Sue Gray is expected to finally publish her Partygate findings this week after Scotland Yard concluded its investigation into Downing Street and Whitehall gatherings during lockdown. The top civil servant was the woman tasked with probing the various lawbreaking accusations associated with the bashes at the heart of the government.
The senior official was given this responsibility after civil service chief Simon Case was forced to step aside due to a party having been held in his own office. Despite 126 fines being issued in total, Boris Johnson was only given one penalty for his birthday party in June 2020.
However, the Prime Minister isn’t out of the woods yet, as Sue Gray’s report is expected to be rather damning of the culture in Downing Street during the pandemic. Originally due in January, the report’s publication was delayed after the police opted to open an investigation into the parties.
A short interim document was published instead, where she laid “failures of leadership and judgement” at the Prime Minister’s doorstep. Despite her name being very much at the forefront of the news for a good few months, many people still aren’t too familiar with the previous work of Sue Gray.
Once described by former cabinet minister Oliver Letwin as the person who “runs” the UK, here is everything you need to know about the woman behind the report.
Life as a landlady
In the late 1980s, Sue took a career break when she bought and ran a pub in Newry, Northern Ireland, with her husband, country and western singer Bill Conlon. They bought the Cove Bar, about 10 miles from the border with the Republic.
Both Protestants and Catholics drank there, and, as one customer told The Sunday Times, Mrs Gray was a “good landlady”.
Previous roles in government
Mrs Gray eventually first joined the Cabinet Office in the late 1990s. From 2012 to 2018, she served as the director general for propriety and ethics.
Between 2018 and 2021, she served as the permanent secretary of the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland, on secondment from the Cabinet Office. Prior to joining the Cabinet Office, she worked in Transport, Health and DWP where she covered a range of roles which included both policy and front line delivery.
During her time as director general, Mrs Gray was asked to investigate Conservative MP Damian Green over allegations he had lied about the presence of pornographic images on his Commons computer by former Prime Minister Theresa May – Green ultimately resigned in 2017. She also led the so-called “plebgate” inquiry into claims that then-chief whip Andrew Mitchell had insulted police officers in Downing Street, after which he too resigned.
Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox also quit in 2011, during an investigation over allegations that he broke the ministerial code by allowing his friend and supposed adviser, Adam Werritty, to become closely involved in Fox’s government work
Current government role
Sue returned to the Cabinet Office to take up the role of second permanent secretary in May 2021. Her role leads on the Union and the Constitution, responsible for both the Union Directorate and the UK Governance Group.
Sue is now the most senior civil servant at the new Department for Levelling Up. The second permanent secretary is also the sponsor for the Grenfell Tower and Infected Blood Independent Public Inquiries.