Politics

Who’s Sue Grey? What we all know concerning the official Whitehall lockdown-breaking celebration investigation

The name “Sue Gray” has been uttered repeatedly in the past few days as Boris Johnson’s government was heated over a series of alleged lockdown buster parties in Whitehall.

“All of this, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation by Sue Gray,” the Prime Minister told a pool reporter on Monday when asked if he was going to “Bring your own spirit” at the now infamous meeting on May 20, 2020 have participated.

“It’s important we leave Sue Gray to investigate. We see what the results are so that we can actually understand the facts, ”said Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis on Tuesday when he was also asked about violating events

In short, when you need to evade a question, just bring up the words “Sue Gray”.

Gray, 64, is a longtime civil servant who is variously described as an “enforcer,” “vicarious god,” and a hugely influential power broker in Whitehall.

In December, Gray was tasked with finding out the truth behind the spate of what appeared to be parties across Whitehall amid coronavirus restrictions. Gray was appointed to conduct the investigation after Cabinet Secretary Simon Case resigned because a quiz was being held in his department.

What is she doing?

Gray is the second permanent secretary in the Leveling Up, Housing and Communities division and is also part of the committee that decides who will be the next chairman of Ofcom’s media regulator.

Previously, she was Director General for Decency and Ethics in the Cabinet Office from 2012 to 2018. In that capacity, she oversaw cabinet reshuffles, served on the honor roll, and even signed political memoirs to ensure nothing was revealed about the government.

In his memoirs of being a Liberal Democrat member of the coalition government, ex-cabinet minister David Laws recalled a conversation in canteen # 10 with Oliver Letwin, David Cameron’s political boss, who suggested that Gray “run Britain.” Laws related that Letwin said:

“If she doesn’t agree, things just don’t happen. Cabinet reshuffles, departmental restructuring, everything – everything is up to Sue Gray. Nothing moves in Whitehall unless Sue tells you to. She is also allowed to censor our memoirs! Our poor deluded voters think that the prime minister is in power. Not correct!

“The truth is, our real leader, Sue Gray, sits at a small desk in the cabinet office. If only the Chinese and the Russians knew! You’ve probably been bugging the wrong phones for years. “

Similarly, she was once referred to as “deputy” by then Labor MP Paul Flynn at a meeting of Parliament’s public administration committee.

In 2015, BBC Newsnight editor-in-chief Chris Cook described Gray as “the most powerful person you’ve never heard of” after a long battle over information from the cabinet office. OpenDemocracy reported Tuesday how activists had raised concerns about Gray’s involvement in the parties’ investigation after she had “walled off” freedom of information requests.

What is she investigating?

Garden 10’s ‘BYOB’ party is only the latest in a series of allegations from gatherings held across government while coronavirus restrictions were in place.

– May 15, 2020: Downing Street Garden Party

Johnson, his wife Carrie, former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, and Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds were all featured in a leaked Guardian photo seated around a table in the number 10 garden with wine and cheese in front of them.

There were 15 other people in the photo, but the Prime Minister insisted that this was a working meeting and said, “These were meetings of people at work talking about work.”

– May 20, 2020: BYOB garden party

The latest revelation came in an email leaked to ITV from Reynolds to more than 100 Downing Street employees asking them to “bring your own alcohol” to an evening event.

According to several reports, the Prime Minister attended the event with his wife.

– November 13, 2020: Farewell party for senior workers

Johnson reportedly gave a farewell speech for Lee Cain, his outgoing communications director and close ally of Mr. Cummings.

– November 13, 2020: Johnson’s apartment party

There are allegations that the Prime Minister’s then-fiancé was hosting parties at her home, one such event being said to have taken place on November 13, the night Cummings # 10 left.

A Johnson spokesman has described the claim as “total nonsense”.

– November 25, 2020: Treasury drinks

A Treasury Department spokesman told the Times a number of staff had come to the office to work on the spending review.

