‘For the public to judge’: Is the Sue Gray report really independent?
Sue Gray report: Ferrari says 'nobody cares' about PM meeting
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Earlier this year Sue Gray was only able to release an interim version of her report after the Metropolitan Police Force formally began their own inquiry. After handing out more than 120 fixed penalty notices, the force closed its investigation last week, paving the way for Ms Gray to make her full findings public.
Last week, Downing Street said it would publish Ms Gray’s report “as soon as possible”, with officials expecting her to formally hand it over this week.
She took over the internal investigation after Simon Case, Head of the Civil Service, stepped aside. He was alleged to have attended a party held in his own private office.
Ms Gray began her career as a civil servant in the 1970s and is viewed by many politicians as having a reputation for vigorous internal investigations.
But does her position within the Government create a conflict of interests in relation to her report?
Ms Gray has a track record of thorough investigations into alleged wrongdoing by politicians.
She previously conducted a review into Tory MP Damian Green, while she was the director general of the propriety and ethics team.
He was subsequently sacked after admitting he had lied about the presence of pornographic images on his House of Commons computer.
The civil servant also oversaw the ‘Plebgate inquiry’ into allegations that the then chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, had sworn at and insulted police officers in Downing Street.
The incident eventually led to Mr Mitchell stepping down from his position.
Her appointment to the Partygate investigation was warmly supported by MPs from all parties.
But after it was confirmed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a secret meeting with Ms Gray over the weekend, questions were raised about the PM’s motives.
His official spokesperson said the idea was first suggested by a senior No 10 official and not Mr Johnson himself. The meeting was to discuss the timing of the report’s publication.
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However, it’s not deterred opposition MPs from accusing the PM of “playing politics”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “I always had a concern that as we got to the publication of the Sue Gray report, there will be attempts by the Government to undermine her and undermine the report.
“That’s what we’ve seen going on over the weekend in recent days, a new low for the Government.”
Meanwhile, Tory ministers have leapt to Mr Johnson’s defence and backed the independence of Ms Gray and her report.
On Monday, Treasury minister Simon Clarke told Sky News: “By repute she’s one of the most fiercely independent and professional civil servants in the whole of Government. I don’t think there’s any politics.”
Speaking to broadcasters on Monday, Mr Johnson said he would “not give any running commentary” on the report until it’s published when quizzed on what was discussed at the “secret meeting”.
A spokesperson for No 10 said that minutes of the meeting were taken, but would not be published.
When questioned about the independence of Ms Gray’s report, they added: “I point you to the coverage of the interim report which certainly didn’t suggest a lack of independence.
“And I think it is then for the public to judge following the conclusion and publication of the report itself.”
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