The journey from the pub owner of Sue Gray, a top UK official, to the Partigate scandal

‘Unless he agrees, things won't happen’: Sue Gray's journey to the top

Sue Gray ran a pub in Northern Ireland at the height of the violence in the 1980s


Sue Gray, the UK’s top civil servant, a former pub landlord who once described Britain as “running”, led an internal investigation into lockdown-breaking parties on Downing Street.

A senior official, whose report “Partigate” blames senior government leaders for the culture of law-breaking on Downing Street, is now the name of a family in Britain after spending five months investigating the scandal.

Mrs Gray, in her 60s, was reportedly under pressure to save her full report after her preliminary results were released earlier this year.

But the war-hardened veteran, who ran a pub in Northern Ireland at the height of the violence there in the 1980s, was known to be adamant about revealing it.

She bought the pub with her husband, country and Western singer Bill Conlon, during a break from working in the civil service for decades in the troubled British province.

There he reigned supreme over the potentially crumbling Cove Bar in the border town of Newry, a region famously known as the “bandit country.”

A customer told The Sunday Times he was remembered as a “good landlord” who “knew not to open his mouth” about his work for the British government.

– ‘As is true’ –

Mrs Gray is a top civilian in the cabinet – accused of backing prime ministers and ensuring effective government.

He has led a number of internal investigations in his previous role as head of its availability and ethics, and is regarded as an irresistible civilian employee – the ideal person to conduct an investigation with such extreme political influence.

He was given a shoelace in the head of the investigation after resigning from the leadership of Britain’s top civilian employee, Simon Case.

Mr Case withdrew after it was revealed that he had been drinking in his own office during the 2020 Christmas race.

London police, who have imposed 126 fines on 83 people – mainly officials, but also Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak – have not convicted the case, following their own criminal investigations.

Former senior official David Normington told BBC Radio earlier this year that Ms Gray was the best person among the officials to lead the internal investigation.

“She is a senior civil servant and I think this will tell us the truth,” said Alastair Graham, who worked with her when she was chairman of a public life committee on standards.

Mrs Gray has built a reputation for efficiency and integrity and has amassed considerable authority, Westminster insiders say.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron’s policy chief Oliver Letwin told his Liberal Democrat ministerial-level colleague David Los in 2010, “If he doesn’t agree, things won’t happen.”

“Cabinet reshuffles, departmental reshuffles, it’s all up to Sui Gray,” Leighton said in his 2016 memoir.

– ‘Uncomfortable’ –

Mrs Gray has demonstrated her ability to conduct controversial political investigations into alleged wrongdoing by Tory MPs.

In 2017, his report to Conservative Minister Damien Green found that he had lied about the presence of pornographic images on his parliamentary computer and persuaded then-Prime Minister Theresa May to fire her close cabinet ally.

Mrs Gray had previously investigated allegations that then-Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell insulted police officers on Downing Street with the class-alleged insulting word “play”.

After receiving just one fine from Johnson Police, however, the politically damaged leader is predicted to take the storm around his report despite his heinous evidence and conclusions.

Meanwhile, some have noted that forcing a government employee to conduct an investigation is problematic.

Katherine Haddon, of the Institute for Government Think Tank, argued in January that leading an investigation into the PM’s behavior was “very uncomfortable” for the civil service.

“If the report fails to satisfy the court of public opinion … the civil service will face criticism,” he added.

“Whatever Mrs. Gray is, ‘Partigate’ does not end with her report.”

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)

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