Three civil servants allegedly lobbied Sue Gray to water down her Partygate report on the eve of its Wednesday publication by removing the names of key players and scrapping details of the ABBA flat gathering.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, Permanent Secretary at No 10 Samantha Jones, and Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary Alex Chisholm are understood to have put pressure on Gray to dilute her findings, according to the Sunday Times.
Case’s name was among those that they wanted to anonymise, according to sources.
Elsewhere, there were said to be requests to change parts of the report that referred to Boris Johnson‘s wife, Carrie.
Three civil servants allegedly lobbied Sue Gray to water down her Partygate report on the eve of its Wednesday publication by removing the names of key players and scrapping details of the ABBA flat gathering
The PM, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have all received fines for attending an event in June 2020
It comes amid growing claims of a cover-up regarding the illicit Whitehall bashes.
The Partygate report revealed that Downing Street staff drank, fought and vomited their way through lockdown, knowingly breaking lockdown rules and taking steps to avoid being caught out.
While the Prime Minister got off relatively lightly in the 37-page document, officials and aides were less fortunate. Ms Gray highlighted 12 occasions where they played hard and fast with the law, taste and decency.
Up to 30 people are believed to have been contacted by Gray before the report was published and were told that she would name them – but ultimately, only half actually were.
Ms Gray released pictures of the PM and Chancellor at Mr Johnson’s birthday party. The PM is shown with a beer in his hand
Among the text changes that were made – according to sources who saw the draft report prior to it being published – were details of an alleged ‘ABBA night’ party in Johnson’s flat on November 13, 2020.
The PM was accused of attending a party with loud ABBA music in the No 11 flat he shared with his family, to celebrate the ousting of Lee Cain – his departing director of communications – and Dominic Cummings.
If there was an election tomorrow, Tories would lose 85 out of 88 battleground seats including Boris’s own
Polling company YouGov produced new modelling which suggested the Conservatives would lose all but three of 88 ‘battleground’ constituencies if a general election were held on Saturday, putting Mr Johnson’s majority in jeopardy.
The predicted outcome would see Mr Johnson’s own Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat ‘likely fall’ into Labour hands and Red Wall seats such as Blyth Valley and Stoke-on-Trent North also revert back to Sir Keir Starmer’s opposition outfit.
Only Ashfield, Bassetlaw, and Dudley North would remain blue, according to YouGov.
But Ms Gray described the event as ‘a meeting …to discuss the handling of their departure’ and revealed she did not seek to probe it in great detail.
‘Five special advisers attended. The Prime Minister joined them at about 20.00. Food and alcohol were available,’ she said.
‘The discussion carried on later into the evening with attendees leaving at various points. The information collected on this gathering is limited as the process of obtaining evidence had only just been commenced when the Metropolitan Police announced their own investigations, which included events on the 13 November 2020.
‘At this point I stopped my investigation, given the need to avoid any prejudice to the police investigation.
‘Following the Metropolitan Police announcement on 19 May 2022 I considered whether or not to conduct any further investigation into this event but concluded it was not appropriate or proportionate to do so.’
Meanwhile, David Davis said this week that discontent was spreading through the Conservative party due to MPs fearing the controversy around the Downing Street lockdown parties as two more Tory MPs called for Mr Johnson to quit.
The former cabinet minister, 73, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Nobody in the world could have made it plainer, I don’t think, that I want the Prime Minister to go – I haven’t changed my mind about that.’
Asked whether discontent was spreading in the Tory party, Mr Davis said: ‘There is no doubt about that, for two reasons.
‘Number one, frankly they see their own seats disappearing in many cases, they see themselves losing the next election on the back of this.
‘Also, it has a bad effect on the country … it is a distraction on everything you do and it doesn’t help the reputation of the country.’
The former Brexit secretary said party leadership trouble traditionally took a ‘long time’ to be sorted out, pointing to the length of time Sir John Major and Theresa May stayed in No 10 despite experiencing backbench revolt.
He added: ‘I fear we’ll not resolve this until the latter part of the year.’
Veteran Conservative Sir Bob Neill and 2019 entrant Alicia Kearns both voiced their dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister’s insistence that he had not broken coronavirus rules by attending leaving-dos for departing officials.
Sir Bob, a qualified barrister and chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, confirmed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s premiership following the publication of Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street partying.
David Davis (pictured) said discontent was spreading through the Conservative party due to MPs fearing the controversy around the Downing Street lockdown parties
Ms Kearns said the senior civil servant’s inquiry demonstrated that Mr Johnson had been ‘complicit in the holding of many goodbye parties for his staff’ which the backbencher said ‘displayed a complete disregard’ for Covid restrictions in place at the time.
The Rutland and Melton MP said she had reached the conclusion that the ‘Prime Minister’s account of events to Parliament was misleading’.
When reports of lockdown breaches at the top of Government first surfaced, Mr Johnson repeatedly told the Commons coronavirus rules had been adhered to in Downing Street.
In her report, Ms Gray found the Prime Minister – who was slapped with a fine by police for attending his own birthday bash in June 2020 when indoor mixing was forbidden – attended a number of leaving-dos in No 10 during the lockdown months in England, often giving speeches about departing officials.
But he has insisted these were work events – a conclusion he said was backed up by the Metropolitan Police opting not to fine him for being present at such gatherings – which only became raucous after he left, with Ms Gray detailing excessive drinking and altercations at one such gathering.