Partygate is over, it is time to move on and tackle the real issues facing the country. That is the new line out of the Government. Sue Gray has finally published her full report and as some may have predicted, it has turned out to be a relatively damp squib. There is some excitement and some pertinent lines regarding the culture in Number 10 and the associated staffers, both government and civil service, but it is far from the killer blow against Boris’s premiership that some were hoping for.
Boris has clung on this far, defying any and all calls for him to resign. I do not believe that he will resign now. After all, his thinking will be: why should he? The scandal has not yet led to him facing a confidence vote in the Government or in his leadership of the Conservative party. It didn’t when Partygate first was stirred into Westminster outrage and it won’t now. There are some rumblings of discontent, with around 25 Tory MPs (out of 350) publicly saying he should resign now the full report has been published, and around 60 MPs who have openly attacked the PM since the furore over Downing Street carousing broke many months ago.
However, that is small fry compared to what it could have been. There isn’t much suggestion at this stage that these calls will translate into the required 50 odd letters needed to force a confidence vote in the Prime Minister – branded the ‘greasy piglet’ many years ago by his predecessor as PM David Cameron.
It is undeniable that Boris broke his own rules. The culture of lawbreaking amongst the Number 10 staff, regardless of whether Boris knew or not, is also indicative of something rotten at the heart of our government.
However, I remain unconvinced that Tory politicians will pull the trigger. They have resisted for this long and there is nothing particularly new in the full Gray report that directly implicates the Prime Minister. Despite the large numbers of politicians on manoeuvres, none seem willing to come forward to be the challenger. That is one of the real problems with the current crop of “candidates” jockeying for position. None appear to have the confidence in their ability to step forward and be counted.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner have also been neutered. They cannot publicly go after Boris until Durham Police finish their investigation into a Labour event that allegedly broke Covid rules. Both are on the hook, and both have committed to resigning in the event of a fine. They cannot legitimately go after Boris until they are cleared.
I highly doubt that this will spell the end of Boris. We may yet see Tory MPs find the courage of their convictions or at least the belief in their chosen successor to put their letters in. Do not count on it though, and definitely do not count on Boris stepping down without a fight.