Boris Johnson has again sparked outrage after an email leaked to ITV revealed an invitation to 100 employees to “make the most of the lovely weather” with a “bring your own booze” garden party at No 10.
But now, senior civil servant, Sue Gray, has been tasked with investigating the series of reported parties to determine what happened.
Gray replaced Cabinet Secretary Simon Case as leader of the investigation amid reports that events were also held in his department.
Health minister Ed Agar told LBC the prime minister had “done the right thing by commissioning Sue Gray.” Agar described the senior official as “a very senior and experienced civil servant with the greatest integrity to look into this without fear or favour”.
“I think it’s right that she’s given the space to investigate that and determine what did happen,” he added.
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Who is Sue Gray?
Sue Gray is one of the UK’s leading top civil servants, who returned to the Cabinet Office last year as second permanent secretary responsible for the Union and Constitution Directorate. Gray also works on the panel to determine who will lead Ofcom.
According to reports, Gray began a career as a civil servant in the 1970s before joining the Cabinet Office in the late 1990s.
She was appointed director general of propriety and ethics from 2012 to 2018, where she was declared a “deputy god” in Parliament by Labour MP Paul Flynn.
She then served as permanent secretary of the Department of Finance, Northern Ireland Executive on secondment from 2018 to 2021.
What will she be doing?
The senior civil servant will be leading the investigation on the Downing Street parties allegations.
Hannah White, deputy director of the Institute for Government think-tank, said: “As far as possible, she will stick to fact. The consequences of her report may be very serious, but they won’t come in Sue Gray’s voice. But she is going to have to give some indication who went and the numbers,” she said.
“If there are allegations of politicians being present, she will have to take a view on that.”
What have people said about Gray?
A Whitehall insider reportedly said: “The pressure is increasing, but she’s been here before. Sue will do it thoroughly and do it right.”
In an article by The Guardian, Gray was described as an “authoritative figure who would not pull any punches in an inquiry.”
According to the news outlet, former Tory MP and Cabinet office minister, Oliver Letwin, is reported to have said of Gray: “It took me precisely two years before I realised who it is that runs Britain. Our great United Kingdom is actually entirely run by a lady called Sue Gray, the head of ethics or something in the Cabinet Office. Unless she agrees, things just don’t happen.”
Gordon Brown, former prime minister and leader of the Labour Party from 2007 to 2010, also paid homage to the senior official in his memoir: “Like Tony before me and two prime ministers since, I was able to draw on the support of Sue Gray, a senior official in the Cabinet Office, who was always there with wise advice when – as all too regularly happened – mini-crises and crises befell.”