Who is Sue Gray? Senior civil servant in charge of Downing Street party investigation

PMQs: Boris Johnson apologises for party on May 20th

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Towards the end of 2021 a number of allegations emerged of Government Christmas parties taking place in 2020 that were a breach of Covid rules. Initially, the cabinet secretary Simon Case was appointed to investigate the claims, however he soon stepped aside from the role owing to accusations that he too had broken rules. Consequently, one of the Government’s most senior civil servants, Sue Gray, was installed in his place and will now have the added responsibility of investigating a further alleged Downing Street party. But who exactly is Sue Gray?

Ms Gray is viewed by many politicians as having a reputation for vigorous internal investigations.

Indeed, it’s believed that she will leave no stone unturned in her efforts to address the various allegations of illegal parties that took place at Downing Street across the pandemic.

The second permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office has led a distinguished career behind the scenes in Whitehall, with her conclusions from past investigations on occasion prompting the sackings of government officials.

Now, as she continues her probe into Boris Johnson’s Government, Express.co.uk takes a look at who Sue Gray is.

Ms Gray began her career as a civil servant in the 1970s.

After marrying a country and western singer from Northern Ireland, Bill Conlon, she took a career break in the 1980s to run the Cove Bar outside Newry, County Down, close to the border with Ireland.

She told the BBC last May: “I loved it, loved it at the time, I’d never do it again.”

Eventually the 65-year-old returned to London for work in the Cabinet Office under Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

In his memoir, Mr Brown wrote: “Like Tony before me and two prime ministers since, I was able to draw on the support of Sue Gray, a senior official in the Cabinet Office, who was always there with wise advice when – as all too regularly happened – mini-crises and crises befell.”

When David Cameron was appointed prime minister, he awarded Ms Gray with a higher profile position in Westminster.

According to the then-chancellor, George Osborne, she made an impression on the new government during its first day in office in 2010.

Mr Osborne wrote in a tweet: “Thirty minutes after the Labour team had left, everyone was fawning at David Cameron.

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“Then someone spoke out: ‘I’m sorry PM but you can’t do that.’ ‘Who’s that?’ I asked. Sue Gray.”

In 2012 she was then appointed as the director general of the propriety and ethics team.

Under Theresa May, she ran an investigation into the then prime minister’s close ally Damian Green.

He was subsequently sacked after admitting he had lied about the presence of pornographic images on his House of Commons computer.

Furthermore, she oversaw the ‘Plebgate inquiry’ into allegations that the then chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, had sworn at and insulted police officers on Downing Street.

The incident eventually led to Mr Mitchell stepping down from his position.

Northern Ireland would come calling again though and Ms Gray returned there to work as a senior civil servant in 2018.

However, she was soon recruited back into Whitehall in the spring to work with Michael Gove on maintaining the union.

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