They said, “We were made aware that a small number of these employees had impromptu drinks at their desks after the event.”

– November 27, 2020: A second employee leaves do

The Mirror reported that the prime minister gave a farewell speech for an aide in late November while the lockdown was still in effect in England.

Other reports said the farewell was Cleo Watson, a senior Downing Street official and ally of Cummings.

– December 10th: Ministry of Education party

The DfE confirmed that a social event took place after The Mirror reported that former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson threw a party and made a brief speech at an event organized at his department’s headquarters in Whitehall.

A spokesman admitted “it would have been better not to have gathered like this at this point”.

– December 14th: Party with Tory London’s candidate Shaun Bailey and staff

Shaun Bailey apologized “unreservedly” for attending the meeting at the Conservative Campaign headquarters organized by his campaign staff.

“It was a serious misconduct at a time when the Londoners were making immense sacrifices to protect us all and I sincerely regret it,” he tweeted.

He resigned from his role as chairman of the London Assembly’s Police and Criminal Committee after The Mirror posted a picture showing him at the gathering.

– December 15: Downing Street Quiz

The Prime Minister appeared on attendees’ screens at the quiz but insisted that he not break any rules.

A picture released by the Sunday Mirror showed the Prime Minister at No. 10 flanked by colleagues, one in tinsel and the other in a Santa hat.

Downing Street admitted that Mr. Johnson “briefly” took the quiz after the photographic evidence emerged, but insisted it was a virtual event.

– December 16: Party of the Ministry of Transport

The Mirror reported that senior officials were “drinking and dancing” at the event, which was allegedly planned by staff from the Office of Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps.

A DfT spokesman said: “Less than a dozen employees who worked in the office had on the 16th. We acknowledge that this was inappropriate and we apologize for the misjudgment.”

– December 17th: Cabinet office “Christmas party!”

A number of outlets reported that a meeting was held in the cabinet office on December 17th.

The Times reported that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case attended the party in Room 103 of the Cabinet Office, that it was organized by a private secretary from Case’s team, and that it was listed on digital calendars as a “Christmas Party!”

The Cabinet Office confirmed that a quiz had taken place, but a spokesman said, “The Cabinet Secretary played no role in the event, but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office.”

December 18th: Downing Street Christmas Party

The allegation that sparked the rule-breaking allegations is that a party was held for Downing Street employees on December 18th.

Officials and advisors reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged secret Christmas presents, although the Prime Minister was believed not to have attended.

Johnson’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton quit after she was filmed at a mock press conference joking about it with fellow aides.

Gray’s previous investigation

Gray oversaw the Plebgate investigation in 2012 after former chief whip Andrew Mitchell was accused of calling a police officer outside Downing Street a “pleb”.

Mitchell resigned a month after the altercation. He also lost a high profile lawsuit against News Group Newspapers, the Sun’s editor, when a judge said he had “made a firm conclusion” that Mitchell used the “politically poisonous” word when he was banned from driving through major vehicle gates .

Gray also led the 2017 investigation, in which then-Deputy Prime Minister Theresa May Damian Green resigned after the investigation concluded that the MP lied about pornography on his computer and found “plausible” evidence, that he sexually molested a young activist.

‘Career break’

While little seems to be known about Gray other than her excellent reputation in Westminster, she ran a pub in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. The Sunday Times reported in 2017:

″ (Gray) took an unusual “career break” in the 1980s when she ran The Cove pub near Newry with her husband, Bill Conlon, a country and western singer.

“Popular with both Protestants and Catholics, the pub was less than 10 miles from the Irish border in a region so violent it was dubbed ‘bandit land’. It is now closed.

“She was a good landlady,” said Adrian Fegan, who was drinking in the pub when Gray owned her with her husband. “

The government’s official website states, “Sue also took a career break in the late 1980s when she bought and ran a pub in Newry, Northern Ireland.”

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