Downing Street has admitted that it did provoke a gathering between Boris Johnson and Sue Gray – hours after a cupboard minister advised Sky News that it was Ms Gray who did so.
Contradictory accounts concerning the secret assembly have emerged since particulars of it have been first reported by Sky News final Friday.
Meanwhile an nameless briefing to a newspaper accused Ms Gray of “playing politics” and “enjoying the limelight a little too much” forward of the publication of her report into Downing Street events this week.
Politics hub: Downing Street images anticipated inside subsequent two days
Labour claimed the federal government was attempting to undermine Sue Gray and her report.
Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, advised Sky News on Monday that he condemned the nameless briefing in opposition to her, describing Ms Gray as “one of the most fiercely independent and professional civil servants in the whole of government”.
He additionally defended the integrity of the report and mentioned it could be improper to deduce from accounts of the assembly that strain had been positioned on Ms Gray.
But he mentioned it was Ms Gray who instigated the assembly with the prime minister, one thing the senior civil servant had denied – defending his determination to go forward with the encounter by saying it could have been “churlish” to refuse.
Asked whether or not Mr Johnson’s place might come underneath risk on account of Sue Gray’s findings, he mentioned: “My faith in the prime minister is absolute.”
Hours later in a each day briefing with journalists, the prime minister’s official spokesman confirmed that the assembly between Ms Gray and the prime minister had been initiated by Downing Street.
The spokesman mentioned following that “official level contact” it had been Sue Gray’s workplace that submitted a “technical request” for a gathering.
But the spokesman mentioned it had been Number 10 officers who steered that it “might be useful” to provide the prime minister an summary of what her staff was planning “with regards to publication and timings.”
Downing Street additionally mentioned it didn’t help the claims reported within the Daily Mail about Ms Gray “playing politics”.
Mr Johnson refused to touch upon the main points of the assembly throughout a go to to a college in south-east London, however mentioned “of course” Ms Gray remained unbiased.
Labour chief Sir Keir Starmer advised reporters: “I always had a concern that as we got to the publication of the Sue Gray report, there will be attempts by the government to undermine her and undermine the report.
“That’s what we have seen occurring over the weekend in latest days, a brand new low for the federal government.”
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “The public can be rightly offended if it seems Boris Johnson put strain on Sue Gray to water down her report into unlawful Downing Street events.”
The publication of Ms Gray’s findings this week will come after the Metropolitan Police last week concluded its investigation into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and Whitehall in 2020 and 2021.
It said 126 fines were to be issued to 83 people. The prime minister, his wife and the chancellor each received one fixed penalty notice relating to a birthday gathering in June 2020 – and have all apologised.
Reports suggest that Ms Gray’s report will feature photographs of illegal gatherings.
Mr Clarke said: “Do I believe in any manner that the integrity of this report ought to be questioned?
“No, because Sue Gray has a reputation which dates back decades in terms of her ability to make judgments without fear or favour and I think she will absolutely deliver it on that basis.”
Mr Clarke mentioned the assembly with the prime minister “will have been, in essence, to receive an update”.
“I think it would be genuinely wrong to impugn that there has been any pressure put on the nature of this report in any way,” he mentioned.