ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana explains the political ramifications of partygate as two crucial by-elections loom
Sue Gray has written to senior civil servants to warn them that she plans to identify them in her report - likely to be published next week, I’ve heard. Sources tell me the letters have caused shock and anger, because individuals believed that their identities would be protected. “People are livid,” said one person. “As they were told that wouldn’t happen when they were asked to give evidence.”
ITV News has also been told that the issue has caused a row in government, because some senior voices are trying to get the report anonymised.
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know
One insider said that Ms Gray did want to name some senior figures, but in a factual way - for example if it was their leaving do that is being talked about. One name I’ve heard is included is Helen Macnamara - who used to be the government’s civil service ethics chief- and whose leaving do was said to include karaoke and a late night punch up. I’ve also been told (but Ms Gray’s team say they cannot comment) that there could be examples in the report of pre-meditation, including messages that show the individuals knew they were breaking rules and were trying to avoid being caught. If so, that could lead to serious repercussions.
Another thing bothering me about the latest twist in the partygate saga is the question of Cabinet Secretary Simon Case. Multiple sources insist that he was present at the “birthday cake” party for which Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were fined. I had thought perhaps the reason he wasn’t also give a fixed penalty notice was that photographs of the PM and chancellor made it appear they considered the event a party, while he did not.
But I’m now told by sources that Case was in photographs handed to the police.
Both Mr Sunak and Mr Case turned up early for a meeting - and the chancellor doesn't drink, and sources say - was likely to have stuck to water.
And here is the weirdest bit of this- one source claimed that even Mr Case himself was perplexed about it- although I couldn't get a response from the cabinet secretary himself.