Harrogate MP criticises 'sorry state of affairs in Downing Street' after Gray's damning partygate report is published

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones says civil servant Sue Gray's partygate report reveals a "sorry state of affairs in Downing Street" under Prime Minister Boris Johnson when it comes to gatherings during lockdown.

By Graham Chalmers
Tuesday, 1st February 2022, 3:37 pm
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said Boris Johnson had not gone far enough in his apology over partygate.

Increasingly unhappy at how Mr Johnson is handling the crisis, Mr Jones said not only had Boris Johnson not gone far enough in his apology but that he himself had now had discussions with Tory party whips and the chair of the 1922 committee in which he had made them aware of exactly what his constituents thought of the affair.

“It is clear that what was published presents a sorry state of affairs in Downing Street and in the Cabinet Office," said Mr Jones.

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"I think, even those who vocally support the Prime Minister staying in office, acknowledge that things happened that were wrong.

"I wanted to hear an apology which is direct and personal, not just for ‘mistakes that were made’ without specifying what they were and other apologies for ‘how this issue has been handled’.

In terms of his discussions with senior members of his own party, Mr Jones said: “A number of people have asked me if I have given a letter calling for a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister to the chair of the 1922 committee – the Government’s backbench committee. It takes 54 letters to trigger a vote of confidence.

“Letters can be submitted at any time and withdrawn at any time. Any answer any MP gives to that question gives therefore only a snapshot which may change from day-to-day.

"What I will say is that my discussions with the party whips and the chair of the 1922 committee remain confidential – just like my correspondence with constituents – but those discussions have been had and those with influence on this matter are fully aware of all the views I have been receiving from constituents.”

Mr Jones said he wanted to see the report published in full over the Downing Street parties.

“I was disappointed not to receive the full report into gatherings in Downing Street during lockdowns.," Mr Jones said.

"I was also disappointed that the Prime Minister appeared unable to commit to releasing the full Gray report once the police investigation is over.

"That is why, following his statement, I pressed the Prime Minister to release the full report.

"I was pleased that later in the day he agreed to do so. It would have been simpler had he done so in response to my question."

After the damning report was made public yesterday after weeks of delay, Boris Johnson apologised to the House of Commons and promised a shake-up of the culture at No 10 with the pledge "I get it and I will fix it."

The pared back 12-page document condemns what it says are failures of leadership and judgment at No 10 after looking at 16 events in 2020 and 2021 held at Downing Street.

The Met Police have claimed they had no objections to Ms Gray's findings being published in full.

But last Friday they issued a statement saying they had asked the senior civil servant to leave out certain details.

The Met Police are now reportedly investigating 12 of the Downing Street events outlined by Sue Gray and are looking at more than 300 images and 500 pages of information on the alleged parties handed over by the Cabinet Office.

But Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said the whole saga of the Downing Street parties would rumble on until there was "full disclosure".

“Sadly, we will have to wait until the outcome of the police investigation followed by the publication of the full report from Sue Gray to enable this matter to be concluded," Mr Jones said.

"The update we have received describes itself as “extremely limited” and recognises that “it is not possible at present to provide a meaningful report” so conclusions are not possible without the full picture.

"It is clear though that there is significant evidence which the police are now reviewing. That evidence includes hundreds of photos.

"Interfering in a police investigation is obviously wrong, as are those politicians who have been calling for a police investigation and then saying the Prime Minister is hiding behind it.

"It is, therefore, a deeply frustrating time, but correct to let the police do their work.

"I think it is imperative that they work at pace and we can then see both their report and the full Sue Gray report.

“Full transparency at the earliest stage would have been best.

"Full disclosure now is essential. Until that is done, and the actions that might flow from that are taken, the public and the media will not move on.

"And we really do need to get this matter finalised and start talking again about the future and how we meet the challenges that face us.

Under mounting public pressure, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab today claimed the Prime Minister was taking top civil servant Sue Gray's report into parties in No 10 during Covid restrictions seriously.

Worried Tory backbenchers had been arguing in recent weeks that any decision over the future of the Prime Minister should wait for the outcome of the Gray report.

Thus far Boris Johnson continues to retain enough support from his own side to fend off the scandal and remain in his position.

But former Tory cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell warned today that the crisis wouldn't go away and was proving more corrosive than the MPs' expenses scandal to the prospects of the Conservative Party.

In the latest move pushing the day of any decision further back, Downing Street has now announced that an updated report on lockdown parties in No 10 will be published by Sue Gray once the Met Police finish their inquiries.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer is calling for the report to be published in full and the investigations to be wrapped up as soon as possible.