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UK civil service chief under pressure over new demands from lockdown party – POLITICO

LONDON — As reckoning day draws near for Boris Johnson, the head of Britain’s civil service is facing his own nightmare after details of a third party allegedly breaking the rules in his department came to light.

Johnson is braced for the outcome of an investigation led by senior civil servant Sue Gray into a series of allegations that staff in Downing Street and Whitehall broke lockdown rules to hold social gatherings.

She will examine two parties held in Downing Street last April on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, for which No 10 apologized to Buckingham Palace on Friday.

That inquiry is now also expected to respond to the revelation that a going away party was held at the Cabinet Office on December 17, 2020 for Kate Josephs, the former head of the government unit tasked with crafting the COVID restrictions.

Josephs said in a statement posted on twitter that she was “really sorry”.

The Telegraph reported that a source with knowledge of the incident said Simon Case, the head of the civil service, had been invited to the Josephs event. The Cabinet Office said “categorically” that he was not present.

Case was initially tasked with investigating the Downing Street parties but recused himself last month after reports of lockdown-breaking social gatherings in his own department. Civil service officials claimed he had a drink outside his office in Whitehall in December 2020, as first reported by POLITICO and the Independent – ​​allegations which have been emphatically denied by the Cabinet Office.

Separately, The Times reported that Case attended another Christmas party at his department later in December 2020. The Cabinet Office acknowledged that a virtual quiz took place, but said the cabinet secretary “n played no part in the event”.

The news of a third party at the Cabinet Office raises new questions about Case’s role in implementing any changes or sanctions against officials stemming from Gray’s report.

As Cabinet Secretary, Case is Gray’s boss and the ultimate arbiter of discipline in the civil service.

A former Tory cabinet minister said Case should have been the one ‘you might have thought he would have been individually responsible for exercising a moral compass’ and shutting down parties, but ‘he himself seemed not recognize it for what it was”.

Whitehall staff who spoke to POLITICO and the Independent earlier this week raised concerns about Case’s impartiality, with one saying the Cabinet Secretary would ‘mark his own homework’ .

Gray was due to deliver his report early next week, but he is now facing a delay as new allegations pile up.


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