When is the Sue Gray report due? What happens now after Met Police bombshell

Boris Johnson’s rivals are warning of an “establishment stitch-up” and a “Whitehall whitewash” over the Sue Gray report on Downing Street parties.

It appears the top civil servant will have to split her report in two – or delay it entirely – after the Met Police asked her to cut some references to gatherings it’s investigating.

Ms Gray could decide as soon as today how to proceed with her report after the bombshell move.

But either way, a late or half-baked report could fall short of the “killer blow” to Boris Johnson ’s authority that triggers a leadership challenge.

And the PM clearly thinks he’s in the clear for now – as Parliament is set to rise with no publication today, and he’ll spend the weekend kicking back at Chequers.

Sir Keir Starmer said the government was “paralysed” by the chaos, which has come after days of briefing and counter-briefing about the report.

Labour ’s leader said: “While the Tories are focused on this charade of Boris Johnson’s making, people around the country are worried about paying their bills, whether they can afford to fill up their car, and about the tax rises about to be imposed on them in a few weeks’ time.

“They are getting no answers from a government mired in sleaze and scandal.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This gets murkier by the minute.

“Sue Gray and the Met are in difficult positions but the sequence of events and the situation arrived at now creates the suspicion – however unfairly – that the process of inquiry is aiding Johnson at the expense of public accountability.”

Here’s what on earth is going on – and what might happen next.

What is the Sue Gray report?

Top civil servant Sue Gray is investigating a string of parties between May 2020 and April 2021 – mostly in No10 and its garden.

The 64-year-old took over the inquiry from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case after it emerged a party had been held in his own office.

Her probe was set up to get “a general understanding of the nature of the gatherings”.

That means saying who attended, the “setting and the purpose”, and “reference to adherence to the guidance in place at the time”.

But she cannot rule whether the PM broke the law (which is for police) or the Ministerial Code (which is for a different watchdog).

And the names of junior staff are likely to be kept anonymous. Disciplinary action will be kept secret too.

Top civil servant Sue Gray is investigating a string of parties


Parliament TV)

When is the Sue Gray report due – and why is it delayed?

Her report was due this week, with Boris Johnson promising to publish it within a short time of receiving it.

But it was thrown into chaos after the Met Police began investigating “a number of” the Downing Street gatherings she’d looked at.

Government and police officials are wrangling over what parts of the report could prejudice a police investigation.

Sources claimed earlier this week that Scotland Yard had no objection to the report being published.

But after days of confusion, the Met Police said: “For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report.

Boris Johnson on a visit to Holyhead as he anxiously awaited the report


Getty Images)

“The Met did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation.”

This means the report now has to be either published with key details missing, or delayed entirely, or in full defying the police – a terrible choice for Ms Gray.

As of lunchtime on Friday, Ms Gray was still in talks about whether and how she could release her report.

Do the police have a good reason for this?

Scotland Yard’s decision prompted bafflement after the force spent weeks not investigating, only to launch one at the worst moment.

Lawyers point out Sue Gray’s report is very unlikely to prejudice any court case, because lockdown breaches are almost always punished with on-the-spot fines.

Nazir Afzal, a former chief Crown prosecutor for the North West, said on Twitter : “This is absolute nonsense from the Met Police. A purely factual report by Sue Gray cannot possibly prejudice a police investigation. They just have to follow the evidence, of which the report will be a part.”

Top barrister Adam Wagner, who is an expert on Covid rules, tweeted: “I am not a criminal lawyer so perhaps I am missing something.

Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick with Boris Johnson (file photo)


WPA Pool)

“How would a factual civil service report about events the police is investigating ‘prejudice’ their investigation?”

Former No10 aide Nick Timothy said it was “absurd to say that publishing Gray derails a police investigation/prosecution. These are fixed penalty notice offences.”

But others pointed out that Scotland Yard wants to “avoid any prejudice to our investigation ” – “investigation”, not prosecution.

Nick Aldworth, a former Met chief superintendent, said knowing what’s in the report could “give the potential defendants an opportunity to conceal or alter evidence”.

Barrister Andrew Keogh tweeted: “‘Criminal proceedings’ does not just mean a trial, so prejudice to them also means the investigation.

“Giving a potential suspect early sight of other evidence may for eg risk prejudice. We need to think wider on this one. Police slammed for not acting, now for doing it properly.”

Why is there so much confusion over the release date?

The Mirror understands confusion was worsened by an anonymous briefing from the Met.

Police sources claimed on Tuesday that Scotland Yard had no objection to Sue Gray’s report being published in full.

But No10 later learned this was not, in fact the case. The opposite was actually true, and Scotland Yard still had questions over the report.

Boris Johnson will come to Parliament to make a statement


POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Will the Sue Gray report be published in full?

No10 has repeatedly promised to publish the full findings of Sue Gray – in other words, the same report she hands to No10.

But the more relevant question is how much Sue Gray’s report will be “self-censored” before it gets to No10.

Even before the Met statement, the Mirror understood it would not contain all the evidence she received, only a summary, and could leave out individual staff names.

This meant it would not contain elements like text exchanges or photos of Boris Johnson with wine bottles.

Now that the Met Police have intervened, whole parts of Sue Gray’s account – by definition the most damaging ones – could be left out too.

Will this all help Boris Johnson?

Most observers think it will. The timing of the report is crucial for Boris Johnson because it affects his own MPs trying to topple him as Prime Minister.

54 Tory MPs need to send no confidence letters to trigger a leadership challenge, and many were waiting for the outcome of Sue Gray’s report before deciding.

One Tory elected in 2019 told the Mirror things had “quietened down in the past week”, adding: “Sometimes you get to the precipice, look over and go ‘aagh!’.”

Pushing any conclusions into the long grass could allow the Prime Minister more time to “sort out” Downing Street and satisfy his MPs with a response.

It could also ensure media coverage and public outrage over the scandal die down, meaning even if dozens of people are fined, he survives politically.

Meanwhile, publishing a half-baked report now will allow him to deflect and bluster, claiming he’s been exonerated by a half-report. There are no good options.

Did Boris Johnson talk to the Met to ensure a ‘stitch-up’?

Downing Street insisted it did not ask Sue Gray’s team to go back to the Met to ensure her report did not interfere with police investigations.

A spokesman for Boris Johnson said: “It’s an independent investigation. we haven’t been privy to the details of that investigation or any of its content.

“So that would be a matter for the investigations team and the Met.”

Asked if No 10 had any conversations with the Met about the Gray report and what could be published, the spokesman said: “Not that I’m aware of, no.”

Asked if it was correct that the announcement from the Met – that they asked for the Gray report to make minimal reference to alleged events they are investigating – had no involvement from No 10, the spokesman said: “I believe that’s correct.”

He added: “I’m not across the detail, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to be so.”

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