Credit…Gov.uk, via Associated Press

With years of experience in the higher reaches of the British Civil Service, including overseeing government ethics investigations, Sue Gray used to be considered one of the most powerful people Britons had never heard of.

But Ms. Gray was at the center of attention in British politics on Wednesday after delivering her report into the parties held in Downing Street that violated Britain’s lockdown rules.

After a lifetime toiling in anonymity, it is an awkward position for Ms. Gray, who now finds herself famous enough to be the subject of memes, poems and YouTube videos.

Ms. Gray is experienced in solving thorny problems and has a reputation as a steely and skillful fixer. She has spent most of her career in government service, though she once took a break to run a pub in Northern Ireland with her husband, Bill Conlon, a country singer.

Later, Ms. Gray worked closely with Gus O’Donnell, a former head of the Civil Service. Because of the power of his position, as well as his initials, he was nicknamed “God” and, perhaps inevitably, Ms. Gray was known as “baby God.”

One former minister, David Laws, recalled in his memoirs being told by Oliver Letwin, a fellow minister, that it had taken him two years to realize who really ran Britain. According to this account, Mr. Letwin concluded that it was “a lady called Sue Gray,” adding that “unless she agrees, things just don’t happen.”

In 2017, Ms. Gray was responsible for a report into the conduct of Damian Green, a senior minister who resigned after her investigation found that he had misled the public about pornography found on his parliamentary computer.

Ms. Gray inherited the inquiry on lockdown parties from the current head of the Civil Service, Simon Case. Mr. Johnson asked Mr. Case to lead what was then a much smaller investigation into the allegations late last year. Embarrassingly, Mr. Case had to recuse himself after reports that one took place in his office.

Most analysts had expected Ms. Gray to play things very straight and to limit her findings to the facts that she had established.

And now that she has issued her report, they expect her to very gladly retreat from the spotlight.





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