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Sue Gray Partygate meeting with Boris Johnson instigated by Downing Street official, No 10 admits

A controversial meeting between Boris Johnson and Partygate report author Sue Gray was instigated by a Downing Street official, No 10 has admitted.

The secret meeting sparked a furious row over the weekend, as Downing Street sources insisted that the senior civil servant requested to see the prime minister to discuss the timing of publication, amid claims that close Johnson allies are accusing her of “playing politics” with the report.

But Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson today said that the idea of a meeting was first raised by a senior No 10 official, who suggested to Ms Gray’s team that it would be “helpful” for her to request a meeting. Ms Gray followed the suggestion up, and the meeting with Mr Johnson took place early in May.

The prime minister himself was not aware that the proposal for him to speak with Ms Gray for a second time – following an earlier meeting at the time of the publication of her interim report in January – had initially come from his own team, said the spokesperson. And asked if Mr Johnson suspected Ms Gray of “playing politics”, the spokesperson replied simply: “No.”

In a TV interview this morning, Treasury minister Simon Clarke said that he understood the Whitehall mandarin “instigated” the meeting with the PM.

But just hours later, the PM’s spokesperson said that iin fact it was a No 10 official – reported to be permanent secretary Samantha Jones – who “suggested it might be helpful” for Ms Gray to speak with Mr Johnson.

“This was not a request of the prime minister, it wasn’t framed in that way,” said the spokesperson. “It was suggested it may be helpful to have that meeting.

“Obviously Sue Gray is independent. It’s up to her whether she proceeds with any meetings with regards to her investigation.”

Appearing on Sky News, Mr Clarke said he condemned briefing against Ms Gray, saying: “By repute she’s one of the most fiercely independent and professional civil servants in the whole of government. I don’t think there’s any politics”.

Speaking to broadcasters on Monday, Mr Johnson said he would “not give any running commentary” on the report until its published when quizzed on what was discussed at the “secret meeting”.

“To be frank, the moment is not very far enough, it can’t be long now before I’ll be able to say something,” he said.

Asked whether he initiated the meeting with Ms Gray, he replied: “I’m not giving any running commentary on the process in any way until the independent report is produced. That is reasonable”.


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