January 25, 2022

Boris Johnson and the “Partygate”: Sue Gray, the civil servant who has her destiny in her hands

UK – You’ve probably never heard of her name and yet she has the fate of the UK, or at least Boris Johnson, in her hands. Sue Gray is in charge of the investigation into the parties organized by the government while the country was confined because of the Covid-19. The conclusions of his report could push the Prime Minister towards the exit.

Boris Johnson admitted this Wednesday, January 12, to having participated in an event organized on May 20, 2020 in Downing Street while his country was confined because of the Covid-19. If he assured that he thought he had attended a working meeting and apologized, the facts remain intolerable for the British and the politicians, even of his own camp, who call for his resignation. To save his skin (at least temporarily), the Prime Minister keeps referring to Sue Gray and her ongoing investigation.

But who is she? Susan Gray, 64, is a senior UK government official, second permanent secretary to the Cabinet Office (the department responsible for supporting the Prime Minister and making government work). Concretely, this makes her “the most influential person you have never heard of”, according to a phrase from the BBC which qualified her as such in 2015.

Opinion shared by a former MP and Minister of the Office Cabinet, Oliver Letwin, as quoted by the Guardian: “It took me two years to realize who ruled our country. The UK is actually completely run by a woman named Sue Gray, who is the CEO of Ethics, or something like that (CEO of Property and Ethics, 2012-2018, Editor’s note), at the Office Cabinet. The condition for things to happen is that she has given her consent. ”

An awaited investigation report

According to her file on the government site, Sue Gray joined the Cabinet Office in the late 1990s, after several years in the departments of Transport, Health and Labor. It is also said that she spent some time in Northern Ireland in the late 1980s after buying and running a pub with her husband.

Last December, the internal investigation into the holidays at Downing Street, home of the Prime Minister, was entrusted to him after the discovery of departure pots, Christmas dinners and parties organized in May, November and December 2020. The case had previously given to senior official Simon Case, who retired after having himself participated in such an event in his own department.

This is not the first time that Sue Gray has investigated matters within government. In 2017, she was notably responsible for the investigation leading to the resignation of Minister of State Damian Green, close to the then Prime Minister, Theresa May. The latter had lied after the discovery of pornographic images on his professional computer.

Same outcome for Andrew Mitchell. While he held the post of whip (representative who ensures the discipline of the party) for the Conservative government in 2017, under David Cameron, he insulted the police and had to resign after an investigation, once again, led by Sue Gray. Could Boris Johnson meet the same fate? The investigation report is not expected until the end of next week, at the earliest, according to the Times.

See also on The HuffPost: For Christmas, Boris Johnson encourages vaccination by evoking Jesus