For weeks, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has managed to wriggle out of admitting that he attended law-breaking parties during lockdown by telling everyone to wait for an internal report to be released. Now, the police have effectively instructed the author of that report to take out anything that could incriminate the prime minister.
As more and more evidence of the lockdown-busting parties has appeared in the British press over the past few weeks, Johnson has been clinging to the absurd position that he can’t say if he attended the gatherings until a civil service investigation tells him whether or not he was there.
The report was due to be released this week until a bombshell statement from London’s Metropolitan Police on Friday morning confirmed that it had asked the author, senior civil servant Sue Gray, to make “minimal reference” in her report to events that could “prejudice” the force’s own investigation into lockdown breaches by the government.
That means that Gray’s report, if it’s ever released, will be gutted of all of the most damaging allegations against the prime minister. The Met investigation could take months, and, if it finds that Johnson did not break the law, the force will be under no obligation to explain its working. The story that, at one point, looked like it could result in the prime minister being forced from office could simply be left to fizzle out.
Johnson’s enemies, of course, smell a rat. The Met held off from investigating the damning reports until earlier this week, when the publication of Gray’s report appeared to be imminent. The opening of the police investigation now appears to have defanged the report just as it looked as if it could have threatened Johnson’s future.
Days before the Met announced its investigation, The Daily Telegraph obtained leaks that would have terrified Johnson. It was claimed that police officers tasked with guarding Downing Street had handed “extremely damning” evidence about the parties over to Gray. One source said: “If Boris Johnson is still PM by end of week, I'd be very surprised.”
That evidence may now never see the light of day.
An unnamed government figure told The Sun that Met Commissioner Cressida Dick has effectively sabotaged the work that could have exposed the PM, commenting: “Cressida has completely fucked it all up.” Another unidentified government source told the newspaper: “Anything worth reading will now have to be held back... So there comes a point in deciding if it is even worth publishing until it can be run in full.”
The campaign group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice wrote in a furious statement: “Tragically, it seems here that the Metropolitan Police have broken the trust of the public by first refusing to investigate flagrant law breaking, and now demanding any other investigation’s hide the most serious illegalities happening at Downing Street.”
The pro-Scottish independence SNP, the third largest grouping in the British parliament, said in a statement: “This U.K. government farce has gone on long enough. People are understandably concerned that this increasingly looks like a cover-up.”
To date, there have been 17 reports of gatherings held in government buildings while its own COVID restrictions were in force.