by Sam Leith
Friday, 14
January 2022
Spotted
15:48

No10 is already spinning the Sue Gray inquiry

The PM’s supporters are already trying to re-frame the civil servant's role
by Sam Leith
Sue Gray

The official line — to which senior coppers and queasy-looking cabinet ministers alike have been clinging like mariners to Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa — is that it would be “inappropriate” to take any action over Downing Street’s many, many illegal lockdown parties until Sue Gray has completed her investigation. 

This at least buys them time. And they are not using that time idly. For I’ve noticed something rather weaselly going on, rhetorically. The PM’s supporters are spinning like mad to frame the results of that investigation. Indeed, there has already been a purported leak of the results of the investigation, claiming that it’s “not expected to find evidence of criminality” — which is quite something since that leak came 24 hours or so before the latest batch of parties came to light. 

Most sober and informed commentators predict that Gray — as is proper for a civil servant — will stick closely to a modest brief. She will establish as well as she is able the facts of what happened: which parties took place, who knew about them, whether there was any snogging, and whether they had those slightly sweaty tubs of mini-sausages or just Hula-Hoops. She will likely make clear where rules were breached. But she’s not expected, and nor should she be, to conclude her report with instructions on which non-civil-service heads should roll and in what direction.  

So all those articles applying hackneyed phrases like “judge and jury” to Gray, or that claim that she holds the PM’s fate in the balance, are doing the No 10 spinners’ work for them. They leave civilians like you and me with the impression — which in expectation-management terms is exactly what the Prime Minister would like — that Sue Gray’s will be the final word on the matter.  

In effect, if her report does not contain a direct personal condemnation of the Prime Minister, they will claim that she has exonerated him. Deputy heads will roll, and it will then be “inappropriate” to return to the subject because we’ll want to “get on with the job” of “delivering the real priorities that matter to the people of this country”. We will have gone from refusing to pre-empt her findings to drawing a line under them faster than a Wotsit vanishes in the garden of Number 10.   

But she is not a judge and jury. Exoneration of the PM, or otherwise, isn’t her job. If we’re going to stick to the legal imagery, she’s more like the discovery process, or the compiler of the charge sheet that goes to the Crown Prosecution Service. When her report is published, that’s not the point at which the jury is discharged and everybody goes home. That’s the point at which the jury (in this case the parliamentary Conservative party, the 1922 Committee, constituency associations and, we can dream, the slumbering giant that is the Metropolitan Police) is empaneled.  

Knowing even what is already in the public domain about what went on, I have a strong hunch as to what that jury should say — but, y’know, it would be inappropriate to go further until we’ve heard from Sue Gray.  

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Terry Needham
Terry Needham
8 months ago

I understand that a lot of people were fined a lot of money for doing, apparently, a lot less than Boris and /or his entourage. I wonder who is going to reimburse them.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
8 months ago

I disagree with most of your politics Sam, but this article is both spot on, and entertaining to boot.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
8 months ago

Boris Johnson is finished whatever the result of the enquiry. Once a prime minister loses his credibility it is downhill all the way. If he doesn’t go now he will definitely go after the May elections. From the point of view of the conservatives’ fortunes, the sooner the better.

James Joyce
James Joyce
8 months ago

Former New York Governor and former Uber Hero of the left used this strategy: we must wait for the report….He’s gone now, as is his media star brother, so their very popular and completely untrue (massive lies on Corona stats) clown show is no more.
Ultimately, Cuomo was unable to run out the clock, as I suggest Boris will be here. The errors so egregious, so stunning, so subject to cheeky mockery–liquor sections of stores being renamed “Office Supplies”–that Boris deserves to go. There are no words for the hypocrisy of the elites, and I like Tory policies much more than crazy, communist, anti-Semitic Labour, but Boris can no longer be the vessel to move these policies forward.
No one is “bringing down” the PM. This is an own goal, and his team deserves to lose.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
8 months ago

It’s just basic PR strategy for dealing with the media. Unfortunately for Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings knows something beyond this to the dark arts of keeping a controversy live.

Pretty much every company worth its salt have people like this and onecwould be advised to follow these techniques if one was ever to have the misfortune to be caught up in a topic of interest tovthe press.

Last edited 8 months ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago

Disobeying the lockdown rules is about the Only thing I respect of Boris.

The Lockdown was NOTHING to do with health as it was claimed. Boris et-al forced them on the nation, causing irreparable harm, wrecking the lives of millions of young (wait till you see the economic results will mean the end of pensions for the next generations) Because the Elite told him to.

The Elite went from exceedingly wealthy and powerful to Ultra Wealthy and Powerful. They harvested the savings and earnings of the workers – AND made them their Bi* ches, by the covid response.

Boris, and EVERY politico, knew the lockdowns were totally to hand over $$$$ and global power to the Global Elites – nothing else, but still they did them – who knows quite why, either they Must obey – or they are promised their reward for betraying their nations and people….

Naturally the Politicos did not obey lockdowns if no one was watching – it was 100% a charade, it was merely a mechanism of the uber powerful to rob the workers and take their political power.

That they danced and drank as their people were being robbed and enslaved is to be expected – as the lockdown rules were NOTHING to do with health.

Iris C
Iris C
8 months ago

If the civil servants in Downing Street hold parties it is for the civil service to decide what happens to them. Boris Johnson attended one in May and stayed 20-25 minutes and for that he has apologised but if he did not attend any of the others, then he has not broken the code. The staff would be in a bubble there to which he is added. This is all a lot of fuss about nothing. The “Remainers” still at it!!.