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Boris Johnson believed Partygate was a stitch-up by ‘psycho’ Sue Gray, claims former media chief Guto Harri

9 May 2023, 09:39 | Updated: 9 May 2023, 13:03

Guto Harri opens up on Boris Johnson's views of 'psycho' Sue Gray

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson dubbed Partygate inquisitor Sue Gray a "psycho" and he grew "extremely suspicious" of her before her ties to Labour were confirmed, his ex-media chief has claimed.

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Guto Harri, who served as Mr Johnson's head of communications in his final months at No10 in 2022, hit out at the senior civil servant who is now hoping to become Sir Keir Starmer's chief of staff.

Supporters of the former prime minister have used her hopes of working for Labour to suggest the inquiry was tinged with bias against him.

Speaking ahead of the launch of his new podcast Unprecedented: Inside Downing Street on Global Player, in which he has already detailed a "squaring-up" between Mr Johnson and now-King Charles over the Rwanda migrant plan, Mr Harri said Ms Gray did not take a "dispassionate view of what really went on".

Listen and subscribe to Unprecedented: Inside Downing Street on Global Player

Asked about how Mr Johnson viewed Ms Gray, Mr Harri told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "If I were to say one word maybe that will be recurring in it, "psycho" Sue Gray, would be part of it, and there is a sense she lacked perspective as to what he had done.

"Towards the end, I think he rightfully thought that there was no perspective and things were completely out of all proportion in the way Partygate was viewed."

Mr Harri's new podcast launches this week
Mr Harri's new podcast launches this week. Picture: LBC

Mr Harri's new six-part podcast will reveal the inner workings of Government from his experiences at the heart of Mr Johnson's Downing Street operation during its final few months.

The tumultuous ending saw him try to cling on as he faced constant questions about his handling of Partygate before his ministers began quitting en masse.

Read more: Boris 'squared up to Charles' in row over slavery says ex-No.10 media chief

Mr Harri told Nick how Mr Johnson's opinion about Ms Gray, then a senior civil servant, changed over time.

"He had respected her a lot, but by the time I got there I think he was understandably getting suspicious and by the end we were all extremely suspicious of this woman," he said.

"She was meant to be doing an inquiry that was reporting to the Prime Minister and it was meant to be completely unbiased, it was meant to be a quasi-judicial, objective thing.

Boris Johnson became suspicious of Sue Gray, Mr Harri said
Boris Johnson became suspicious of Sue Gray, Mr Harri said. Picture: Getty

"Turns out she was advised by a card-carrying Labour barrister who was on social media recruiting people to the Labour party, as he was advising her what to do.

"Turns out she had a press officer. Why do you need a press officer when you're writing a report for the Prime Minister?

"It took me weeks to realise where all these leaks were coming from, they were actively being briefed and journalists told me afterwards 'you got that guy moved, you destroyed a source of great stories for us'.

Read more: Boris Johnson 'planned to oust Rishi Sunak as Chancellor before he resigned,' claims former media chief

"So this was not this objective, dispassionate view of what really went on.

"There are many people who behaved badly during that period. None of them are in the public domain, none of them have been mentioned, it was all landed on one guy because he happened to be the guy at the top."

He added: "As for Sue Gray, we all know what she wants to do next, she wants to work for Keir Starmer.

"She must have been talking to him at the time, when she was meant to deliver a quasi-judicial verdict, objectively, on Boris Johnson."

Sue Gray was dubbed "psycho" in No10
Sue Gray was dubbed "psycho" in No10. Picture: Getty

Ms Gray, who it was made public had accepted the job as Sir Keir's chief of staff in March, had turned it down at least four months earlier, reports suggested.

She is waiting to hear how long she will need to wait before starting the job

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments is still yet to decide how long she must go on gardening leave before taking up the role. A wait of about three to six months is expected.

But her ties to Labour have allowed Mr Johnson's supporters to cast doubt on her findings into pandemic-era parties at Downing Street, in which she criticised the culture and leadership at No10.

Mr Johnson is also waiting to hear back from the Commons privileges committee's inquiry.

It is claimed she was at the centre of the Cabinet Office's response to the inquiry, which is investigating whether he misled MPs over the parties.

Mr Sunak's official spokesman, asked what the Downing Street incumbent thought of the remarks allegedly made by one of his predecessors, said he had not spoken to the Prime Minister about the reports.

The No 10 official added: "The Prime Minister uses appropriate language."

 Listen to LBC on Global Player: Podcasts, news and radio highlights
Listen to LBC on Global Player: Podcasts, news and radio highlights. Picture: Global Player

Mr Harri has already revealed Boris Johnson "squared up" to King Charles over a speech the royal wanted to make about slavery and made a warning that caused a rift that never fully recovered.

It came after the then-Prince of Wales had privately criticised Government plans to send migrants to Rwanda.

Speaking amid King Charles' Coronation, Mr Harri said: "Things were not so celebratory when Boris and the soon-to-be King went to Kigali, Rwanda. Prince Charles, as he was then, had criticised the government's approach to small boats.

"He was also planning a speech on slavery. Boris squared up, confronted him and warned him 'I'd be careful' he said, 'or you'll end up having to sell the Duchy of Cornwall to pay reparations for those who built it.' Relations never fully recovered."

Listen and subscribe to Unprecedented: Inside Downing Street on Global Player

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