Sue Gray's report is like a surrealist’s bad dream

The Conservatives’ unpunished corruption has finally driven the bullshit-bombarded press corps bananas. On Tuesday, the indefatigably starstruck Laura Kuenssberg squandered brave whistleblowers’ testimony in a disgraceful Panorama, reordering the reality of Boris Johnson’s criminality, making it seem like the heroic Shakespearean struggle of an undeniably brilliant politician with his all-too-human shortcomings, somehow worthy of comparison with Keir Starmer’s work curry.

Meanwhile, Sky News’s diligent Sam Coates, unravelling in frustration like a spiralised parsnip, became indistinguishable from a costumed YouTube politico, bellowing desperate but accurate accusations at the centipede of smirking lawbreakers and liars emerging from Downing Street’s chthonic portal. One more display of such journalistic integrity and Nadine Dorries will be looking for a way of privatising him.

The deliberately delayed Sue Gray report finally hit cyberspace on Wednesday, promising clarity at last despite 11th-hour attempts to discredit its author. Between shows in a Bath hotel room I fell upon Gray’s opening paragraph greedily: “Would to heaven that the reader, emboldened and momentarily ferocious as he reads, finds his wild and savage path through the desolate marshes of these dark and poisonous pages, without disorientation; for, unless he brings in his reading a rigorous logic and a tension of mind equal at least to his distrust, the mortal emanations of this text will soak his soul, as water sugar. It is not right that everyone should read the pages that follow; only a few will be able to savour this bitter fruit with impunity. Consequently, shrinking soul, turn on your heels and go back before penetrating further into such uncharted, perilous wastelands.”

Oh. Do excuse me, my dear friend. That is, in fact, the opening of the heady 1869 proto-surrealist memoir Les Chants De Maldoror by the pseudonymous Comte de Lautréamont, a staple bedside read suddenly less weird than the world and one that my news-muddled mind confused with the document in question.

The Sue Gray report, in turn, begins like this: “On 8 December 2021 the Prime Minister asked the Cabinet Secretary to carry out an investigation into allegations relating to gatherings in No 10 Downing Street and the Department for Education during November and December 2020.”

And yet, to me, the details of both decadent and incoherent texts now seem oddly interchangeable. So I have assembled the following revelation from sentences drawn from both Lautréamont and Gray. Can you identify the sources of Les Chants De Sue Gray, by Sue Gray, aged 64 and a ½?

“The official replied: ‘We would like to do speeches tomorrow when we have your drinks that aren’t drinks. I shall wrap my body with balmy garlands.’ The Deputy Cabinet Secretary provided a karaoke machine. When they were three yards apart they suddenly and spontaneously fell upon one another like two lovers and embraced with dignity and gratitude.

“There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals. A mountebank would be jealous of them. One individual was sick, wiped out by the vengeance of the inexorable god. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals, as the chance encounter on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella. Red wine was spilled on one wall and on a number of boxes of photocopier paper. I dreamt I had entered the body of a hog, that I could not easily get out again, and that I was wallowing in the filthiest slime.

“On the 18 December 2020 at 13.19, an invitation was reissued, in the eternity of a horrible and universal night. Instead of ‘Wine & Cheese Evening’ it subsequently read ‘End of Year Meeting with Wine & Cheese’. Woe to the sperm whale who would fight against a louse. The special adviser stated: ‘I’m sure it will be fine – and I applaud the gesture – but a 200-odd person invitation for drinks in the garden of No 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment.’ The shining worm said to me: ‘You, take a stone and kill her.’

“Wine was available, music was played from a laptop on top of a printer and a number of those present drank excessively. Carnal desire followed this demonstration of friendship. A number of individuals gathered near a child’s swing/slide in the garden, damaging it by leaning on and playing with it. Lice are capable of committing as much harm as their imagination meditates.

“It was unfortunately the case that details of some events only became known to me and my team through reporting in the media. I am already satisfied with the amount of evil which he does to you, O human race. Given the piecemeal manner in which events were brought to my attention, it is possible that events took place which were not the subject of investigation. The justice brought by the laws is worth nothing.

“The hardship under which citizens across the country worked, lived and sadly even died while observing the Government’s regulations and guidance rigorously are known only too well. An extreme power can alone show so much contempt for the faithful who obey it. Every citizen has been impacted by the pandemic. The people would sooner or later disappear from the Earth, like the autumn leaves. Everyone has made personal sacrifices, some the most profound, having been unable to be with loved ones in their last moments or care for vulnerable family and friends. A prolonged breath of sadness, which one would think would be the murmur of your sweet breeze, passes, leaving ineffaceable traces, on the soul deeply shaken, and you recall the memory of your lovers.”

The justice brought by the laws is worth nothing. I leave for work on Wednesday night and it still looks as if Johnson will weather even this. Opposition parties must unite to save British democracy. These are its death throes. The candle gutters.

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