Boris Johnson might at some point remorse the appointment of Sue Grey as head of a doubtlessly explosive inquiry into suspected Downing Avenue events throughout lockdown.
The senior civil servant has a repute for vigorous inside investigations – ones that her extra career-minded friends decline to the touch. Their conclusions have, every now and then, prompted the sackings of ministers and mandarins.
The inquiry, which was launched final month by the cupboard secretary, Simon Case, was primarily requested to look into claims that workers at No 10 held a celebration on 18 December 2020, when London was topic to extreme restrictions.
It is going to now additionally embrace the “bring your own booze” event on 20 Could that yr and a gathering with wine and cheese in the identical Downing Avenue backyard 5 days earlier, pictured by the Guardian.
Grey’s appointment got here amid a panicky environment in Downing Avenue, insiders declare. Case stood down in mid-December after allegations emerged of a drinks occasion going down within his own office.
On the identical day, Grey agreed to switch him. She is known to have studied Case’s work on the inquiry and determined to conduct her personal interviews. She has contacted a number of former members of workers for proof.
Insiders level out that Johnson will nonetheless should log out the inquiry earlier than it’s launched to the general public and will request “clarifications”. This might delay its publication – it took six months to publish the damning report into bullying allegations in opposition to Priti Patel.
One admirer of Grey’s work mentioned she wouldn’t stand for delays or makes an attempt to affect her inquiry. “The largest mistake they’ve made in the event that they need to cowl something up is to nominate Sue Grey as a result of she’s going to examine the claims and level the blame at these accountable,” the knowledgeable supply mentioned.
Grey started a profession as a civil servant within the Seventies, in keeping with stories. After marrying a rustic and western singer from Northern Eire, Invoice Conlon, she took a profession break within the Nineteen Eighties to run the Cove Bar outdoors Newry, County Down, near the border with Eire. “I cherished it, cherished it on the time, I’d by no means do it once more,” she informed the BBC in Could.
She was lured again to London to work within the Cupboard Workplace below Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. She was a “fixer”, in keeping with one former Blair adviser, somebody who labored within the shadows to vet potential peerages and clean over issues.
Brown wrote in his memoir: “Like Tony earlier than me and two prime ministers since, I used to be ready to attract on the assist of Sue Grey, a senior official within the Cupboard Workplace, who was all the time there with clever recommendation when – as all too commonly occurred – mini-crises and crises befell.”
She was given a better profile position in Whitehall below David Cameron. Based on the then chancellor, George Osborne, she made an impression on the brand new authorities on its first day in workplace in 2010.
“Thirty minutes after the Labour group had left, everybody was fawning at David Cameron,” the previous chancellor wrote in a tweet. “Then somebody spoke out: ‘I’m sorry PM however you possibly can’t try this.’ ‘Who’s that?’ I requested. Sue Grey.”
Grey was appointed because the director common of the propriety and ethics group in 2012. Beneath Theresa Could, she ran an investigation into the then prime minister’s shut ally Damian Inexperienced. He was subsequently sacked after admitting he had lied in regards to the presence of pornographic photographs on his Home of Commons pc.
She additionally oversaw the Plebgate inquiry into allegations that the then chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, had sworn at and insulted cops on Downing Avenue. He stepped down from workplace over the affair.
Grey returned to Northern Eire to work as a senior civil servant in 2018 however was recruited again into Whitehall within the spring to work with Michael Gove on sustaining the union.