Boris Johnson finally got to see the highly anticipated “partygate” investigation this weekend, after police insisted they hadn’t delayed its release.
Reports of a possible outside challenger to Tory leadership circulated as the official investigation by civil servant Sue Gray into possible lockdown breaches at Downing Street and Whitehall continued to await.
Foreign Minister Rishi Sunak or Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are widely believed to be the leading contenders to win the top job if the prime minister is ousted.
But the Daily Mail reported on Friday that centrist Conservatives are backing former soldier Tom Tugendhat to succeed Johnson.
The newspaper said some Conservative MPs believe the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee represents the “best chance for a fresh start”.
Meanwhile, new allegations have surfaced regarding a reported meeting on Mr. Johnson’s birthday in June 2020.
The Telegraph reported on Friday night that the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie, had sent messages to staff at Number 10 offering to bring a cake to the meeting.
As doubts loom over the future of his prime ministerial post, Johnson is understood to “increase deterrence to prevent bloodshed” between Russia and Ukraine with a visit to the region in the coming days amid rising tensions. .
The prime minister is determined to “accelerate diplomatic efforts” during a trip in the coming days and will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone.
The release of the long-awaited Gray report on alleged lockdown-breaking parties was derailed on Tuesday when Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who had long resisted calls to investigate, announced that her officers had opened a criminal investigation.
Scotland Yard confirmed on Friday night that it had received the requested material from the Cabinet Office to support its investigation.
The force said officers would now examine this “without fear or favouritism” to establish if any rules were broken.
The Met had been criticized by legal experts and Conservative MPs for urging Ms Gray to limit the publication of her investigation into allegations of parties breaking lockdown at Number 10.
But the force insisted Friday night that it had not delayed the release of the report.
Commander Catherine Roper, who heads the Met’s Central Specialized Crime Command, said the timing of the document’s release was a Cabinet Office matter.
The PA news agency understands that the Prime Minister could receive a copy of the report over the weekend or next week.
It is expected to ship to issue 10 shortly, rather than in a matter of weeks or months.
But it is understood that he will comply with police requests, which means certain details could be excluded.
Downing Street declined to comment on the Met’s statement.
The Cabinet Office had no further comment on when the report would be released.
He said the investigation of Ms. Gray is continuing, there is ongoing contact with the police and the findings will be made public. The department added that it would not make any further speculation about the investigation being carried out by the senior official.
Ms Roper said the force had asked for “minimal reference” to be made in the report to “relevant events”, to “protect the integrity of the police investigation” and to be “as fair as possible to those who are subject to to that.”
“This will only be necessary until these matters are concluded, and is to give detectives the most reliable picture of what transpired in these events. We intend to complete our investigations quickly, fairly and proportionately,” he said.
“We have not delayed this report and the timing of its publication is a matter for the Cabinet Office investigation team.”
SNP Westminster group leader Ian Blackford tweeted: “No one will accept a Westminster cover-up. If the UK government refuses to publish the full, unredacted report, it will prove, once again, that Westminster is utterly corrupt and hopeless. It won’t save Boris Johnson’s skin. He will only add to the calls for him to leave.”
And the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, said: “Anything short of the full report would be a Whitehall whitewash not worth the paper it’s written on.”
The Met has previously argued that the restrictions in the Cabinet Office report on “partygate” were necessary to “prevent any harm to our investigation”, indicating that it was watered down or greatly delayed.
The new statement, issued Friday night, did not mention the term “harm.”
Ms. Roper said that the offenses under investigation, when proven, would normally result in the issuance of a fixed penalty notice.
“People identified as having potentially breached these regulations will normally be contacted in writing and invited to explain their actions, even if they feel they had a reasonable excuse,” it said.
“After this process, and when there is sufficient evidence that people have broken the rules without a reasonable excuse, the agents will decide whether to apply the measure.
“If the decision is to take enforcement action, a report will be sent to the ACRO Criminal Records Office, which will issue the fixed penalty notice. The recipients can pay the fixed fine and the matter will be considered closed.
“If a recipient disputes the fixed fine notice, then the case will be referred back to the Met, where officers will consider whether to pursue the matter in magistrates’ court.
“As the Commissioner said, we will not be providing ongoing comment, but will continue to update when significant progress is made in the investigation process.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.