Boris Johnson’s conversation with Sue Gray in a meeting that never happened

Boris Johnson: Ciao. This is not Boris Johnson.

Sue Gray: In which case, I’m not Sue Gray.

Johnson: Excellent. I’d like to arrange a meeting with you …

Gray: Go right ahead, poi. I’ve got my diary open.

Johnson: Actually, what I’d like to happen is for you to put the phone down and then call me back in a couple of days with a time and date.

Gray: Perché? It seems utterly pointless.

Johnson: It’s so I can pretend that it was you who asked for the meeting. That way it looks as if I’m not trying to interfere in your report. Which I’m not, ovviamente.

Gray: Ovviamente. Bene, actually I’m going to tell the truth …

Johnson: Why would anyone want to do that?

Gray: … which is that you were the one who asked for a meeting.

Johnson: There’s no need to play politics.

Gray: You’re doing my head in. You can save that crap for the Daily Mail. And for your useful idiots – Nadhim Zahawi and Simon Clarke come to mind – who will be sent out on the media round to tell your “true story” about our meeting that will fall apart within hours.

Johnson: I’ll take my chances …

Gray: Mmm. I wonder who everyone will believe. Me or you and your ministers? That’s a toughie. Are you sure you don’t want to have a rethink? Thought not. So what do you want?

Johnson: It’s like this … the Met have just told me they are about to conclude their investigations into the No 10 parties and I’m going to get off almost totally scot-free.

Gray: So how did you manage that? Did you pay a bribe?

Johnson: I didn’t need to! Though Tory donors were all lined up to fork out if necessary. It turned out the police weren’t that interested in the investigation once they were told to bugger off and stop bothering me. Just had to write “no comment” on my questionnaire. So I got away with just the one fine for the party that was hardly a party and the Old Bill just fined a whole lot of junior staff to make it look like they had done something.

Gray: What now then?

Johnson: We need to talk timings …

Gray: No we don’t. Because we’ve already agreed the timings. Once the police have concluded their investigation, I publish the report soon after.

Johnson: Not those timings. The timings of some of my appearances at the parties. To make it look as if I just dropped in. Like you would for a work event. Which the parties definitely were.

Gray: You really don’t get it, Fai? I can’t be nobbled.

Johnson: Come on, Citare in giudizio. Be a sport. Donnez-moi un break as President Macron might say. At least don’t publish any of the photos of me getting pissed with the troops. Especially not the ones of me raising my glass and proposing a toast to Lee Cain. It was just my luck that my face was the only one in the photos that wasn’t blurred.

Gray: I think you’ll find ITV News has already got hold of those.

Johnson: What about some of the others then? Surely we can come to a deal over them? I don’t mind you publishing pics of No 10 staffers, but I’d rather you kept me out of it. And definitely not the one where I’m doing vodka shots and breaking Wilf’s swing. Carrie still doesn’t know that was me. I told her it was Party Marty. Plus if you could avoid the ones where people are throwing up, that would be a help. We don’t want the public to think it was one long Ibiza rave during lockdown.

Gray: You don’t get it, Fai? You disgust me. You tell lies to the country and parliament and get away with it time and again. And you’ll probably get away with it again. The police might have been craven halfwits, but I’m not. So I’m going to publish everything. The photos clearly show you attended multiple parties in Downing Street and the public deserves to know the truth.

Johnson: Anyone can be ambushed by six bottles of wine, a bottle of gin and a bowlful of crisps. So don’t be like this. We’ve all had a drink …

Gray: We haven’t actually.

Johnson: ok, then can you just tone down some of your remarks in the introduction? Make it sound like there was clear, sober leadership at No 10 and that it was just a few junior members of staff who were breaking the rules. Over and over again. And the only reason it kept happening was that I was so busy going to work events that I didn’t notice. In fact we were all working so hard, no one can blame us if things got a wee bit lively. I’m sure the same was going on in hospitals where the doctors and nurses were knocking back the hand sanitiser.

Gray: Have you finished yet?

Johnson: Not quite. It’s taken as read there’s going to be fall guys in all this. So if you could finger Simon Case for me, that would be a big help. Though obviously he will become a member of the Lords or something when the dust settles. As will you, if you play your cards right …

Gray: We’re done now.

Johnson: Just for the record, this meeting never happened.

Gray: It’s bound to leak …

Johnson: In which case it’s a public meeting that was so above board, its contents have to remain secret.

Gray: Goodbye, prime minister.

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