Riddle of Sue Gray report press officer who was moved after leaks and lurid briefings
A senior Civil Service press officer responsible for handling the publication of Sue Gray’s report was dramatically dropped from the role last night.
The official, who has worked on the inquiry since it was taken over by Miss Gray in December last year, was expected to oversee the media handling of the report’s inquiry in the coming days.
But last night he told reporters he was ‘no longer working on the Sue Gray inquiry’, and that all questions should be referred to the Cabinet Office.
Downing Street insisted Mr Johnson had not asked for the meeting. But Miss Gray’s team disputed this version of events, saying the idea for the session had originated in Downing Street (Sue Gray pictured in Westminster earlier this year)
A Downing Street source claimed the PM ‘wants the photos (of Downing Street parties) published’ to dispel the idea that No 10 was ‘like Ibiza on a Saturday night’ during lockdown
Mystery surrounds the reasons for his removal yesterday. But the move follows the decision by Miss Gray’s team on Saturday to publicly challenge No 10’s insistence that a meeting between her and Boris Johnson this month was held at her request.
It also comes after a number of lurid briefings about her report in the weekend newspapers, including a claim in The Sunday Times that Miss Gray was ‘surprised’ the Prime Minister received only one fine.
One senior Whitehall figure voiced surprise that Miss Gray had had a press officer at all, adding: ‘She’s supposed to be producing a quasi-judicial report – what does she need a spin doctor for?’
The Cabinet Office yesterday declined to comment on the reasons for the removal of the senior press officer on Miss Gray’s team. He is thought to have returned to other duties elsewhere in government.
A source claimed the official had only been ‘helping out’, adding: ‘The Cabinet Office communications team is now dealing with it because we are the responsible department.’