Official probing UK government lockdown parties steps aside - for attending party

Simon Case, the country's top civil servant, recused himself after allegations surfaced that he was involved in a lockdown party

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was investigating parties reported to have been held in Downing Street and the Department for Education in November and December 2020. PA

The senior civil servant investigating ethics complaints surrounding lockdown Christmas parties at the heart of the British government has been forced to recuse himself after revelations that he attended a similar event.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case “recused himself” from leading the high-profile investigation after allegations surfaced of gatherings in his own department.

He was given the task by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of investigating parties reported to have been held in Downing Street and the Department for Education in November and December 2020.

“To ensure the continuing investigation retains public confidence, the Cabinet secretary has recused himself for the remainder of the process,” a representative for No 10 said.

The investigation will be finished by Sue Gray, another senior civil servant.

“She will ascertain the facts and present her findings to the prime minister,” the representative said.

Ms Gray was director-general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office from 2012 to 2018.

The allegations that Mr Case was involved in a lockdown party surfaced on Friday. Within hours, his recusal was confirmed.

Officials said Mr Case had only briefly attended a virtual quiz. In other reported cases, Mr Johnson reportedly joined an online party where other members broke Covid lockdown rules in force last year.

Allegra Stratton after her resignation. PA

One of his closest aides, Allegra Stratton, resigned after video was released of her joking about lockdown parties in Downing Street.

A government representative said: “Staff in the Cabinet secretary's private office took part in a virtual quiz on December 17, 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.

“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.”

Updated: December 18th 2021, 6:05 AM