Boris Johnson responds to Sue Gray report findings
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The senior civil servant concluded there has been “failures of leadership and judgment” in No10 and the Cabinet Office during the pandemic. It called for an overhaul of the culture of the Downing Street workplace but did not lay blame at any individuals.
The findings – watered down because of the Met Police investigation – were as good as Mr Johnson could have hoped for.
Conservative MPs had been waiting to see the report before deciding whether to back their leader.
And he looked relatively safe: there was no smoking gun.
Updating MPs in the Commons an hour later, the Prime Minister made a short statement in which he said “I’m sorry” and said he accepted the findings of the report in full.
He also promised to make changes to the way No10 operates to placate those angry at the rule-breaking at the heart of Government.
However, from there it all went downhill for some MPs, with many Tories shocked and furious.
Launching a full-throttled defence in the face of attacks from Sir Keir Starmer, MPs could be heard gasping as he accused the former Director of Prosecutions of failing to prosecute Jimmy Saville.
The Prime Minister also left his own backbenchers venting as he refused to commit to publishing Sue Gray’s more detailed findings once the Met Police investigation ended.
Several Conservatives criticised their leader as they spoke out against him in the Commons.
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Newcastle-under-Lyme MP Aaron Bell spoke about his grandmother’s lockdown funeral, asking: “Does the Prime Minister think I’m a fool?”
Former Prime Minister Theresa May concluded: “The Covid regulations imposed significant restrictions on the freedoms of members of the public.
“They had a right to expect their Prime Minister to have read the rules, to understand the meaning of the rules and indeed those around him to have done so too and to set an example in following those rules.
“What the Gray report does show is that Number 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right honourable friend had not read the rules or didn’t understand what they meant and others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to Number 10. Which was it?”
As Mr Johnson attempted to bat off the criticism there was a growing sense he was not being genuine in his apology.
His performance risks an influx of no confidence letters being submitted.
If 54 MPs do so, a vote on his leadership must be held.
At 3pm the Prime Minister looked like he would probably cling on to his job, but as the afternoon turns into evening, his position is looking increasingly precarious.
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