Stock Groups

UK media reaction to Boris Johnson after Sue Gray report


Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister speaks at Tilbury Docks in Thurrock on January 31, 2022.

WPA Pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his team are waking to a barrage of scathing headlines in the British press on Tuesday following the early findings of an inquiry into various parties held within Downing Street and government buildings during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, compiled the report and it was published in limited form Monday. It described the “failures at leadership and judgement by different parts No 10 and Cabinet Office at various times”, and stated that some behavior was difficult to justify.

Gray conducted several weeks-long investigations that resulted in the creation of the 12-page report. Hundreds of documents and pictures were collected. The Metropolitan Police is now conducting its own investigation into the alleged Covid violations by government employees.

Weeks of reports of parties and gatherings — some alleged and others admitted to, and with several events attended by Johnson — have greatly riled the British press, public and politicians from across the political spectrum. This anger and indignation was reflected in the headlines Tuesday.

‘Zero shame’

The TimesThe headline of Tuesday’s police inquiry reflected the headline that it used to headline, “Police Investigate PM’s Four Lockdown Parties” because it noted the fact that the Met was investigating four of the eight alleged gatherings at which the Prime Minister attended.

Left-leaning Mirror Johnson was the most criticised by newspaper. The headline read “Zero Shame”, which summarized in numbers the ongoing lockdown party scandal.

“12 parties investigated by police, 3 attended the PM, 1 in his flat, 300 photos handed over…and still no shame.” The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that it will continue to investigate 8 of the 12 dates mentioned in Sue Gray’s report.

Police stated that they had reviewed “more than 300 photos and more than 500 pages” of information and were looking for accounts from those who might have knowledge.

The MetroGray’s findings were highlighted in a headline on the free paper titled “A Failure of Leadership” along with a photograph of Johnson. Gray also noted that Gray’s latest update was a “damning verdict on the boozy Pandemic Parties at Number 10.

Gray’s complete report on the investigation will soon be available after the police have concluded their inquiry. It made it clear, however that lockdown parties “should never have taken place”, and others “should not” have been allowed “to develop as they did.”

Gray’s full report has received a lot of attention. The government responded that it would publish an updated version once the investigation is over.

“Tories are turning on leadership”

While many political figures from every side of the political spectrum expressed dismay at Johnson’s leadership, Johnson has refused to step down, and there has yet to be a threshold in the Conservative Party that would allow them to vote no confidence.

The i newspaperIt was headlined by its assertion that “PM pleads to his job”, while left-leaning GuardianThe newspaper reported on the growing dismay of Johnson’s Conservative legislators. Its headline noted that “Tories turn against leadership after Gray report”. Johnson was forced to make a U-turn by “furious MPs”, after initially refusing to answer whether Gray’s full report would be published.

Right-leaning TelegraphNewspaper also commented on Gray’s reported apparent capitulation, noting that it had written a headline asking Gray “for a new report” to “appease backbenchers.”

Johnson addressed a packed House of Commons on Monday and said he regretted any wrongdoings made by Number 10 or the Cabinet Office. He also stated that it was a relief that police were investigating.

Johnson is not eligible for a confidence vote. This vote is valid if Johnson is not present. The 1922 Committee is an influential backbench group that reviews leadership challenges. Local elections are the next major test of public support for the government.

Roger Gale (Conservative MP for North Thanet) is one of the Conservative legislators who have sent letters de no confidence to 1922 Committee. He told CNBC that the “prime minister has spent some weeks now saying ‘wait for Sue Gray’ then he said yesterday over and over again … ‘Wait for the Metropolitan Police [report]’,” Gale noted.

He said that there is an limit on how far he can push the can down, and that he may be running out of road, as he stated to CNBC’s “SquawkBox Europe” Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Conservatives announced that they had won the election. Daily MailAn early supporter of the prime minster, he was read often by Conservative-leaning citizens.

Public sentiments are reflected in papers

Many people are critical of the government’s failure to adhere to strict Covid lockdown rules. This is especially true for those who have sacrificed their time and freedoms for loved ones.

Gray said Monday that she is well aware of the hardships faced by citizens throughout the country as they worked, lived, and unfortunately died following strict government regulations.

“Majority of these gatherings are difficult to justify, especially against the background of the pandemic,” she said.

Johnson spoke Monday before Parliament, saying he sympathizes with public anger and insisting that “I understand it” and would fix it. This is what I have to say. “I want to tell the citizens of the country that I understand the problem.”

The Daily Express is a strong supporter Johnson and will likely be one of the most appealing papers to officials Tuesday. Its new edition suggests that Johnson might get another chance. The article states that “Yes, PM. You got it wrong… now get it right!”