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A minister has condemned briefings which claim the senior civil servant Sue Gray is “playing politics” in the handling of the publication of her long-awaited reporting into rule-busting parties in No 10.
It comes as Boris Johnson and his top team braces for the publication of the Whitehall mandarin’s internal report, which will reportedly contain photographs of some of the events held during Covid regulations.
But amid a row over whether Ms Gray or No 10 instigated what has been described as a “secret meeting” to discuss the report, the prime minister’s “allies” 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 said, according to the Daily Mail.
Appearing on Sky News, the chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke, said he condemned the briefing, claiming: “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”.
“Do I think in anyway the integrity of this report should be questioned? No because as I say Sue Gray has a reputation that dates back decades in terms of her ability to make judgements without fear of favour.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, added: “Desperate efforts to discredit Sue Gray are entirely predictable behaviour from this disgraceful excuse for a prime minister.
“He doesn’t have a single scrap of integrity — and we all know it. He attempts to drag decent people down with him will backfire”.
Pressed on a row over who called the meeting between Ms Gray and Mr Johnson — around one month ago — Mr Clarke said it was his understanding it was “instigated” by the senior civil servant.
He continued: “There are lots of practical questions here that need to be bottomed out in terms of, for example, who can be named in this report and the extent to which photographic evidence can be included. It is important that those practical dimensions are resolved.”
Mr Johnson is among around 30 people who have been told by Ms Gray that her report is likely to name them – with a deadline of 5pm on Sunday to lodge any objections having now passed.
Publication is expected on Tuesday or Wednesday after the police investigation concluded with a total of 126 fines issued to 83 people, followed by a statement to the Commons by the prime minister.
On Sunday, however, the education secretary Nadhim Zahawi, said he did not know who called the meeting after an embarrassing clash between Downing Street and Ms Gray’s team over the weekend.