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The senior civil servant newly tasked with leading the inquiry into alleged Whitehall parties during coronavirus restrictions will be able to “go wherever she wants” and could even investigate her own boss.
Sue Gray was parachuted in to take over from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in running the investigation after Mr Case was found to have been aware of a gathering in his own department when restrictions were in place.
Ms Gray, who is second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has been described as “formidable” and “deputy God”.
She oversaw the Plebgate inquiry in 2012 after former chief whip Andrew Mitchell was accused of calling a policeman a “pleb” at the Downing Street gates, and is also part of the panel deciding on who will be next chair of the media regulator Ofcom.
On Sunday the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said she would have complete freedom in what she investigated in relation to the reports of gatherings.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Javid said: “She will be able to investigate what she wants. If she wants to investigate one particular individual, whatever…”
Asked if she would be allowed to investigate Mr Case, who as head of the civil service is her boss, Mr Javid said: “She has the freedom as I understand to go wherever she wants with this investigation.
“That’s the way it should be because people want to know the facts and that this is the best way to establish them.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said it did appear that Boris Johnson or his staff had broken the law with an alleged Christmas party in Downing Street last year, which would be included in Ms Gray’s investigation.
Speaking on the Marr show, he said: “From what I’ve seen, I’ve looked at the evidence, it does appear that way.”
But he said it was an operational decision for the Metropolitan Police to decide whether they investigated.