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Keir Starmer reveals details of 'short call' with Sue Gray which triggered probe into ex-top civil servant

7 July 2023, 10:03 | Updated: 7 July 2023, 10:19

Starmer reveals more details on Sue Gray saga

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Sir Keir Starmer has provided more details about his contact with Partygate investigator Sue Gray ahead of her appointment as his chief-of-staff.

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The Labour Party leader, speaking on his regular Call Keir show with Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on LBC, said: "Now I can give the full readout. It was a short call. It was towards the end of October and I phoned Sue - I've known her for a number of years, she is a phenomenal woman.

"I was looking for a chief-of-staff and the conversation I had with her, which was a short conversation, which is, 'I'm looking for a chief-of-staff, if you were to leave the civil service, is this something you might consider?'.

"Because I knew the rules, she knew the rules. And we left it at that. I then didn't speak to hear again, that was the extent of it. The only caveat is, when the leak came and she decided she would stand down, just before she stood down, I gave her a call to make sure she was alright and to find out what she was doing.

Read more: 'He has no choice': Keir Starmer backs London mayor Sadiq Khan over controversial Ulez scheme

Read more: Partygate investigator Sue Gray broke Civil Service code by discussing a job with Labour, inquiry finds

"But that was the long and the short of it and that is why I've always been confident in saying there was no breach of the code.

"I didn't discuss politics, I didn't discuss policy. I simply said, if you are to stand down at some point, would you be interested in being my chief-of-staff."

Sir Keir was speaking to Nick Ferrari on his regular Call Keir segment
Sir Keir was speaking to Nick Ferrari on his regular Call Keir segment. Picture: LBC

On the same show in March Sir Keir refused ten times ten times to say exactly when he first contacted her about the role, only to say he had been looking for someone to do the job for 'some time.'

The Labour leader told Nick he was "frustrated" that he could not set out more details about his contact with former senior civil servant Sue Gray due to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba)'s review of her job offer with the Opposition party.

Sir Keir Starmer said: "I was frustrated.

"The committee had asked Sue and me that they should be the people who have this information first and they should be the people to consider it in the proper way.

"Now, that was frustrating for me because it is actually a very short story. I know what the rules are, Sue knows what the rules are, that is why we only had a very brief conversation along those lines.

"I wish the committee hadn't said, 'Don't tell anyone until we've determined'. But they've got their own process which we respected. And of course they've said that nothing was wrong."

He said his contact with Ms Gray in October 2022 came "months after" her partygate probe was published, adding: "The last time I saw Sue Gray before that was at a funeral some years beforehand."

Partygate investigator Sue Gray who can start as Sir Keir Starmer's chief of staff in September after serving a six-month delay from when she left as a senior civil servant
Partygate investigator Sue Gray who can start as Sir Keir Starmer's chief of staff in September after serving a six-month delay from when she left as a senior civil servant. Picture: Alamy

Earlier this week it was revealed Sue Gray broke the Civil Service code "as a result of the undeclared contact" between her and the Labour Party, according to a Cabinet Office investigation.

Ms Gray was cleared last week by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) to start work as Sir Keir Starmer's chief of staff in September after the anti-corruption watchdog ruled it had seen "no evidence" that her decision making or impartiality was "impaired" while serving in Whitehall.

In a written ministerial statement about the Whitehall probe into the Partygate investigator, Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin said: "I can now confirm that the Cabinet Office process looking into the circumstances leading up to Ms Gray's resignation has been concluded.

"As part of the process, Ms Gray was given the opportunity to make representations but chose not to do so.

"This process, led by the Civil Service, found that the Civil Service code was prima facie broken as a result of the undeclared contact between Ms Gray and the Leader of the Opposition."

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