Published:

Downing Street parties: Met embargo key parts of Sue Gray report

“The senior civil servant investigating Downing Street parties has been told by the Metropolitan Police not to publish key passages from her report in case it prejudices a criminal investigation. Scotland Yard said Sue Gray’s report should make “minimal reference” to the events it is investigating. In a statement this morning the Met denied it was trying to delay publication but confirmed it had been in talks with the Cabinet Office about how much of Gray’s inquiry could be made public. The intervention grants Boris Johnson a welcome reprieve after two senior Conservative backbenchers said yesterday the report must be published in full amid speculation that key information could be redacted. Mark Harper, a former cabinet minister, responded to a “heartbreaking” interview on Sky News in which a member of the public says he lost both his parents to coronavirus by saying that it would be “wrong” to suppress details about the parties.” – The Times

  • Fury at demand report is watered down with ‘minimal reference’ to criminal lockdown breaches – The Sun
  • What could her findings mean for Johnson? – The Times
  • Prime Minister ‘vows to publish Sue Gray report in full’ – The Sun

More:

  • Dozens who attended Downing Street parties can pay fines instead of being interviewed by police – Daily Telegraph

Prime Minister urged to sack more Downing Street staff amid fears ‘partygate’ reset will not be enough

“Boris Johnson is being warned by trusted allies that he must go further in his “reset” of Downing Street after the Sue Gray report by sacking more people – or risk the current crisis dragging on. There is concern among figures who have talked to the Prime Minister in recent weeks that the shake-up of Number 10 planned for next week does not go far enough. They have warned that failing to convince the public and Tory MPs that he has fully acknowledged problems revealed in the “partygate” scandal – and that he is delivering change – could backfire. One idea being pushed is that a permanent secretary be appointed for No 10 – a position briefly created for Simon Case before he became head of the UK Civil Service. The move would allow a new chief of staff to be appointed who could just focus on politics.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson must sack Number 10’s woke crowd, says Lord Frost… – The Times
  • …in attack on advisers and ‘apparent jab at Carrie’s influence’ – Daily Mail
  • Tories postpone plan to allow two confidence votes in PM in one year – The Times
  • Tugendhat: Tory centrist loathed by Johnson could be ‘a relief’ – The Guardian

Comment:

  • How the Prime Minister foiled a shotgun plot by his own rebel MPs – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: Parties aren’t Johnson’s only problem – his voters are awaiting real, positive change

More emails emerge linking Johnson to ‘Pen’ Farthing animal evacuation

“Boris Johnson faced growing questions over official aid given to a charity that lobbied his wife today, as fresh emails linked him to efforts to extract from the fall of Afghanistan. The Prime Minister has been accused of authorising assistance to Paul Farthing and his Nowzad organisation as Kabul was abandoned to the Taliban last August. Internal Foreign Office emails from the time, published by MPs yesterday, showed that it was his decision to offer help amid chaos in the besieged city. Critics have raised concerns that animals were helped out of the country’s at the expense of locals who had worked for the UK and faced bloody retribution from the Islamic extremists. Mr Johnson today described the claims as ‘absolute rhubarb’ as he spoke to reporters on a visit to north Wales. But even as he was making the eccentric denial, fresh emails emerged linking him to the assistance.” – Daily Mail

  • Aide lobbied for Kabul pet rescue on behalf of ‘the boss’ – The Times
  • Johnson says it’s ‘total rhubarb’ that he personally intervened – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: My godson, the whistleblower, and the Nowzad animals. If the Prime Minister didn’t authorise their removal, who did?

Johnson hails end of Plan B Covid measures today and booster rollout

“Boris Johnson hailed the end of Covid restrictions in England today as he looks to bolster his position ahead of a probe into No 10 parties. The PM said the scrapping of Plan B is testament to the success of the booster result and praised Brits for their “amazing response”. His allies are hoping that Britain becoming the first country to exit the pandemic will help save his premiership. Top civil servant Sue Gray has completed an investigation into lockdown-busting parties held in Downing St over the last two years. But the publication of her findings is being delayed by legal wrangling over how much information can be disclosed at the moment. The Metropolitan Police have launched a separate inquiry into some of the bashes that represent most serious potential breaches of Covid laws.” – The Sun

