Scores of Tory MPs are awaiting the verdict of Sue Gray, the senior civil servant investigating lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street, before deciding whether to press for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.
With her report now apparently entangled with a police investigation, Conservative backbenchers have been left to draw their own conclusions, and Johnson’s allies believe many will opt to let him fight on.
“I think there’s a 55% chance that he’ll survive,” said one backer, though they called for a dramatic clear-out of staffin N o 10 so Johnson can start afresh.
That’s not how it looked on Tuesday morning when the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, sent shockwaves through Westminster during her appearance at the London assembly . Having repeatedly declined to get her force involved in this most toxic of political scandals, Dick confirmed the Met would now launch an investigation into the Downing Street parties.
Johnson had been forewarned – but chose not to mention it to his cabinet at the weekly Tuesday meeting. Trapped in the cabinet room without their phones, ministers were among the last people to hear the news as they emerged.
There followed an unedifying and confusing 72 hours, which began with the Met suggesting it had no objections to Gray publishing her report in full – and a frenzy of speculation that the report was to be published imminently – but ended yesterday with no sign of the report, and a formal statement conceding the police had asked her to make “minimal reference ” to the eight events they were investigating.
And in the vacuum, Johnson and his allies have spent their time fighting back hard.
He has been meeting wavering MPs to hear their political demands; and Downing Street’s planning “grid” is being filled up with trips and announcements designed to show him getting on with delivering “the people’s priorities”.
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