DAN WOOTTON: Sue Gray delivered a damp squib Partygate investigation lacking anything close to a smoking gun. Despite wall-to-wall BBC hysteria, the country and Boris now deserve the chance to move on
Six months of wall-to-wall media hysteria.
Constant opposition calls – even from lockdown beer swilling and curry munching Slippery Starmer – to overturn Boris Johnson’s landslide 2019 election mandate.
Even claims from the apparently impartial ITV News political editor Robert Peston that the UK is heading towards an ‘elected dictatorship’ if the PM isn’t forced from office immediately and presumably replaced with a more ‘acceptable’ lockdown loving remoaner.
The Sue Gray report into what’s become known as ‘Partygate’ must have been pretty goddamn sensational to justify such ongoing hysteria from our MSM, right?
Especially at a time of a European war, once-in-a-generation pandemic recovery and unparalleled cost-of-living crisis…
She’s just delivered a damp squib, lacking anything close to a smoking gun that would encourage disloyal Tory MPs to depose BoJo.
A group of pictures released by Sue Gray show the PM’s birthday party in June 2020 – over which he was fined along with Rishi Sunak and his wife Carrie
Sue Gray’s long-awaited reported was finally published in full today after several months of waiting
For me, this entire farce is about perspective.
I was as effing livid as anyone last December when the initial reports emerged of officials at Number 10 Downing Street quaffing champagne while we were told to cower in our homes.
But I wasn’t surprised.
The lockdown laws were the most unprecedented and frankly disgusting theft of our civil liberties and freedom in modern history.
They were inhumane and should have been unconscionable anywhere outside of communist China and North Korea.
None of our so-called leaders – be it Boris or Starmer or Sturgeon – followed them.
None of us should have followed them either.
But somehow today in the frenzied big screen analysis on Sly News of the exact positioning of the orange juice, apples, M&S sandwiches and, yes, empty alcohol bottles at a miserable looking Number 10 ‘gathering’, that point has been missed.
Now I’ve read all 49 pages of the report.
It paints an unsurprising picture of out of touch government officials with no idea of the hardships they had inflicted on ordinary folk.
But it’s lacking in anything like the picture of Ibiza-style parties the MSM have painted.
For example, The Guardian’s so-called bombshell photo showing groups in the Downing Street garden on May 15 2020 was, in fact, a series of legitimate outdoor meetings, something encouraged at the time. The PM, who was there from 6pm to 7.20pm, had brought down cheese and wine from his home, which uniquely doubles as his workplace.
The garden party on May 20 2020, when we were only legally allowed to meet with one person outdoors, was an inexcusable oversight. But the event was clearly not organised with malicious intent – the idea was to celebrate Number 10 staff, who had been working around the clock, outdoors in a ‘socially distanced’ manner, given the good weather.
Pictured: Dan Wootton
Like at all the other work events, the PM was there only briefly, in this case between 6pm and 6.30pm, to thank the up to 40 staff who had gathered in the garden.
But the infamous ‘bring your own booze’ note by the PM’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds, who seemed to be party organiser in chief, rightly sealed his fate – he was part of a clear out of the management at Number 10.
As I read through the various WhatsApp messages and emails, it does indicate the staff at Number 10 had no idea of the sacrifices so many of us were making at that point by locking ourselves indoors on our own.
But, aside from one or two junior staffers who couldn’t handle their booze, the ‘parties’ were largely leaving drinks for departing colleagues or Christmas Zoom quizzes, where the staff who weren’t working from home took part in person.
At the leaving do for his departing Director of Communications Lee Cain on November 13 2020, for example, Boris was in attendance briefly at 7.17pm, before joining his wife and five special advisers upstairs in the Downing Street flat for the so-called Abba-themed Winner Takes It All meeting, following the exit of Dominic Cummings.
At another leaving do on November 27, the PM gave a short speech between meetings at 6.19pm and 6.45pm. The departing staff member had left the building herself by 6.58pm.
At the Zoom Quiz on December 11 2020, where in person staff were ordered to follow social distancing rules, the Prime Minister joined at 7.50pm to read out the questions for one of the rounds, staying for a grand total of 12 minutes before returning to work in his office.
Gray’s report made obvious to me the need for human contact while at work. In normal times, all the gatherings would have been completely understandable and posed no risk to anyone’s health, given these folk had been working together all day anyway. It’s a right that should have been extended to the rest of the country.
The most damning line from Gray actually related to the treatment of Downing Street cleaners and security guards.
Deploying a ‘masochism strategy’, the Prime Minister will ‘take responsibility’ for lockdown rule-breaking in Downing Street, which is set to be savaged in the much-anticipated report (Johnson is pictured toasting during a Downing St event in November 2020)
She wrote: ‘I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. This was unacceptable.’
Shame on those people, who should take a long hard look at themselves.
But what really matters in the report is the ‘gathering’ in the Cabinet room on June 19 2020, the only incident for which Boris (and his Chancellor Rishi Sunak) have received a fixed penalty notice from the Met police.
The published photos make clear it was not a party – there’s no birthday cake in sight.
In fact, all I could see was a bunch of crusty M&S sandwiches and sad looking fruit, and an equally uncomfortable looking Chancellor, who no doubt just wanted to get on with his next meeting.
Critically, Gray confirms Boris and Rishi were ‘not aware of this event in advance’ and it did not form part of the day’s official diary.
She explains: ‘(Boris) returned from an external visit to No 10 Downing Street at approximately 2.20pm and was taken into the Cabinet Room which had been set up with sandwiches, snacks, soft drinks and cans of beer.’
Gray reports the gathering lasted for just 20 minutes, with the PM’s wife Carrie Johnson in attendance.
Rishi was only there ‘briefly’ because he ‘arrived early’ for the next meeting.
I’m sorry, if anyone is prepared to argue that a 20-minute presentation of some crappy sandwiches between meetings is genuinely reason to throw the country into chaos at a time of economic crisis then they’re nothing more than a partisan shill.
When this scandal emerged, I was clear that to regain my faith Boris had to free Britain fully from the Covid tyranny that has haunted us for much of the last two years.
So far, he has delivered on that front, with England the freest country in the western world.
I am literally exhausted with talking about these low-level rule breaking gatherings involving a few civil servants, many of whom have already fallen on their sword.
Our country deserves better than a campaigning mainstream media, led by the publicly funded BBC, who will stop at nothing to remove the Prime Minister from office.
Of course, there should be scrutiny. But nobody can tell me the official scrutiny of these events has been anything other than exhaustive.
There was no smoking gun in the Met police investigation, nor in Gray’s fully published report today.
Partygate was wrong, but it’s also over.
The country and Boris deserve the chance to move on.
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