  • Work from home tax loophole to be closed after it cost Treasury £500 million – Daily Telegraph

Treasury unease over fears of No 10 U-turn on national insurance hike

“The Treasury is becoming increasingly alarmed that Boris Johnson may be preparing to scrap the national insurance rise in a desperate attempt to placate rightwing Tory MPs as he fights to save his job. The Guardian understands Rishi Sunak has privately stressed to MPs that the tax rise must go ahead as planned – with one frontbencher who has met him in recent days speculating the chancellor’s position could become untenable if Johnson seeks to overrule him. Treasury aides claim the embattled prime minister has not yet raised the prospect of cancelling or delaying the £12bn tax rise, with Johnson saying “there’s been no discussion at any level”. Yet speaking in Wales on Thursday, the prime minister again refused to commit to pressing ahead with the 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions (NICs), which will be badged a “health and social care levy”.” – The Guardian

  • Rise ‘will go ahead’ despite Johnson’s doubts over levy – The Times
  • ‘PM is wobbling’ – Daily Express
  • Minister hints Boris could cave to Tory rebels on multiple fronts – Daily Mail

>Today: David Willetts’ column: The case for the National Insurance increase

James Forsyth: Johnson is now held hostage by his own MPs

“The prime minister is a hostage of his own MPs. Boris Johnson sits in his Commons study and they come in and make demands. However brutal their assessment or sweeping their requests, he does his best to say he has heard them and will address their concerns. It is a bizarre situation for someone whose personal appeal was so key to the election victory just two years ago, but he can’t afford to make a single extra enemy. His MPs have his fate in their hands. Backbenchers speak even more bluntly to those arranging the “save Boris” operation. They demand changes to the No 10 team and say that these should come straight after the publication of Sue Gray’s report into the Downing Street parties. They are adamant they will brook no delay to this. If things don’t start to move, they warn that they will conclude Johnson isn’t serious about changing.” – The Times

Sunak accused of blocking Brexit progress by standing in the way of Article 16

“Rishi Sunak has been accused of blocking plans to invoke Article 16 by allies of the Prime Minister, who say he is a “nominal Brexiteer” who has stalled progress on the Northern Ireland Protocol. The claims come amid rising tensions over the Chancellor’s proposed 1.25 percentage point rise in National Insurance contributions (NICs) as Boris Johnson’s premiership continues to hang by a thread pending the publication of Sue Gray’s “partygate” report… One key Johnson ally said: “Rishi pushed the NI [National Insurance] increase, whatever he says. Boris told me at the time that the Treasury insisted. “The other thing is that he has been fighting hard to stop invoking Article 16, which has delayed sorting Northern Ireland. Rishi has fought to stop any action that would ‘upset the EU on trade’. He is a nominal Brexiteer and completely captured by the Treasury.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor accused of wanting to avoid ‘upsetting the EU’ – Daily Express
  • DUP gives Truss February deadline to fix Brexit protocol row – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Another Cabinet clash with Gove over the Government’s pro-Union approach

Truss took £500,000 private flight to Australia

“Liz Truss used a government aircraft to fly to Australia at an estimated cost of £500,000 to the taxpayer instead of taking a scheduled flight. The foreign secretary declined to travel business class and instead used an aircraft leased by the government to make the 22,000-mile round trip last week. Truss and Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, met Australian ministers as part of a security alliance aimed at countering Chinese influence in the eastern Pacific. Government sources insisted that Truss had needed the chartered plane to work and rest, and said the flexibility of a chartered flight allowed her the option of returning to Europe quickly if the situation in Ukraine suddenly deteriorated. Truss used a plane leased by the government from Titan Airways, a company based at Stansted airport, according to The Independent.” – The Times

  • Allies say the Foreign Secretary could not fly commercial for security reasons – Daily Mail

>Today:

>Yesterday: Stephen Booth’s column: When it comes to Putin’s Russia, the UK remains the most important European player and NATO is the only game in town.

News in Brief:

  • Why Wales and Scotland are silent on Ukraine – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • London is the key to levelling up – John Dickie, CapX
  • In Fortress New Zealand, faith in Saint Jacinda is starting to fade – David Cohen, The Spectator
  • Fighting about pronouns gets in the way of real feminism – Suzanne Moore, The Critic