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A member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet said he was “absolutely confident” no administration officials tried to have the report on the so-called Partygate scandal watered down before its publication last week.
Brandon Lewis, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, said it was well known that pressure tactics wouldn’t work on Sue Gray, the senior civil servant who prepared the report on social gatherings by government members that violated Covid lockdown rules.
“I don’t believe that anybody would be able to pressure Sue Gray into putting any kind of report out that she wasn’t comfortable was the full and proper report,” he said on Sky News.
Lewis was asked about a Sunday Times report that senior members of Johnson’s team had pressured Gray to delete details on some of the gatherings, and to remove some names of officials who attended.
Boris Johnson Is Looking Beyond Partygate But Hurdles Loom
The Gray report published on May 25 contained lurid details about a series of gatherings during lockdowns that led police to issue more than 100 fines against officials. Johnson said he was “appalled” by the findings, but insisted it was time to move on.
Gray didn’t investigate one of the more serious allegations -- of a reported party in Johnson’s quarters in November 2020, complete with loud Abba music, on the evening the prime minister’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings left following a power struggle.
The Times reported that Steve Barclay, Johnson’s chief of staff, had pressured Gray to exclude details of that gathering. The prime minister’s office denied to the Times that anyone had pressured Gray.
Boris Johnson Defends British Boozing With Nod to Wartime Spirit
Fallout from Partygate has sapped support for Johnson and his Conservative Party. A YouGov poll on Saturday signaled that if elections were held today, Johnson risked losing his own seat and the Tories would hold only three of 88 battleground districts.
Still, according to a tally by Sky News, only 24 Tory MPs have submitted letters calling for a confidence vote on Johnson, well short of the 54 needed to automatically trigger a ballot.
Lewis said a confidence vote was unlikely and that Johnson would lead the Conservatives into the next election, expected to be held in 2024.
“I don’t think it is in the interests of the country, I don’t think it is in the interests of the Conservative Party” to replace Johnson, he said.
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