Martin Reynolds: who is former principal private secretary to Boris Johnson at centre of Sue Gray report?

The civil servant is at the centre of the Sue Gray report into Downing Street lockdown parties
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Martin Reynolds - one of the most senior officials in No 10 - had largely avoided the limelight until the emergence of his email inviting colleagues to “socially-distanced drinks” during England’s first coronavirus lockdown.

But his name is back in the news following the publication of Sue Gray’s report on 25 May.

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Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s former principal private secretary, sent an email to more than 100 Downing Street employees inviting them to drinks in the garden.

He said staff should “make the most of the lovely weather”, despite the country being under tough coronavirus restrictions banning groups from meeting socially outdoors when the message was sent.

The leaked email, obtained by ITV news, said: “Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening.

“Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”

Further criticism was levelled at him after Sue Gray’s highly-anticipated Partygate report was published and showed he had told colleagues they had “got away” with hosting the illegal gatherings.

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who is Martin Reynolds?

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A British civil servant, Martin Reynolds was formerly the UK’s ambassador to Libya, and was Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister from 2019 to 2022.

Before entering government, Reynolds worked as a lawyer in London, and became a diplomat, serving at the British High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa as Deputy High Commissioner, from 2011.

In 2014, Reynolds became the Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, for part of that time while Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary.

Reynolds was Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Libya for five months between April and September 2019.

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Reynolds was recalled from his overseas posting in Africa after Peter Hill resigned from his role as Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister following Johnson’s becoming Prime Minister 2019.

He was officially instated in his role in October 2019.

What did Reynolds do?

As Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, Reynolds played a key role advising the Prime Minister on a wide range of issues.

Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings said the influence wielded by the principal private secretary within Downing Street was not widely appreciated.

“The PPS exercises far more influence and actual power over many issues than Cabinet ministers,” Cummings said.

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“He can nudge policy, he can nudge vital appointments (real power). He can and does walk into the PM’s office and exclude all political people ‘on security grounds’.”

Boris Johnson (then Foreign Secretary) attends a meeting with Martin Reynolds (far left), US Secretary of State John Kerry, and US Ambassador to Britain Matthew Barzun in 2016 (Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP via Getty Images)Boris Johnson (then Foreign Secretary) attends a meeting with Martin Reynolds (far left), US Secretary of State John Kerry, and US Ambassador to Britain Matthew Barzun in 2016 (Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson (then Foreign Secretary) attends a meeting with Martin Reynolds (far left), US Secretary of State John Kerry, and US Ambassador to Britain Matthew Barzun in 2016 (Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP via Getty Images)

Did Reynolds resign from Downing Street?

Mr Reynolds was heavily criticised by opposition politicans following the publication of the leaked email intvite to drinks in the Downing Street garden.

Allegra Stratton, a former adviser to Boris Johnson and former Downing Street press secretary, resigned in December 2021 after leaked footage showed her joking about the gatherings alongside colleagues at a mock Covid press conference.

Therefore, it could be the case that others underneath the Prime Minister may resign from their position following the publication of Ms Gray’s report.

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On 3 February 2022, Mr Reynolds announced his resignation from Downing Street, being replaced by Peter Wilson as the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary on 8 March.

The Prime Minister’s former principal private secretary has been further embroiled in the Partygate scandal, after the report showed that he has messaged colleagues stating that they had “got away with it”.

In one email, which was included in the offical Partygate inquiry, Mr Reynolds told a colleague: “Best of luck, a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”

Will Johnson resign?

Johnson “cannot run and he cannot hide” from claims an aide organised a “bring your own booze” Downing Street drinks party during the first lockdown, Labour’s Miliband has said.

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Health minister Ed Argar has said “appropriate disciplinary action” should be taken if rules are found to have been broken at an alleged Downing Street drinks party in May 2020.

Asked if the Prime Minister should go if he is found to have been at the alleged event, Argar said: “I think it’s important we wait and see what [Sue Gray] says about the facts.”

Cabinet Office official Sue Gray, the senior civil servant investigating allegations of lockdown-breaking gatherings in Government, has confirmed she is investigating the 20 May event as part of her inquiry, along with a separate 15 May gathering, which was revealed by a leaked photo showing the Prime Minister and staff sat around a table with cheese and wine.

Argar told BBC Breakfast: “I can entirely understand why people who’ve lost loved ones, or people who’ve just had their lives hugely disrupted by these restrictions, are angry and upset by these allegations.

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“That’s why it’s right that [Gray] is looking into the facts and will report, and she can go with this investigation where she needs to, without fear or favour.”

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson condemned the alleged Downing Street drinks party, saying on Twitter: “This line won’t survive 48 hrs.

“Nobody needs an official to tell them if they were at a boozy shindig in their own garden. People are (rightly) furious. They sacrificed so much – visiting sick or grieving relatives, funerals. What tf were any of these people thinking?”

Asked whether the police should be involved if Gray finds wrongdoing in Government during lockdown, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “If he has clearly broken the law, then that should be referred to the police and the police should handle it.”

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