Thu. May 19th, 2022

Boris Johnson told Tory MPs “we will get through this” as he prepares to receive the long-awaited Sue Gray report on parties in Whitehall breaking down and fighting for his political life.

Johnson’s allies began circling the wagons on an important day in Westminster, with one minister warning rebel Tory MPs that if they overthrew the prime minister they could force an undesirable early general election.

Gray, a senior civil servant accused of investigating the “partygate scandal” in Downing Street and other state departments, completed her report.

But by early Wednesday morning, she still had to hand it over to Johnson. “We did not have it,” a number 10 official said. Unless the Prime Minister sees the report soon, publication may slide to Thursday, contributing to the feverish atmosphere in the House of Commons.

Johnson was preparing to make a statement to MPs about the report after Prime Minister’s question time on Wednesday afternoon, but the timetable appears to be slipping.

Westminster has been flooded with speculation that Gray has seen photos of parties held during England’s Covid closing as well as WhatsApp messages. The Metropolitan Police announced on Tuesday that they are launching its own investigation.

One official gave an alternative view that the Gray report would be “rather thin” and would not name the names of those responsible for organizing the parties, leaving Johnson to draw his own conclusions.

Nevertheless, Johnson’s allies told MPs that the prime minister would act decisively after receiving the Gray report to shake up a “drinking culture” at the heart of the government and revamp his team. An uproar between Johnson’s Number 10 operation and the governing party’s management operation – the whips’ office – is expected.

Johnson told MPs Tuesday night he believes he will survive with his job intact. “He said we would get through this.” The MP added: “He really believes he will get out of this.”

However, some rebels are expected to use the report to urge a motion of no confidence in the prime minister. A total of 54 Tory MPs must submit letters to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, to cause a vote.

A faltering Tory MP met Johnson on Tuesday. “We talked for 20 minutes and he did regret what happened, but I am waiting for the report,” they said.

Foreign Minister Liz Truss told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Wednesday: “I suspect we will not have much longer to wait for the Sue Gray report, where we can have a fuller overview of what exactly what happened. “

Truss, a potential leadership rival, added: “I believe the prime minister should continue in office. I think he is doing a good job. He apologized, he admitted that mistakes were made.”

With his premiership at a knife point, Johnson’s allies deployed a number of arguments to try to keep the rebels at a distance. Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed that if they left Johnson, an election would follow.

“It is my view that we have, for better or worse, moved towards essentially a presidential system and that the mandate is therefore personal rather than completely party,” he told the BBC. News Night. “Any prime minister would be well advised to seek a new mandate.”

Rees-Mogg’s assertion is not supported by recent precedent; previous prime ministers who had gained power halfway through a parliament – including Theresa May, Gordon Brown and John Major – did not immediately call an election.

Other Johnson supporters have tried to downplay the importance of the party’s allegations, which suggest the prime minister should be allowed to focus on more important issues such as the Ukraine crisis.

Northern Ireland Minister Conor Burns said Johnson was not aware that his wife and staff had arranged a surprise birthday party for him during the closing in June 2020. “It was not a premeditated, organized party,” he told C4 News. “In a sense, he was inundated with a cake.”

Those informed about Gray’s investigation said the report would take the form of her conclusions, which span many pages, but would not include a significant amount of evidence from her interviews, such as photos or messages.

One official said Gray would deliver an accurate and not a longer report that required editorials – fearing a longer report would bring accusations of a whitewash.

“Everything we give to the prime minister will be published,” a government insider said. “He will not receive a complete file of every single WhatsApp or witness statement.”

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