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A Question of Trust – The Sue Gray Report

Sue Gray
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Sue Pascoe

Sue Pascoe stood for election for Yorkshire and the Humber in the 2019 European Election, chairs the Conservative Women’s Organisation for North and East Yorkshire, and she is also on the Executive for the Conservative Disability Group.

I campaigned for Boris Johnson to be the leader of the Conservative Party speaking up for him on Newsnight. I’ve walked the streets for him and the Party. He sent me his picture with the words “Sue, we got it done” written on the front as a thank you for my efforts. I chair the Conservative Women’s Organisation for North and East Yorkshire. I am no leftie wanting to reverse Brexit.

In 2019 we sold the public a dream of a Global Britain to drive trade, Build Back Better for our people and society and Level Up for our communities to prosper and thrive. Much of this promise has yet to be delivered, Covid and the pandemic response being one reason for this. But it has left the Party with a trust deficit. Can we deliver on our promises? We have not got long before the next election to show substantive progress especially in the North and the South West.

We need to be laser like on sorting out the cost of living crisis, just as the Chancellor’s statement showed, and delivering on our promises not driving culture wars or dividing our country but rebuilding trust with the public. We need to show we remain the Party of aspiration and that we govern for the whole nation. If the young can’t foresee buying their own home and they see us making life difficult for their LGBT+ friends there is another trust deficit.

Sue Gray Report

Public trust now in both the Prime Minister and every Conservative MP supporting him has been damaged by the protracted events unfolding over what took place in No 10 when Covid restrictions were in place and how those revelations have been communicated with Parliament and the public.

It does not serve to repeat the main conclusions of the Sue Gray report which have been widely reported or anticipate the outcome of the privileges committee as to whether the Prime Minister did or did not deliberately mislead Parliament but I can make other observations which maybe helpful.

  • The Office of PM and Parliament itself is undermined when the public no longer has trust and confidence in its key politicians and institutions. Taking responsibility has to mean something. An apology has to mean something. The PM himself said in the forward to the Ministerial code “The precious principles of public life enshrined in this document – integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest – must be honoured at all times” He has now issued a new code after the Sue Gray report was published which says in the forward “As the leader of her Majesty’s government, my accountability is to Parliament and, via the ballot box, to the British people. We must show every day that we are worthy of this privilege by keeping our promises and delivering on the priorities of the British people.”
  • No. 10 should have been the tightest place in the land to protect our leaders of our country from catching Covid. Surely what was happening in No 10 was a national security risk. Is this why Boris got Covid and nearly died? What about other ministers too. What about risks to Downing Street staff and support workers? The risks being taken with peoples lives appear to have been slapdash at best unacceptable at worse
  • Sue Gray highlighted “multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment” of security guards, and of cleaners, who were left to clean up bottles and rubbish littered everywhere, red wine splashed over walls and vomit. A security guard was left “shaking his head” after being laughed at for warning about rule breaking, BBC’s Panorama reported this week. Custodians advised people to leave by the back door and on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral the last person left at 4.20am
  • Trust is probably the most valuable asset that any politician has. Once it is lost it is very hard to get back. Lack of trust is a bit like an infection it spreads to everyone who touches it.
  • It is delusional to think that people will forget about their loved ones dying, not being able to go to funerals, hold weddings, being locked in their homes getting food parcels delivered whilst people in No. 10 partied

Got away with it

It was never acceptable to say fair well to colleagues in No. 10 with drinks with attendees going on to get wasted whilst at the same time imposing onerous Covid legal restrictions on others

To see it written in emails about having “got away with it” and the “comms risks” of 200 people invited to drinks in the Downing Street garden proves full well senior advisors knew what was happening in No. 10 was against the rules. That their own head of ethics and proprietary took her own karaoke machine to one of the parities just beggars belief

In all my business career, as a risk management advisor and management consultant across multiple organisations growing through the boozie lunch culture in the 80’s I’ve never come across a worse recorded booze culture, irrespective of Covid, irrespective of it happening in our treasured heart of democracy

Significant doubts still remain over the police investigation due to junior people getting fines and not senior people and certain events not appearing to have been investigated. Already Lord Paddick as claimant and the Good Law Project has filed a pre action letter about three gatherings not being investigated properly

The sustained nature of rule breaking by so many people in No 10 makes it extremely hard to come to any other conclusion than Boris misled Parliament when he came to the despatch box and described gatherings and goings on in No 10. If he did so deliberately is not for me to judge. That is the purview of the privileges committee.

The Office of Prime Minister

I think Boris is such a conundrum. Much of this debacle is entirely self inflicted. A significant proportion of the public do not trust him nor our government no matter how much money we through at them no matter how justified helping them might be now. The damage to trust and credibility has been done.

Boris still has to face the privileges committee and two difficult by-elections and yet he remains perhaps the most effective communicator and for many the most inspiring politician of our age. No one can doubt his performance on the world stage with Ukraine military assistance has been fantastic.

I respect the personal judgements that each Conservative MP will now make at this difficult time. Some will break for Boris and some against. The most important long term consideration is the integrity of the office of PM and trust in the institution of Parliament.

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