Simon Case ‘recuses himself’ from Xmas party probe amid finding his own office held soiree

Shaun Bailey responds following 2020 Christmas party photo

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Top civil servant Simon Case has quit his role leading an inquiry into Downing Street lockdown parties. Boris Johnson appointed Mr Case to dig deeper into the allegations.

Mr Case, a cabinet secretary, will be replaced by Sue Gray, a second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

A spokesperson for No 10 said: “To ensure the ongoing investigation retains public confidence, the cabinet secretary [Simon Case] has recused himself for the remainder of the process”.

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

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said she was “incredibly disappointed” Mr Case “didn’t come clean” when he was first tasked to investigate alleged parties in Downing Street.

She added that his replacement Ms Gray has an “incredible responsibility to restore trust”.

The Mirror first revealed senior aides and elected officials enjoyed a Christmas party at Downing Street while the rest of the country was on lockdown, an accusation Boris Johnson has repeatedly denied.

Video footage of his former press secretary Allegra Stratton laughing with other press aides when mentioning the Christmas party during a mock press conference emerged last week sparked outrage in the UK.

Following the release of the video, Ms Stratton apologised and resigned.

According to reports from Guido Fawkes released on Friday afternoon, Simon Case attended a scheduled Christmas party with a team of his officials on 17 December last year.

About 15 people were invited to the gathering at 70 Whitehall, near Downing Street, although it is understood not everyone turned up.

Responding to the claims, a Government spokesperson said: “Staff in the cabinet secretary’s private office took part in a virtual quiz on 17 December 2020.

“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.

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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 those attending brought drinks and snacks. He also spoke briefly to staff in the office before leaving.”

In room 103 of the Cabinet Office, the event began at 5.30pm and was listed in digital calendar invitations as “Christmas party!”, according to The Times.

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