Two weeks ago when he was finally challenged in Parliament, Boris Johnson claimed he would respond when the Sue Gray report was published and that he would act appropriately. Yesterday the report was published and the responses from Johnson included phrases such as “I suggest that my right hon. Friend waits to see the conclusion of the inquiry.” and “We will be taking further steps in the days ahead.” and “I will await their conclusions.” and it is very clear that he is not intending to do any of that, just as he was not intending to do what he said two weeks ago.
One of the contributions he made came from Ed Davey who ended by stating “Does he care about the enormous hurt his actions have caused to bereaved families across our country? Will he finally accept that the only decent thing he can do now is to resign?” and Boris Johnson simply delayed matters further by stating “I have apologised several times, but I must say that I think we should wait for the outcome of the inquiry before jumping to the conclusions that the right hon. Gentleman has raised. In the meantime, we should focus on the issues that matter to the British people.” A significan number of contributions took place. Theresa May was the second person to speak after Boris Johnson made his initial statement, the first was Keir Starmer. May’s call was very clear and yet Johnson just ignored her
Mrs Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): 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 them him to have done so, too—and to set an example in following those rules. What the Gray report does show is that No. 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right hon. Friend had not read the rules, or did not understand what they meant—and others around him—or they did not think the rules applied to No. 10. Which was it?
The Prime Minister: I would say, with great respect to my right hon. Friend [Interruption.] No, that is not what the Gray report says. [Interruption.] It is not what the Gray report says, but I suggest that my right hon. Friend waits to see the conclusion of the inquiry.
A few comments later came from Andrew Mitchell and Angela Eagle and the final few words from Johnson are clearly not intended to take place.
Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend recall that ever since he joined the party’s candidates list 30 years ago, and until we got him into No. 10, he has enjoyed my full-throated support? But I am deeply concerned by these events, and very concerned indeed by some of the things he has said from that Dispatch Box, and has said to the British public and to our constituents. When he kindly invited me to see him 10 days ago, I told him that I thought he should think very carefully about what was now in the best interests of our country, and of the Conservative party. I have to tell him that he no longer enjoys my support.
The Prime Minister : I must respectfully tell my right hon. Friend, great though the admiration is that I have for him, that I simply think he is mistaken in his views, and I urge him to reconsider upon full consideration of the inquiry.
Dame Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): The Prime Minister told us: “I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no covid rules were broken.” We now know that 12 of the 16 parties are subject to a police investigation, and that of the remaining four, the Sue Gray report states that she has seen a “serious failure” to observe the high standards at No. 10. She has seen “failures of leadership” and of judgment, yet the Prime Minister thinks that is fine. Just how bad do things have to be before he takes personal responsibility, does what everybody in the country wants him to do, and resigns?
The Prime Minister: What we are doing is taking the action that I have described to set up a Prime Minister’s department to improve the operation of No. 10. We will be taking further steps in the days ahead.
Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): The shocking incompetence of the Met police has meant that we have a report that has been gutted, but frankly, we did not need Sue Gray to tell us about the level of dishonour and deception that has infected not only Downing Street but so many Tory Members. It has been excruciating to watch so many Tory MPs and Ministers willing to defend the indefensible and calculating what is in their own party political interests rather than what is right for our country, complicit in the same decaying system where the pursuit of power trumps integrity. The Prime Minister is certainly a bad apple, but the whole tree is rotten and the whole country wants reform. Could we not make a start with a major overhaul of the ministerial code, given that its founding assumption—that it could be policed by the Prime Minister of the day, because they would be a person of honesty and integrity—has been so widely, comprehensively and utterly discredited?
The Prime Minister: We are reforming the ministerial code. Of all the things that the hon. Lady has just said, I disagree with her most passionately about what she said about the police. I think they do an outstanding job, and I think we should allow them to get on with that job. I will await their conclusions.
There is clearly no intention from Johnson to change matters