Fresh claims emerged today that details of an alleged ‘Abba party’ in the Downing Street flat were removed from the Sue Gray report.
A draft of Ms Gray’s Partygate probe had referred to music being played from the flat on 13 November 2020, the Sunday Times reported.
The draft also said what time the gathering finished, it is claimed – with other parties in No10 carrying on as late as 4am.
But neither of these details were in the final report.
The final version said Ms Gray had decided it was not “appropriate or proportionate” to probe further after police did not fine anyone for the event.
Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and a group of special advisors were in the flat on the night of November 13 when indoor social gatherings were banned.
It has been claimed ‘The Winner Takes it All’ was played after Dominic Cummings – a bitter rival of Mrs Johnson – was forced out of No10.
Mrs Johnson has denied the claims previously – and Mr Johnson last week claimed it was a work meeting.
Downing Street has flatly denied the report was “changed by No10”. A No10 source said overnight: “It is untrue that anyone on the political side saw anything in advance or sought to influence it.”
Today, Cabinet Office sources said it was “categorically untrue” that “senior figures were able to edit or influence the report”, it was untrue that Steve Barclay influenced the report, and top civil servant Simon Case did not ask for his name to be removed from the report.
But the Sunday Times has also reported that civil servants – who are not on the political side – lobbied Ms Gray over her report.
No10 has also not completely ruled out the prospect that Ms Gray changed her report herself after communication from Downing Street.
Asked this question by the Mirror on Thursday, the PM’s official spokesman said: “I don’t know when changes were made in the process of drafting the report.”
Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis did not explicitly deny the contents of the Sunday Times story, instead telling Sky News: “I don’t recognise any of that.”
He said he was “absolutely confident” no one would have tried to influence the report, adding: “Knowing Sue Gray, I don’t believe anybody would be able to pressure Sue Gray into putting any kind of report out that she wasn’t comfortable with.”
They said the section covering a gathering in the Downing Street flat was “edited” on Tuesday night.
The Government denied the claims, which were also raised by an MP in the Commons.
On claims Mr Barclay asked for changes about the ‘Abba party’ – which are also echoed in the Sunday Times – Mr Lewis told Sky: “10 Downing Street have said this claim is not correct, it’s untrue.
“And I would say it’s backed up that police did not see anything there that required anyone being fined.”
A third source claimed the passage about the flat had been changed but they did not know who by.
Separately, Downing Street admitted an official saw parts of the document before publication.
Sources told the Sunday Times today that Ms Gray was also lobbied by three senior civil servants not to publish some names of those attending lockdown parties.
They were permanent secretary Samantha Jones, Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, and Alex Chisholm, the permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office, the newspaper claimed.
In response Ms Gray told them to “instruct” her to make the changes – signalling publicly that she opposed them, the newspaper report.
In the end, several people were named in the report.
Brandon Lewis said he was “absolutely confident” that senior figures in No 10 did not seek to influence the Sue Gray report into lockdown parties.
The Northern Ireland Secretary told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “I’m absolutely confident that’s the case.
“I wasn’t part of the report, I’m not part of the No 10 team that worked with Sue Gray on the report.
“But… anybody who has worked in No 10 knows Sue Gray well enough that that kind of thing wouldn’t work.
“And I’m confident, particularly now that No 10 have outrightly made the point and denied that this happened, that Sue Gray had the freedom to write the report that she was comfortable to write and publish.”
But Lib Dem Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “This looks like another disgraceful attempt by Boris Johnson and the Conservatives to cover up for their lies and law breaking.
“The Privileges Committee must immediately look into the supposed interference into the publication of the Sue Gray report.
“If the government really did alter the report, the British public should be told the truth.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The report was impartially conducted and its contents represent the findings and conclusions of the investigation team alone.
“As with all such investigation reports, the process of obtaining formal representations from those perceived to be criticised prior to publication took place. This is an appropriate and usual process in such matters.”
It comes after the number of Tory MPs publicly voicing no confidence in their leader hit about two dozen.
Former health minister Steve Brine and Anne Marie Morris became the latest to announce they have called for a vote on Boris Johnson’s future.
The actual number of letter writers is very likely higher given it is a secret process.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, will order a confidence vote if he receives 54 letters demanding one.
It came as the Sunday Times reported texts were sent by Carrie Johnson on 19 June 2020 appearing to show she was in the flat with friends on the evening of her husband’s 56th birthday – during lockdown.
A spokeswoman for Carrie Johnson told the newspaper: “Sue Gray was aware of these exchanges as part of her exhaustive inquiry into alleged breaches.
“Staff were given ample opportunity to present evidence including these messages and all relevant information was passed to the Metropolitan Police for investigation.
“The lunchtime gathering in the cabinet room on 19 June 2020 was subsequently found to be in breach and a fixed penalty notice was issued to Mrs Johnson among others for which she apologised unreservedly and promptly paid the fine.”