor Conservative performance at the local elections as a chance to argue that the ongoing Partygate saga will continue to cost votes.

In a bid to build bridges with the newer intake of Conservatives that won seats from Labor for the first time in 2019, Johnson’s new adviser, David Canzini, addressed the group known as “the blue barricade” on Monday night.

Canzini was brought in to improve the political nous of No 10, and has been dubbed the “mini Lynton”, after the Tory election strategist Lynton Crosby.

Meanwhile, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary and a possible future Tory leadership contender, spoke to the One Nation Conservative group – known as the more moderate wing of the party.

She discussed the Northern Ireland protocol and ongoing war on Ukraine, but insiders said it would be a helpful group to have the support of if a contest is held to replace Johnson.

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