Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case are expected to come under fire in a long-awaited report into the partygate scandal by civil servant Sue Gray, according to Whitehall officials.
Following the conclusion on Thursday of the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into Downing Street and Whitehall parties in 2020 and 2021 that breached coronavirus rules, Gray is finishing his report on the matter, which was commissioned by Johnson.
The report is due out in the middle of next week and Johnson is preparing to make a statement to the House of Commons.
Whitehall officials with knowledge of Gray’s work said the so-called Maxwellization process was underway, under which some 30 people who were due to be criticized in his report were given the opportunity to respond.
These 30 include Johnson and Case, according to officials. Downing Street declined to comment.
Gray’s interim report on partygate, released in January, found there were “failures of leadership and judgement” by Number 10 and the Cabinet Office.
Whitehall officials said his full report was unlikely to force Johnson from office, but he was expected to criticize him.
Much of Gray’s criticism is likely directed at public officials, including Case, the officials added.
They said their conclusions would be “excoriating” to senior officials for their behavior during coronavirus restrictions, including lockdowns.
An official said: “Some of the evidence that Sue has uncovered is unbelievable. The details of some of the parties will attract attention. Email traces also show that many of them were premeditated by public officials.”
A former cabinet minister added: “I suspect the Sue Gray report will be more damning to people like Simon Case than it is to Johnson. It will be very focused on civil service mistakes.”
A former Whitehall Mandarin said there was a “battle royale” between Gray’s team and senior officials who might be named in his report over whether they should be identified. “For some, having his name next to a particular match could be the end of his career,” the former Mandarin said.
But a Whitehall official said Gray was “not on a crusade to name and shame senior officials”. The person acknowledged that some would be identified as “part of a factual narrative of what happened at the various parties.”
Speaking on a visit to Powys, Johnson said it was “entirely up to Sue Grey” whether top officials would be appointed. “I’ll be looking forward to seeing what he has to say and fingers crossed that will be very soon next week,” he added.
It’s unclear how much evidence about parties in Downing Street and Whitehall in 2020 and 2021 Gray’s report will include.
He has collected more than 300 photographs and 500 written documents, and one official briefed on his work said a “handful” of photographs would most likely be published.
The Met’s decision to fine Johnson just for attending a June 2020 birthday party in Downing Street gave him immediate respite from his critics in the Conservative party, who hoped to oust him.
A Tory MP said the end of the Met investigation represented “a good day for the Boris survival project”, adding there were “huge questions” for police about how the investigation was carried out.
But other conservatives said Johnson was not without problems. “It’s not over for Johnson yet,” added one of the party’s greats. “The government is in a bad place, which is compounded by the fact that we have the wrong man at the helm.”