Who is Sue Gray, the woman in charge of No 10 Christmas parties probe

11 January 2022, 17:40 | Updated: 12 January 2022, 18:29

Sue Gray is leading the investigation into No 10 parties
Sue Gray is leading the investigation into No 10 parties. Picture: Alamy/gov.uk

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson has sparked fury after admitting attending a lockdown-busting Downing Street "bring your own booze" party.

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The Prime Minister admitted attending a 'Bring Your Own Booze' garden party at Downing Street in May 2020, issuing a humiliating apology to MPs today.

It comes after a leaked email published by ITV, showed a senior aide inviting more than 100 Downing Street employees to "make the most of the lovely weather" in the garden of No 10.

It is the latest in a series of allegations surrounding parties in No 10 which took place while the country was under tough coronavirus restrictions.

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The revelations have left Boris Johnson fighting for his political life as two Tories joined mounting calls for him to resign over the partygate scandal.

But Boris Johnson has resisted calls for him to stand down, instead stating the government should wait for the results of civil servant Sue Gray's inquiry.

Addressing the House of Commons in a statement on Wednesday, he said: "I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.

"I know the anguish they have been through - unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.

"I know the rage they feel with me and with the Government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.

"And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility."

Read more: 'Dead man walking': Calls for Boris to quit after he admits going to No10 lockdown party

Read more: Grinning Rishi Sunak pictured 200 miles from London as Boris faced 'partygate' grilling

Sue Gray is understood to have not been present at any of the parties under investigation.

Her findings could be revealed as early as next week, however this could depend on whether police launch a criminal probe following the latest revelations.

Who is Sue Gray?

Ms Gray, who is in her mid-60s, is one of the UK's top civil servants.

She returned to the Cabinet Office in May last year as second permanent secretary responsible for the Union and Constitution Directorate.

She also sits on the panel that will decide who will lead media watchdog Ofcom.

She previously had the role of permanent secretary of the Department of Finance, Northern Ireland Executive on secondment from the Cabinet Office from 2018 to 2021.

Before that Ms Gray served as director general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office from 2012 to 2018.

She first joined the Cabinet Office in the late 1990s.

'Deputy God'

During her time as director of Propriety and Ethics - which put her in charge of leading investigations into the actions of ministers - Labour MP Paul Flynn referred to Gray as "deputy God" in Parliament.

In an article last year, The Guardian described as being seen as an "authoritative figure who would not pull any punches in an inquiry".

Read more: 'I know the rage they feel': Boris Johnson's full statement over partygate

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The paper reported that former Tory MP Oliver Letwin had previously said of Ms Gray: “It took me precisely two years before I realised who it is that runs Britain.

“Our great United Kingdom is actually entirely run by a lady called Sue Gray, the head of ethics or something in the Cabinet Office. Unless she agrees, things just don’t happen.”

The right person to lead the inquiry?

MPs in the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee recently questioned Ms Gray's suitability for the role.

They cited that her line manager, Mr Case, had been forced to quit over claims his own department had held parties.

However, Lord Evans of Weardale, the chairman of the committee, backed Ms Gray, referring to the fact she was "not around No 10 at the time" of the alleged Christmas parties that sparked the inquiry.