A senior minister has condemned UK government briefings accusing civil servant Sue Gray of “playing politics” with her impending report on parties violating the lockdown, while claiming it was Gray who sought a meeting with Boris Johnson to discuss the process.
Monday’s Daily Mail quoted a string of anonymous government “insiders” who accused Gray, the senior official charged with investigating the Downing Street rallies, of “playing politics and being a little too much in the spotlight.” “.
When asked whether he condemned such briefings, Simon Clarke, the chief secretary of the Treasury, told Sky News: “I would.”
He added: “I think the only thing I would say about Sue Gray, and I’ve never met her, but I’ve heard a lot about her, is that she’s said to be one of the most fiercely independent and professional civil servants in the world. world is. whole government and brings a wide range of experience, so I don’t think there’s any politics involved.”
Gray’s report, which was delayed after Metropolitan Police launched a parallel investigation into breaches of the closures in and around Downing Street, is due this week and could potentially be very damaging to the Prime Minister.
Prior to its release, the controversy centered on a face-to-face meeting between Gray and Johnson, and who was the instigator. Gray’s team has declined to ask.
However, Clarke said he believed this to be the case and said the meeting was only used to discuss “technical aspects of the process” such as who could be named in the report.
“There are many practical questions here that need to be resolved, for example in terms of who can be named in this report and to what extent photographic evidence can be included. It’s important that those practical dimensions are resolved,” Clarke said.
“Whether any of them are mentioned in this report, the question of what evidence is included in it, is not an easy one here and is really sensitive to people’s lives and careers and public profiles.
“I don’t think this meeting was anything but a discussion of the technicalities of the process. It would be really wrong to dispute that any pressure has been put on the nature of this report.”
Clarke said he had “absolute” confidence in Johnson regardless of what Gray’s report laid out, and said Johnson had apologized for his own punishment for violating lockdown rules, and that the 126 fines imposed on others in a should be viewed from a broader perspective.
“I think we should also remember, without apologies, what happened, but by way of context, the extraordinary pressure that a group of people went through during the pandemic,” he said.
“They worked the longest imaginable hours under the most enormous pressure. That doesn’t detract from the gravity of what happened, but it does provide some context.”