Simon Case: Whitehall high flyer caught up in the partygate scandal

The UK’s most senior civil servant was brought back into government to help deal with the Covid pandemic.

25 May 2022

Simon Case, the Whitehall high flyer who was drafted in to help deal with Covid, is among those to have had their wings singed in the scandal over lockdown parties.

The 43-year-old had already held a series of senior civil service posts when in April 2020 he was seconded from his role as private secretary to the Duke of Cambridge to work on the Cabinet Office response to the pandemic.

Within three months of what was intended to be a temporary return to government, he was made a permanent secretary with responsibility for running No 10.

And in September that year he capped a meteoric rise with his appointment as head of the Home Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary – the youngest person to hold the position since 1916.

Regional cabinet meeting – Staffordshire
Simon Case (left) with Boris Johnson during a regional Cabinet in Stoke on Trent earlier this month (Oli Scarff/PA)

Inevitably such a rapid ascent ruffled feathers in Whitehall where there was said to have been “shock” at his elevation over more senior officials.

It was reported that he was handpicked for the role by Boris Johnson amid frustration among ministers at what they saw as the faltering response of the Government machine to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Case first joined the Civil Service in 2006 having read history at Cambridge followed by a PhD at Queen Mary University of London.

In the course of his career he held a variety of positions including working on the 2012 London Olympics, director of strategy at the GCHQ spy agency, serving as private secretary to prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May, and working on the Irish border issue in the now defunct Department for Exiting the EU.

In 2018 he left Whitehall to become private secretary and closest adviser to the Duke of Cambridge.

On his return to Government, Mr Case found himself dealing with the fall out from the Greensill lobbying scandal, centring on the activities of Mr Cameron – his former boss – as well as the continuing pandemic.

When the “partygate” affair erupted in late 2021, he was tasked by Mr Johnson with leading an internal inquiry as he sought to quell the growing political storm.

Just a week later however he was forced to recuse himself from the investigation after it was reported that there had been a gathering in his private office and the job was handed to Sue Gray.

While Mr Case escaped being fined in the subsequent police investigation by Scotland Yard, it was reported that he was being lined up to carry the can when Ms Gray delivered her final report.

It prompted allies of Mr Johnson to take the unusual step on the morning of publication of letting it be known that he would not be resigning and would not be sacked by the Prime Minister.

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