‘Why did he attend?! Burley has Clarke squirming over Johnsons Sue Gray one-to-one
Sue Gray report: Kay Burley grills Tory MP on PM's meeting
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Speaking on Sky News, chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke claimed the Prime Minister had met with Sue Gray, who is due to publish her findings this midweek, to “receive an update” on the report. But Ms Burley and Mr Clarke then descended into a disagreement over who had called the meeting between Mrs Gray and Boris Johnson. The TV host suggested the “optics are not good” before questioning the independence of the civil service and Mrs Gray from the Prime Minister.
Ms Burley said: “Even if it was Mrs Gray that called the meeting, which she categorically says was not the case, and both sides saying it wasn’t them, why would [Mr Johnson] attend the meeting?
“Why didn’t he just say ‘You know what, let’s wait until the report has been published, and then we can talk about it’.”
Mr Clarke said: “It will have been, in essence, to receive an update. It would have been improper or somewhat churlish to decline to have met.”
Ms Burley added: “But you understand the optics are not good when the head of an allegedly independent report has a private meeting with the Prime Minister?”
Mr Clarke said: “Well, the civil service is independent. I think it’s really important we reaffirm that this process is totally independent of any political pressure.”
The pair then locked horns as Ms Burley sought to establish the chain of command. She asked first: “Who’s her boss?”
Mr Clarke replied that “Sir Simon Case, the cabinet secretary,” is her boss, before Ms Burley added: “And who’s his boss?”
Mr Clarke said that, “ultimately the Prime Minister is in charge of the Government” before Ms Burley interrupted him: “There you go”.
Mr Clarke added: “But the civil service stands apart from the political structures of Parliament and Ms Gray, as we’ve discussed, is one of the most respected members of the civil service.”
The long-awaited Sue Gray partygate report is finally set to be published this week, as the Prime Minister faces calls to explain the purpose of a “secret” meeting with the senior civil servant.
It is understood Mr Johnson and Mrs Gray met at least once for an update on the report’s progress while it was being drafted, but a Whitehall source said its contents were not discussed at any point.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, called on the Prime Minister to “urgently explain” why the “secret meeting” with Mrs Gray took place.
Downing Street insisted Mr Johnson had been “clear throughout” that the report should be “completely independent”.
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Reports have suggested the report, expected to be published in the coming days, will feature photographs of illegal gatherings.
It was also said that top civil servant Simon Case will be particularly hard-hit by the contents, despite not having received a fine.
It follows the conclusion of a separate inquiry by the Metropolitan Police into Covid rule-breaking events at the heart of Government, which saw a total of 83 people receive at least one fixed-penalty notice (FPN) each for attending events over eight separate days.
Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson, and Rishi Sunak were told they would not be receiving any additional fines.
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