Partygate: Boris Johnson ‘suggested Sue Gray shouldn’t publish report’ at secret meeting

Grant Shapps says he is unaware ‘exactly what was discussed’ between PM and senior civil servant

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 24 May 2022 08:31
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Boris Johnson is facing claims that he suggested to Sue Gray she should drop plans to publish her long-awaited report into the Partygate scandal during a “secret meeting” last month.

The incendiary allegation comes just hours after the publication of leaked photographs showing the prime minister drinking wine with No 10 staff in the depths of England’s second Covid lockdown.

Following a furious row over the weekend, Downing Street admitted on Monday that a meeting between Mr Johnson and the senior civil servant Ms Gray was instigated by a No 10 official in early May to discuss the “timings and publication process” of the report.

But according to fresh reports in The Times, the prime minister suggested at the face-to-face meeting that Ms Gray did not need to publish her report — despite public commitments to do so – after the Met police probe.

A source told the newspaper: “He asked her is there much point in doing it now that it’s all out there. He was inferring that she didn’t need to publish the report.”

Another added: “They were exploring this idea of not having any report. It was being talked about [in Downing Street]. But politically they realised they couldn’t do it”.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, did not deny the reports as he appeared on Sky News on Tuesday morning, saying: “I wasn’t at the meeting, but I know there were officials there.

“The meeting was actually arranged by officials to sort the timings and logistics of the report, so beyond that, I’m afraid I don’t have any useful information.”

The cabinet minister added: “I wasn’t in the room, so I don’t know whether that’s the case… exactly what was discussed I don’t know”.

“Occasionally things get reported that are not entirely accurate, the civil service were there to make sure that all the correct processes were followed so I have no particular reason for concern about the two of them meeting.”

The Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: “Boris Johnson lied to Parliament and the public. Now we learn he apparently put pressure on Sue Gray to scrap her report.

“If these stories are true, how can any Conservative MP look their constituents in the eye and tell them Boris Johnson is fit to govern?

Cabinet minister Grant Shapps says ‘exactly what was discussed’ at meeting ‘I don’t know’

“The British public needs transparency now. If Boris Johnson won’t release the minutes of his meeting with Sue Gray, Liberal Democrats will use every route available in Parliament to force him to.”

Mr Shapps also suggested that the image showing the prime minister raising a glass to a departing colleague and surrounded by wine bottles did not change “what the police and Sue Gray already know”.

He went on: “I see his red box is there, which is his work box, it looks to me like he goes down on his way out of the office and thanks the staff and raises a glass, and doesn’t in his mind recognise it as a party. And indeed the police have looked into this and spent a lot of time and resources.”

Downing Street has been contacted for comment.

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