I appreciate that for many the redacted report published yesterday by Sue Gray will fall very short of what they’re hoping for. It was scarce on both facts and details. The intervention by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner last week, and her comments in relation to the report, were regrettable in as much as they’ve led to a report that simply doesn’t give either myself or my constituents the full picture of what went on.
I imagine we will gain a fuller picture once the Metropolitan Police investigation concludes but I understand that this could drag on for weeks or even months. The sooner the full Sue Gray is published in its entirety the better. I’m pleased that the Prime Minister, in a meeting hosted with the Parliamentary Party yesterday evening, committed to doing just this. Until all of this is achieved it is very hard to see how a line can be drawn under the whole ordeal.
However, reports and investigations aside, we do already know a lot about what happened and enough to know that my constituents are right to feel badly let down.
Amongst other findings the report makes clear that there were failures of leadership by different parts of Number 10 and the Cabinet Office. It also states: “At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”
It’s very clear to me that none of this is acceptable, excusable, or defensible. I’m not a sycophant. If some of my colleagues want to behave like this then that’s up to them, but it’s not me, nor will it ever be me. When the leader of our Party makes a big mistake, I think it’s important to call this out and not morph into some kind of Corbynista groupie that ignores the reality of what’s happened. No one is beyond question or reproach. I honestly feel that so cack-handed have some of the interventions been by some of his allies that the best way they could be of assistance to the Prime Minister would be to disable all their social media platforms and cease carrying out media interviews. Silence would be preferable.
I do think however we need to balance all of this with the acknowledgement that just over two years ago the Prime Minister gained a stonking democratic mandate to govern. I think he deserves great credit for breaking the Brexit impasse and getting most of the big calls right when it comes to the pandemic. The vaccine drive in particular has been a great triumph and I’m incredibly pleased that, at this critical juncture, we are one of the most open economies and freest societies in the world. It would have been so easy for the Prime Minister to have caved in under significant pressure to introduce draconian restrictions around Christmas time and he didn’t. This is to his credit.
At a time when there is a real risk of war in Europe, and we face a cost-of-living crisis I am really not convinced that the Conservative Party plunging into a leadership contest for the next few months is in the best interests of my constituents and the country at large. Nor, barring any further significant developments do I believe that seeking to depose the Prime Minister, at this particular moment in time, is the proportionate thing to do.
The errors that have been made within the Number 10 operation are glaring, and the problematic culture is clear for all to see. The Prime Minister is right to apologise for all of this and to pledge to take urgent action to address it. I and other Parliamentary colleagues will hold him to this. I have personally made this clear to the Prime Minister on more than one occasion over the past week.
Bearing in mind the scale of rule breaking that appears to have taken place within Number 10 I’m clear in my own mind that there needs to be an almost total reset. When it comes to resignations and firings the most pertinent question to ask is not who goes? but who stays?
I have personally read all the many emails and letters that have been sent to me by constituents on this matter. I really do appreciate the strength of feeling. Many have shared with me harrowing stories detailing the sacrifices they were forced to make as a result of the rules that the Government introduced. Many were unable to say goodbye to loved ones and be with friends and family at critical junctures. They will never ever get these priceless moments back again. They were denied humanity, love, and personal contact at precisely the time they and their loves ones most needed it.
I don’t need to be told by anyone that this has “cut through”. It’s “cut through” to me personally. As a Member of Parliament, I asked my constituents to follow the rules. I followed the rules. And then to see those who played a role in drafting those rules showing such scant regard to them is sickening.
However, I must also point out that whilst out and about on the streets of Ipswich, knocking on doors over the past few weeks, many of my constituents are completely fed up with this saga and want the Prime Minister to be given the space to get on focusing on the country’s priorities, their priorities.
Sadly, the limited nature of the report published yesterday means it’s almost impossible to draw a firm line under all of this. Over the coming weeks I suspect we will all gain a fuller picture when it comes numerous aspects of what the limited report touched upon yesterday.
As it stands, barring any further significant developments, I support the Prime Minister in getting on and delivering upon all the great national priorities that lie in his in tray every morning. I also believe that he needs space and time to undertake the significant work that needs to be undertaken to regain public trust. This won’t be easy, but I do believe that he needs to be given an opportunity to do so.
I do believe that trust, truth, and integrity matter in politics and in public life more generally. I have quite evidently wrestled with this issue over the past few weeks and when reflecting upon my own views I’ve sought to listen to all the views of my constituent whilst doing do so, not just the loudest voices.
This is a deeply complex issue. A great many of us are angry about what has gone on, but the key question practically is what next?