WE last heard from the Metropolitan Police’s Downing Street drunk squad last Monday, when the force revealed it had received more than 500 pages of evidence and 300 photographs from Sue Gray. The evidence is said to include WhatsApp messages, emails and CCTV footage.

In a statement the Met said: “We understand the interest in and impact of this case and will be progressing the investigation at pace. We are committed to completing our investigations proportionately, fairly and impartially.”

Very few police investigations begin as this one did. The police aren’t knocking on doors looking for witnesses or dusting down cups for fingerprints.

Gray painstakingly pulled together all the available evidence and conducted interviews as part of her inquiry into lockdown breaches. Moreover, she put it together in the form of a report – labelled, cross-referenced, formatted and perhaps even colour-coded.

The National: Sue GraySue Gray

Of course, the Met’s officers need to conduct interviews themselves. They need to check everything contained in the report and to review all the evidence that has been given to them.

But in doing so, they should also be mindful of the impact any unnecessary delay will have – not just on their own already damaged reputation – but on the state of the country, too.

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I accept that my knowledge of police investigations is limited to what I’ve learned from crime thrillers and Line of Duty, but it’s not unreasonable to expect the Met to keep to its word and get its belated investigation done “at pace”.

At the very least, there should be transparency around the expected timeline for completion. The force wouldn’t be giving away any state secrets or compromising its investigation by providing regular updates on their progress – especially when you consider that we already know what the outcome of their investigation is going to be.

Some, perhaps many, people working in and around Downing Street will be issued with fixed-penalty notices. That might include the Prime Minister. Which would be an extraordinary development … if we were ever told about it.

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The Met’s dreadful handling of this whole situation means that, until the investigation is concluded, the public isn’t allowed to see the full, unredacted Sue Gray report.

If Boris Johnson does face a vote of no confidence before then, it will be of accident rather than design. His MPs wanted to wait for the full report to be published. Some are said to have their letters drafted and ready to go but are caught in limbo until the police investigation is finished.

Some might see their reluctance to act now as cowardice. Surely Boris Johnson has done enough already to warrant a vote of no confidence? We know he has but there is a risk in going too early that those who want rid of him will be all too aware of.

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If they move for a vote before Gray’s report is published, there is a real possibility that he will win. Then, by the Conservative Party rules, he can’t be challenged again for a whole year.

Those who have already submitted letters judge that’s a risk worth taking, given that we have no idea when the Met will conclude its investigation. That, and the fact that a lame Prime Minister is not only an embarrassment on the world stage but a barrier to good governance.

We’ve become used to the drama of Westminster politics in recent years but at this moment, the UK Government is in crisis. For all the spin around Johnson’s “shake-up” of Number 10, last week we saw four of his most senior advisers resign in quick succession. By refusing to go until he is forced out, our Prime Minister represents a destructive force.

The cost of living crisis, soaring energy bills and the rise in inflation should be the sole focus of the government, given the lives and livelihoods that are at stake.

Instead, we got an inadequate and unfair compulsory loan scheme from a preening Chancellor who is on manoeuvres. He, like Johnson, is too distracted by his own career prospects to do his job properly.

That is the tension that goes far beyond the Conservative Party. There is a mood across the UK of pressure steadily building without release – like a coiled spring or an overinflated balloon that is seconds away from bursting.

The longer the Met Police investigation goes on, the worse it is going to get. In the meantime, how much more damage will this Prime Minister do? What conventions or standards of decency will he debase next?

Nothing about this is normal and we can’t go on like this. The hurt and anger that Partygate caused was a demonstration of grief on a mass scale. The public deserves answers and the Met has a duty to act quickly in the national interest. One more week of this would be bad enough. Two? Three? Four? More? That would be intolerable.