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No 10 party inquiry head quits over own event

Simon Case’s role was put into doubt after reports a party was held in his office while London was under strict Covid-19 rules

UK’s top civil servant has stepped down from his role investigating a case into Downing Street lockdown parties while London was under strict Covid-19 restrictions, after it emerged an event was held in his own office, according to media reports.

Simon Case had been due to report on claims Covid rules were broken at events for staff last year, the BBC reported.

But his role was put into doubt after reports a party was held in his office while London was under Covid rules.

Case will be replaced by veteran civil servant Sue Gray, second permanent secretary at the communities and levelling up department.

“To ensure the ongoing investigation retains public confidence the cabinet secretary [Simon Case] has recused himself for the remainder of the process,” the BBC quoted a spokesperson for No 10 as saying.

They said Gray would “ascertain the facts and present her findings to the prime minister”.

Simon Case’s role was put into doubt after reports a party was held in his office while London was under Covid rules. Picture by Andrew Parsons No 10 Downing Street

According to BBC, a quiz was held for members of Case’s private office on 17 December 2020, and invites were sent out titled “Christmas Party!”

About 15 people were invited to the gathering at 70 Whitehall, near Downing Street, although it is understood not everyone turned up.
Meanwhile, responding to the claims, a government spokesperson said the staff in the cabinet secretary’s private office took part in a virtual quiz on 17 December 2020, the BBC reported.

“A small number of them, who had been working in the office throughout the pandemic and on duty that day, took part from their desks, while the rest of the team were virtual,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

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“The cabinet secretary played no part in the event, but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office. No outside guests or other staff were invited or present. This lasted for an hour and drinks and snacks were bought by those attending. He also spoke briefly to staff in the office before leaving,” the spokesperson added.

Few days ago, a government adviser had resigned following a backlash over a video that showed her joking about the alleged Christmas party at Downing Street last year during lockdown.

Allegra Stratton said she has offered her resignation less than 20 hours after the video emerged.

Simon Case with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Andy Parsons No 10 Downing Street

The video, obtained by ITV, showed Stratton, who was Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Press Secretary at that time, laughing about how to describe the alleged party during a rehearsal for a news conference.

In the footage from December last year, Stratton and other senior aides can be heard jokingly referring the party to a “business meeting” and a “cheese and wine” event.

In her statement, she said the British people had made immense sacrifices and apologised for comments that “seemed to make light of the rules”.

“I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days and offer my profound apologies to all of you for them,” she said.

But she did not mention in the statement whether the party did actually happen.

Johnson also apologised for the video in Parliament during the same week, saying that he was “furious” about the clip and was launching an investigation into whether rules had been broken.

But opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister had taken the public for fools as Downing Street has refused during the past week to confirm what happened at the alleged party on December 18 last year.

Matt Fowler, co-founder of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, accused the Prime Minister of trying to “gaslight” bereaved families.

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