Sue Gray joining Labour shows Partygate was 'deliberate and manufactured plot', Boris Johnson ally claims

2 March 2023, 16:08 | Updated: 2 March 2023, 17:58

Sue Gray was the senior civil servant that led the investigation into partygate
Sue Gray was the senior civil servant that led the investigation into partygate. Picture: Getty Images
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Sue Gray leaving the civil service to join Labour as an adviser to Sir Keir Starmer shows Partygate was a "deliberate and manufactured plot" to get rid of Mr Johnson, an ally of the former Prime Minister has said.

The unnamed ally of Mr Johnson said that the "validity" of Ms Gray's investigation into illicit government socialising during Covid-19 was now "completely destroyed".

Mr Johnson himself appointed Ms Gray to lead the inquiry last year.

The ally said: "Keir Starmer appointing Sue Gray as his chief of staff reveals what many have suspected all along: partygate was a deliberate and manufactured plot to oust a Brexit-backing Conservative prime minister.

Read more: Read it in full: Sue Gray's much-anticipated final Partygate report

"The validity of the Sue Gray investigation and its findings is now completely destroyed.

"This matter is surely a serious breach of civil service impartiality and there can be no doubt the civil service code has been breached.

"What was supposed to be an investigation by independent civil servants is now revealed to have been carried out by someone who ultimately would go on to work for Keir Starmer."

Sue Gray has served in the civil service for more than 30 years
Sue Gray has served in the civil service for more than 30 years. Picture: Getty

Ms Gray rose to prominence after being appointed the chief investigator into the partygate scandal, publishing a report that found a "failure of leadership and judgement" during Boris Johnson's time as prime minister.

She will be replacing Sam White, who served as the Labour Party's chief of staff for around one year.

It is understood Sir Keir had been looking for someone with significant experience working with government officials at the top level, Sky News reports.

Her appointment would first need to be authorised by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), which vets the new jobs of former ministers and senior civil servants.

Responding to the appointment, Boris Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries said the move was "unsurprising".

She tweeted: "Sue Gray move to Starmer's office not surprising. Whilst writing report, she used QC who tweeted out pro Labour anti gov tweets whilst Alistair Campbell heaped praise upon her.

"Her comms assistant briefed against Johnson from day 1. The Gray report was a stitch up of PM and civil servants".

Her fellow Johnson backer Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "So much for an impartial Civil Service, the Gray report now looks like a left wing stitch up against a Tory Prime Minister."

Read More: Rishi Sunak's Brexit deal 'does not represent UK taking back control', Boris Johnson says

Read More: 'A massive betrayal and breach of trust': Matt Hancock apologises to colleagues over private messages leak

Ms Gray first joined the cabinet office in the 1990s, eventually going on to serve as director.

In 2018, Ms Gray transferred to the Northern Ireland civil service, but moved back to Whitehall in 2021 after failing to become head of the service.

She became a household name when she was appointed as the chief investigator into the partygate scandal, publishing her findings on the series of lockdown breaches in January 2022.

In her report, Ms Gray said a string of government gatherings held during lockdown were "difficult to justify" while millions were not allowed to meet friends and family.

She has a reputation for being stern, while also being widely respected across the civil service.

Sir Keir Starmer announced five "national missions" to fix Britain last week
Sir Keir Starmer announced five "national missions" to fix Britain last week. Picture: Getty

After failing to be appointed the chief of the Northern Ireland civil service, she told the BBC: "I suspect people may have thought that I perhaps was too much of a challenger, or a disrupter. I am both."

It comes amid a shake-up within the Labour Party, with Sir Keir setting out his party's "five missions" if the party is elected into government at the next general election.

The Labour leader made five pledges, which will be at the centre of Labour's next election manifesto, claiming they will bring an end to "sticking plaster politics" across Whitehall.

Sir Keir's five "national missions" centred around the economy, the NHS, crime, childcare and the environment.

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