The senior civil servant investigating allegations of at least nine lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street was given access to a detailed log of staff movements in and out of the building from security data, including keycards.
Whitehall figures say Sue Gray’s investigation – due to release a report of around 25 pages this week – was “forensic”, examining in “granular detail” who was in the building for social gatherings, some of which continued. until dawn, and the precise times of their arrivals and departures.
Johnson and his staff, along with officials and others who witnessed the events under investigation, are eagerly awaiting Gray’s findings this weekend. She was assisted by six officials with HR experience.
Many Tory MPs say they are not deciding whether or not to call on the Prime Minister to step down until they see his findings and hear the reactions of their constituents.
Rumors have also swirled around the government in recent days that Gray may have details of another gathering in Downing Street, possibly at the Prime Minister’s flat and involving close friends of his wife, who has not not yet revealed. The discovery of a 10th gathering while Covid restrictions were in place would seriously undermine Johnson’s attempts to survive the crisis.
But senior Whitehall sources also say information from data logs that record movements for security reasons could be decisive, as they will have given Gray conclusive proof of who was where and when, and how many people remained after normal working hours – details she would otherwise have missed.
“This information is conclusive,” said a source familiar with Gray. “It’s not someone saying ‘I saw him at a party’. It’s evidence of who was where, how many people were inside the building at any given time.
“She will have looked at all of this information, which is far more valuable than what people are saying. That’s the proof. »
The source added that the security logs would also have allowed Gray to draw conclusions about the culture at No 10, which appears to have allowed the parties to become a regular occurrence. “If you get the data and you find a large group that got swept up at 1am then it looks a lot like a party and if it was happening regularly you can tell.”
Friends of Gray who have worked with her say she will be scrupulously fair but also “ruthless” in her pursuit of the truth. A former colleague and friend said she was in no mood to let officials alone take the flak. “She has already shown in previous surveys that she will hold civil servants to account because she is very strong on the behavior of the civil service, but if she thinks politicians or others should take responsibility, she very clearly will,” the source said.
While Gray may name senior officials and prominent government figures in her 25-page main report, she is expected to follow precedent and not make public the identities of junior officials or special advisers.
Their names should appear in another document which will remain confidential and which will be sent to the human resources teams of their respective departments, who would then be responsible for determining what sanctions, if any, should be imposed.
After another torrid week for Johnson, which saw the defection of Tory MP Christian Wakeford to Labour, the Prime Minister spent the weekend calling backbench MPs in an attempt to shore up his position.
Fewer than a dozen Tory MPs are believed to have written to the chairman of the 1922 committee demanding a vote of confidence, but many more say they will if the Gray report finds the PM broke the rules lockdown, and more incriminating information emerges. . If 54 or more write, a vote of confidence must be held. If Johnson loses that, he must resign. A 1922 Committee meeting on Wednesday will be a key judge of Tory mood.
Wakeford told the Observer Johnson was doomed. “If Boris Johnson is hoping Sue Gray’s report will save his neck, then he’s going to be in for a shock. The rot has already set in and several of my former colleagues have already come to the conclusion that he is not fit to lead the Conservative Party. Not just because he is an electoral handicap, but because he is in fact unfit to lead the country.
“Is there enough to trigger a leadership election? I’m sure there are. Will they go all the way? It’s their business. What I do know is that in seats like Bury South the voters made a decision about him. So it’s just a matter of whether MPs choose to listen to their constituents or to the party whips.
Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish leader of the Conservatives, has said the Prime Minister is not fit for the job. “I think one of the reasons he’s in such a perilous position is not just because of the apparent rule-breaking, although that’s a big part of it, but because there’s fatigue even within the party and certainly among my fellow Members. for the drama that emanates from #10,” she said.