Politics

UK authorities briefings accusing Sue Gray of ‘playing politics’ condemned by minister | Gray report


A senior minister has condemned UK authorities briefings accusing the civil servant Sue Gray of “playing politics” together with her imminent report into lockdown-breaching events, whereas arguing it was Gray who sought a gathering with Boris Johnson to debate the method.

Monday’s Daily Mail cited a collection of nameless authorities “insiders” accusing Gray, the senior official tasked with investigating the Downing Street gatherings, of “playing politics and enjoying the limelight a little too much”.

Asked if he condemned such briefings, Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, advised Sky News: “I would.”

He added: “I think the one thing I would say about Sue Gray, and I have never met her but I have heard a great deal about her, is that by repute she is one of the most fiercely independent and professional civil servants in the whole of government and brings a vast range of experience to bear, so I don’t think there is any politics.”

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Gray’s report, delayed after the Metropolitan police started a parallel inquiry into lockdown breaches in and round Downing Street, is due this week, and will doubtlessly show extremely damaging to the prime minister.

Ahead of its launch, controversy has centred on a face-to-face assembly between Gray and Johnson, and who instigated it. Gray’s crew has denied requesting it.

Clarke stated, nonetheless, he believed this was the case, and stated the assembly was used solely to debate “technicalities of the process”, comparable to who may be named within the report.

“There are lots of practical questions here that need to be bottomed out in terms of, for example, who can be named in this report and the extent to which photographic evidence can be included. It is important that those practical dimensions are resolved,” Clarke stated.

“The question of whether any of them are named in this report, the question of what evidence is included within it, are not straightforward here, and are genuinely sensitive for people’s lives and careers and public profiles.

“I do not think that this meeting was anything other than a discussion of technicalities of the process. It would be genuinely wrong to impugn that there has been any pressure put on the nature of this report, in any way.”

Saying he had “absolute” religion in Johnson, no matter what Gray’s report laid out, Clarke stated Johnson had apologised for his personal penalty for breaching lockdown guidelines, and that the 126 fines issued to others ought to be seen in a wider perspective.

“I think we also need to remember, without excusing what happened, but by way of context, the extraordinary pressure that group of people were under during the course of the pandemic,” he stated.

“They were working the longest imaginable hours under the most enormous amount of pressure. That in no way diminishes the seriousness of what happened, but it does provide some context.”



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