Sue Gray Denies Initiating Secret Meeting With BoJo as PM Urged to Explain Alleged Rendezvous
On Thursday, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that they had wrapped up their probe into COVID lockdown-busting parties at Downing Street, issuing 126 fines for 83 people. This clears the way for senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into the matter to be published in full.
UK senior civil servant Sue Gray’s team has rejected claims that she had initiated a secret meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where the two allegedly discussed the handling of the “Partygate”-related report, according to Sky News.
A Gray spokesperson denied allegations, earlier made in British media , that the meeting was aimed “to clarify” the senior civil servant’s intentions for what would happen once the police investigation into “Partygate” concluded. The spokesperson also rejected claims that Johnson and Gray discussed whether photos from the parties would be revealed to the public.
The spokesperson's remarks come as Johnson is under pressure from the Labour Party to explain why he ostensibly met Gray to discuss the “Partygate” report, which is expected to be released over the next several days.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said on Saturday that BoJo “must urgently explain why he held a secret meeting with Sue Gray to discuss her report despite claiming her investigation was completely independent”.
“Public confidence in the process is already depleted, and people deserve to know the truth. The Sue Gray report must be published in full and with all accompanying evidence”, Rayner added.
She was echoed by Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Christine Jardine who argued that “Any whiff of a stitch up would make an absolute mockery of the report” and that “this [Johnson-Gray] meeting must be explained”.
A Number 10 spokesperson has, meanwhile, pointed out that Johnson “commissioned the investigation led by Sue Gray and has been clear throughout that it should be completely independent”.
“As he reiterated again today, the decision on what and when to publish rests entirely with the investigation team and he will respond in Parliament once it concludes”, the spokesperson stressed.
Their remarks followed UK media reporting that the publication of Gray’s report is expected on Tuesday or Wednesday, after the Metropolitan Police announced the conclusion of its own investigation into the Partygate scandal, with a total of 126 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) to 83 people over breaches of COVID-19 lockdown regulations during the Downing Street parties held between 2020 and 2021.
Johnson became the first British PM discovered to have broken the law while in office after he was slapped with the £50 ($66) fine in mid-April. Although he extended apologies for his mistakes, BoJo claimed that he did not know that he had breached COVID lockdown rules.
Gray, who led a Cabinet Office inquiry into the Partygate row, published an interim report in early February, and had been forced to postpone the release of her full findings until Scotland Yard carries out its own inquiry.
In the February document, she emphasised that Gray published an interim report earlier that month, saying that the incidents under investigation were “difficult to justify”, and there had been “failures of leadership and judgement by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times”.