I have received a substantial number of e-mails and letters from constituents about No.10 Downing Street parties and breaches of law and / or guidance during a time when lockdowns and strict and often complex regulations were being imposed upon the country as a whole.
Many of these e-mails related times when people saw crucial moments in their lives such as visiting loved ones, sometimes the terminally ill, and attending funerals and weddings curtailed, compromised or prevented in distressing ways. I am sorry to read that such sad, sad memories are rekindled in this way and exacerbated by an understandable sense of unfairness. I recall vividly the hurt these caused in my own family life.
I am not prepared or indeed able to provide excuses for what has taken place at No.10. It seems clear that these were not technical or slight breaches of the rules in place at the time, about which throughout the pandemic I have called for a sense of proportion and discretion, but of a different order. However, I would like to study the forthcoming Sue Gray Report before taking a view on next steps.
For the avoidance of doubt, I did not visit No.10 Downing Street during any of the lockdown periods.
An ‘update’ document has been produced by Sue Gray, further allegations about more parties have been made and the Prime Minister’s references to Jimmy Savile in debate with Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer QC MP in the House of Commons have taken place.
I do not think those Jimmy Savile references were appropriate or accurate. The further allegations about parties at No.10 deepen my concerns about culture and honesty over there. The fact that Sue Gray only felt able to produce an Update instead of her full Report at this time due to the involvement of the Metropolitan Police also emphasises the seriousness of the situation.
The magnitude of further action by Conservative MPs on this matter which could lead to a change of Prime Minister should be set against the feeling of deep unease and instability being generated at such tense and worrying times, nationally and internationally. As such it is only right that great care is taken and not a little patience observed. If the Metropolitan Police enquiry and the full Gray Report are forthcoming in a timely fashion it would be preferable to see those before I decide on next steps.