Sue Gray report: Downing Street admits it instigated meeting with Boris Johnson about partygate report
The admission comes after Treasury Minister Simon Clarke insisted that Ms Gray had been the one to instigate the meeting between the Prime Minister and the senior civil servant
and live on Freeview channel 276
Last week, it was reported that the Prime Minister and Ms Gray had met to discuss the report, with political opponents criticising the meetings, claiming that Mr Johnson had been trying to “undermine” Ms Gray’s findings.
There was inital hesitation to admit to organising the meeting, with Treasury Secretary Simon Clarke claiming that the senior civil servant had been the one to request the meeting with the Prime Minister.
The highly controversial meeting in question took place in early May, ahead of the anticipated publication of the report.
What did Downing Street say about the meeting?
During a lobby briefing on 23 May, Number 10 admitted officials at Downing Street had “instigated” the meeting to allow Mr Johnson to discuss the “timings and publication process”.
However, the department did say Ms Gray’s office “sent through a technical reuqest for a meeting” following the inital discussion.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “The formal, technical meeting request came through from Sue Gray, but it was originally suggested by officials in No 10 that it may be something that she might want to consider.
“As you would expect for reports like this, it is understandable that there would be a need to share information on things like timings and publication process because obviously there is a process for No 10 and the Prime Minister that would flow off the back of Sue Gray completing her report. So that then helps with our planning purposes and things like that.”
When asked why Mr Clarke had insisted that Ms Gray had been the one to initiate contact between the two, the Prime Minister’s offical spokesperson said that the minister was not aware of the “granular level detail”.
The department however denied he was attempting to influence the outcomes of the report, with the spokesman saying: “I’ve made the point that Sue Gray is acting independently in this process. She is able to decide herself which meetings she does or does not wish to have.”
During the briefing, it was also confirmed there were minutes taken at the meeting between Mr Johnson and Ms Gray, but these would not be released to the public.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “It was a private meeting. We wouldn’t publish details of a private meeting.”
What has been the reaction to the meeting?
The news of a meeting between the Prime Minister and Ms Gray ahead of the publication of the Partygate report was met with criticism.
Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said that the Tory Government has hit a “new low” in attempting to “undermine” the inquiry.
He 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.”
The Liberal Democrats joined Labour condemnation of the meeting, with chief whip Wendy Chamberlain adding: “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.”