Sue Gray denies calling meeting with but No10 says ‘PM didn’t request’ Partygate discussion

·4 min read
Sue Gray denies calling meeting with but No10 says ‘PM didn’t request’ Partygate discussion

Sue Gray’s team has denied requesting a meeting to discuss her long-awaited report into lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

Following reports of the pair’s conversation on Friday, a spokesman for Ms Gray told Sky News the civil servant did not initiate the meeting and disagreed with reports claiming photos were discussed.

In contrast, a No10 source said: “The PM did not request the meeting and hasn't tried to influence the outcome in anyway.

"It's rightly for Sue to decide and it's all done independently."

It comes as around 30 people, including Mr Johnson, are being contacted by the Cabinet Office to warn them of the contents of the document ahead of its publication.

Following their discussion, Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has called on the Prime Minister to “urgently explain” why the “secret meeting” had taken place.

She said public confidence in the process had already been “depleted”, and people “deserve to know the truth”.

Ms Rayner said: “Boris Johnson 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.

“This is a Prime Minister incapable of taking responsibility for the rotten culture he has created in Downing Street or of doing the decent thing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson received one fine (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson received one fine (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

“The Sue Gray report must be published in full and with all accompanying evidence.”

Downing Street insisted that the Prime Minister had been “clear throughout” that the report should be “completely independent”.

It is thought that most of the Cabinet Office letters were sent out on Thursday, as the Metropolitan Police concluded its investigation into lockdown breaches in Downing Street and across Whitehall.

Mr Johnson is set to be among those approached but No 10 had no update as to whether he had received a letter on Friday evening.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister 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.”

Not everyone contacted by the Cabinet Office will necessarily be named or identified by some other means in the report – it may merely be that their actions are referenced because they are pertinent to the narrative of a particular event.

The investigators are understood not to be including the full details of the document’s contents in the letters but instead are giving a “gist” of the relevant sections to those being approached.

Sources close to the inquiry expect the report will be published early next week.

Mr Johnson declined to apologise again for the rule-breaking in No 10 during a visit to Hilltop Honey’s factory in Newtown in Powys, Wales, on Friday.

Asked if Downing Street would be blocking any names from appearing in the report, he said: “That will be entirely up to Sue Gray and I’ll be looking forward very much to seeing what she has to say, and fingers crossed that will be pretty soon next week.”

There were calls for Scotland Yard to explain how Mr Johnson received just the one fine, for his 56th birthday gathering in June 2020 when indoor mixing was banned.

Former director of public prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald warned “it’s very difficult for us to disentangle exactly how the police investigation has proceeded and how fair it’s been”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think without the police providing an explanation for that it’s very difficult for us to understand why they came to the conclusions that they did.”

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

The crossbench peer said it was not known why the Prime Minister was fined for his presence at what was deemed one of the less serious events but not others.

There has also been no explanation as to why Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, who had to recuse himself from running the civil service inquiry after reports of a Cabinet Office Christmas party surfaced, has not been fined.

The Met declined to identify anyone in its £460,000 investigation.

A team of 12 detectives examined 345 documents, including emails, door logs, diary entries, witness statements and 204 questionnaires.

They also examined 510 photographs and CCTV images.

Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were all fined over the birthday gathering.

But both Johnsons were told by police they face no further action, according to Downing Street, and Mr Sunak has not received an additional fine.

The Met said 28 individuals had received between two and five fines.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting