To all of you who’ve written - thank you.
To you, and to all who haven’t yet written (to email@example.com) but have been thinking about the issue of parties in No10 Downing St, let me give this reply / statement:
I know how much all of my constituents have sacrificed in the last two years, by following the Emergency Laws put in place to deal with the pandemic.
Some of you have shared with me moving stories of what has happened in your families, and the unforgettable sadness of not being there when loved ones died, and all of us went through long absences from other family members which were (at the least) very difficult.
But you stuck with what we were asked to do because it was the right thing to do.
So any suggestion while sacrifices were made by so many that illegal parties took place in No10 causes both upset and anger.
I will not defend what we know took place - or any other similar breaches of Lockdown not yet in the public domain.
For those who set the laws should, more than anyone, implement them. That’s the responsibility government and parliamentarians have to bear.
Of course we’re all human and make mistakes. But what we know so far, before the Sue Gray report is finalised, is enough for most of the country to have decided that the PM knew what was going on in No10 and attended at least one party there that shouldn’t have taken place.
I want every Prime Minister to do his or best for our country: and in that sense they all, regardless of which political party they come from, have my support. But not at any price or under all circumstances.
Our PM has over the last two years, mostly dominated by the pandemic, made some decisions which I think were very good - on the Vaccine Taskforce, the furlough schemes, the vaccination and booster programme, on unlocking last summer and not re-locking this winter.
We may also be the first country to move from a pandemic to an endemic situation and I think a future full enquiry on the pandemic will recognise all these, alongside some criticisms and lessons learnt.
But leadership in a democracy also requires leading by example and has a moral dimension.
We do not leap quickly to judgement as a nation (nor I as an individual). However the need for an apology from No 10 to the Palace for a party held the eve of the memorial service for HRH Prince Philip, where the Queen sat alone, is not acceptable.
The Prime Minister, as I understand it, was not there at the time of that event and should not therefore be held directly responsible. But leadership does mean setting the tone and example.
For these reasons we should await both the findings of the report by (senior civil servant) Sue Gray and see what changes are made to how No10 operates thereafter.
The PM has rightly already broadly apologised to the nation. Further damaging revelations that require further apologies will be harder to accept.
I hope that the report and following debate enables the PM, the government and all of us to recognise the damage done and move on, focusing on what we were elected to do.
But if it does not then there steps that every MP can take to bring about change. I do not rule out any of them in that situation.
Not all of will agree with my assessment: some will find me too loyal and some not loyal enough.
But I believe this is the right approach at the moment, and will of course continue to listen to your views and reply to your concerns.
PS Do have a look at my New Year thoughts on some excitements and challenges ahead in Gloucester 2022 - What's ahead for Gloucester in 2022? | Richard Graham