Steve Allen 4am - 7am
PM's allies blast Sue Gray for 'playing politics' ahead of release of Partygate report
22 May 2022, 23:32 | Updated: 23 May 2022, 08:17
Boris Johnson's allies have claimed Sue Gray is "playing politics" after a row erupted over who initiated a "secret meeting" ahead of the release of the Partygate report.
Listen to this article
Sources close to the Prime Minister, who has been accused of "undermining" the top civil servant, said it was "not true" that Mr Johnson had sought a meeting with Ms Gray to discuss the report into parties in and around No10.
It was revealed on Friday the pair met to discuss the Partygate report, and whether pictures should be included, ahead of its release this week.
Both sides insist that Ms Gray's findings were not discussed during the short meeting to talk about "procedural" issues.
Downing Street insists Mr Johnson has been clear throughout the Partygate scandal and that the investigation should be completely independent.
However, sources close to the Prime Minister have accused the civil servant of "playing politics".
"Sue Gray is supposed to be neutral but she's been busy playing politics and enjoying the limelight a little too much," one insider told The Mail Online.
Insiders at No10 are said to be "furious" at the refusal of Ms Gray's team to set the record straight over who initiated the meeting.
A source told The Daily Mail: "It is infuriating. They have let this impression run that the PM has somehow tried to nobble the report when nothing could be further from the truth.
"He wants it all out there, however uncomfortable so we can all move on. He even wants the photos published."
Labour said Mr Johnson was trying to interfere and "undermine" Ms Gray, after claims he ordered a secret meeting.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner even suggested Mr Johnson may have taken a bottle of Tipp-Ex to the meeting to blank out parts he didn't like.
Pressure is growing on No10 to explain the "secret meeting" between the pair, and to confirm who initiated the discussion.
Reports suggested Ms Gray initiated the meeting "to clarify her intentions" for what would happen once the police investigation concluded.
But a spokesman for the Gray inquiry disputed this account of events and rejected suggestions she called for a meeting.
They confirmed that a meeting between the Prime Minister and Ms Gray took place, but said they would not characterise the talks in that way.
A No10 source says Mr Johnson didn't request the meeting either.
Chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "In terms of what [my constituents] are really concerned about, the cost of living is much more important in the conversations I was having in the constituency last week, that anything relating to events in Whitehall - and I think that context is important... the real world is much more concerned about the issues affecting everyone's household budgets."
On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi repeatedly failed to say who called the meeting between Mr Johnson and Ms Gray, conceding he did not know the answer.
He insisted the Prime Minister has "never intervened" in the senior civil servant's investigation and Ms Gray's integrity is "unquestionable".
However, he was not able to say who called the meeting or what was discussed.
Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "The prime minister must urgently explain why he held a secret meeting despite claiming her investigation was completely independent.
"Public confidence in the process is already depleted, and people deserve to know the truth."
Incriminating WhatsApp messages and emails exchanged between members of Downing Street staff are set to be published as part of Sue Gray's report this week.
The communications will be published to demonstrate that individuals were made aware of the fact they were breaking the law by holding gatherings in lockdown, according to The Times.
Among the 15 expected to be directly named is Prime Minister Boris Johnson.