Is the former pub landlady Sue Gray about to call time on Boris Johnson?
The launch by the prime minister of her long-awaited report has been as chaotic as his much-ridiculed responses to the ‘partygate’ allegations.
First there was no party, he claimed. Then he was “sickened” by the video of his former press Secretary Allegra Stratton mocking the allegations.
Then it was a “work event”, he said. And then “nobody told me” the “bring your own booze” party was against lockdown rules.
And now, with Sue Gray’s report, at first No. 10 signalled it wouldn’t be published in full, then it would be. First it appeared it would be delayed by the police investigation, then it emerged it would be published within days.
Read more: Sue Gray has received photos of parties in Downing Street which show the PM next to wine bottles
Then it would be published on Wednesday, with a statement by the PM immediately after Prime Minister’s Questions. Then No. 10 said the PM hadn’t seen it, so it wouldn’t.
But then Tory MPs were told to expect it on Wednesday after all, but the PM’s statement would come later, possibly at 3pm. Or maybe Thursday. Confused?
Behind the scenes bust-ups and Johnson jitters
So why the chaos and confusion? Two reasons: first wrangling behind the scenes between Sue Gray and her team and No. 10 over whether the report should be published in full after all.
After all, the report is potentially career-ending for the Prime Minister. No wonder he and his inner circle had the jitters.
Secondly, there has also been a huge bust-up behind the scenes over the report’s presentation to Parliament, with fears that the government wanted to dump it in the Commons library only minutes before the PM stood up to declare he was in the clear.
Read more: Why Met Police’s ‘partygate’ probe may not prevent Sue Gray publishing inquiry in full
What is clear is that the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, wasn’t having that and insisted on MPs being given time to read the report before quizzing the PM on its findings.
By all accounts, there was a showdown between Sir Lindsay and Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg that appears to have been won by the Speaker.
It’s worth recalling that in the 1980s Sue Gray ran a pub in “bandit country” near the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Keeping the peace between the two sides in Northern Ireland’s sectarian divide during the troubles must have been a piece of cake compared with dealing with the row over Boris Johnson’s birthday cake in the Cabinet room and the other ‘partygate’ allegations.