Sue Gray meeting: when did Boris Johnson meet with civil servant about Partygate report - who suggested it?

It comes as Dominic Cummings says Partygate photos will show Boris Johnson ‘obviously lied to Commons’ about knowledge of Covid events

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister came under pressure to explain the Partygate meeting, which Downing Street and Cabinet ministers originally said was sought out by the civil servant and not the PM’s team.

The revelations come as Mr Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings said any photos included in the Sue Gray report - which is due to be published imminently - would show the embattled PM had “obviously lied to the Commons” about his knowledge of the parties.

Last week, it appeared as if Boris Johnson was in a stronger position when the Met Police announced he would not be fined for any further lockdown rule breaches as it concluded its criminal investigation into Downing Street and Whitehall events.

Boris Johnson reportedly met with Sue Gray to discuss her Partygate report (image: AFP/Getty Images)

However, revelations over what the opposition has branded a ‘secret meeting’ between the PM and Ms Gray has brought the focus back onto Boris Johnson’s conduct in office.

Advertisement

Labour said the meeting could undermine public confidence in the Sue Gray report when it is published this week.

It was also reported that top civil servant Simon Case will be particularly hard-hit by the contents, despite the fact he was not fined over the scandal.

What do we know about Boris Johnson meeting with Sue Gray?

A Partygate report meeting took place between Boris Johnson and Sue Gray several weeks ago, according to multiple reports published on Friday evening (20 May).

Initially, Downing Street said Sue Gray had sought out the meeting to discuss the report’s publication - a claim that was denied by a spokesperson for the senior civil servant.

Several senior ministers, including Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke, have appeared on broadcast media to play down the meeting and underline the report’s integrity.

Advertisement

Downing Street has admitted it sought a meeting with Sue Gray, after claiming it had been down to the civil servant (image: Getty Images)

Mr Clarke repeated the Downing Street line that Sue Gray had initiated the meeting when speaking on Sky News on Monday (23 May), before being contradicted just hours later when Downing Street admitted it had been the meeting’s instigator.

In a daily briefing with journalists, the PM's official spokesman confirmed the meeting had been initiated by Downing Street officials who had suggested it "might be useful" to give the Boris Johnson an overview of what Sue Gray’s team was planning "with regards to publication and timings."

While it is now known Downing Street sought out the Sue Gray meeting, exactly what was discussed by the PM and the civil servant remains unclear.

Now the Met Police has concluded its investigation, Sue Gray will release her Partygate report (image: Getty Images)

BBC News said it had been told by a “senior government source” that the PM and senior civil servant discussed whether photographs should be included in the final report and matters of process around its publication rather than the report’s contents or conclusions.

Advertisement

The source said the PM reportedly told Ms Gray the decision was a matter for her.

Meanwhile, Sky News has reported Mr Johnson and Ms Gray talked about where the Met Police were with their investigation.

The news organisation said it had been told the PM wants as much information released as possible so he can put Partygate behind him, and therefore would not have put Ms Gray under pressure to drop or alter her report.

What has the reaction been to PM’s meeting with Sue Gray?

Revelations that a meeting took place between Boris Johnson and Sue Gray were greeted with surprise, given the investigation has repeatedly been described as an independent process.

Advertisement

Despite repeated insistences from Mr Johnson’s allies that he would not have sought to influence the report, Labour has said the meeting in itself was an attempt to undermine it.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said after the latest revelations: "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."

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: "The public would be rightly angry if it turns out Boris Johnson put pressure on Sue Gray to water down her report into illegal Downing Street parties."