Boris Johnson still does not believe he broke any lockdown rules at alleged Downing Street parties, as Westminster awaits Sue Gray’s bombshell report into the scandal.
The senior civil servant’s appraisal of the allegations about rule-breaking in Number 10 is expected to be published this week.
But polling for the newspaper suggests that the vast majority of Brits have already made up their minds about the allegations, regardless of what Gray’s report concludes.
‘He’s feeling determined’
The prime minister reportedly spent the weekend making calls to Tory MPs seeking to shore up support before Gray’s findings are published.
“He’s feeling determined,” one loyal MP said. “He genuinely believes that he didn’t break any rules and that he was going to the garden [on May 20, 2020] to say thank you.”
But Johnson’s allies are said to be resigned to the fact that Gray’s report will make a series of damaging claims about the conduct of those working in Downing Street at the height of the pandemic.
“Clearly there was a culture and clearly that culture was wrong,” one ally told The Times.
“But the prime minister was not in No 10 for many of these events, he didn’t know about them, and while it’s perfectly proper to hold the prime minister to account for things that he is responsible for, are we really going to ask the prime minister to resign because some people organised a party that he didn’t know about? It’s an argument about proportion.”
Members of Johnson’s teams are said to have approached Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, to ask whether the prime minister could immediately go to the dispatch box after Gray publishes her report, regardless of what Commons business is planned.
Officials are keen for him to speak on the same day as the findings are released. “If it’s leaning towards a difficult finding then you don’t want an overnight period for a narrative to build,” a minister said.
But 51 per cent of voters already believe that Johnson should resign whatever Gray’s report says – including 26 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 219.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said the report “must be published in its entirety with all the accompanying evidence”, adding that Johnson “cannot be allowed to cover up or obscure any of the truth”.
It was reported on Sunday night that Gray has interviewed police officers who guarded Downing Street while gatherings took place, with their testimony said to be especially damning.