Exclusive

'Nothing improper at all': Sir Keir Starmer refuses ten times to say when he first approached Sue Gray over job

6 March 2023, 09:49 | Updated: 6 March 2023, 10:14

Starmer refuses to answer when he first asked Sue Gray to work for him

By Asher McShane

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer this morning repeatedly refused to give a detailed timeline about when he first approached Sue Gray for the job as his chief of staff.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on Call Keir on LBC this morning about the controversial appointment, Sir Keir refused 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.'

He said Ms Gray will set out when she was approached by Labour as part of her leaving process.

He told Nick: "I had absolutely no contact with Sue Gray during the preparation of her report when she was writing or anything like that, so the whole suggestion is a complete and utter nonsense."

Sir Keir Starmer took questions over Sue Gray's appointment this morning
Sir Keir Starmer took questions over Sue Gray's appointment this morning. Picture: LBC/Alamy

Read more: 'Great integrity': Labour defends appointment of ‘highly respected’ partygate investigator Sue Gray amid backlash

Read more: 'There are bigger fish to fry': Minister dismisses Boris Johnson nominating his father Stanley for a knighthood

Sir Keir did not indicate exactly when he first approached Ms Gray about becoming his chief of staff, saying: "I've been looking for a chief of staff for a little while now, but Sue will lay that out, but there's nothing improper at all."

He added: "Sue Gray is known for her integrity, she's known for her delivery in government, and those are two things that I think are essential to an incoming Labour government if we get the privilege of being voted in next year."

"If you look it’s a dwindling group of people around him that are still supporting him [Boris Johnson]. I had no contact with Sue during that entire period as you would expect.

Nick asked Sir Keir when he first contacted her about the role six times and he said it was for Ms Gray to ‘lay out’ the timeframe if she saw fit.

He said he had been looking for a chief of staff ‘for a number of weeks now.’

“She’s not a friend, I don’t mix with her, I’m not in the same social circles or anything like that,” he said.

The Labour leader has faced questions after it emerged that Ms Gray, who received national prominence for her role investigating lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, will become his chief of staff.

She is expected to submit a formal request on Monday to take on the role when she puts in her application to Parliament's anti-corruption watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba).

Boris Johnson and allies have leapt on the appointment as part of efforts to discredit the Privileges Committee inquiry into whether he lied to the House of Commons over lockdown breaches.

Speaking on Sunday, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris praised the "integrity" of Ms Gray, who he said he has worked with in the past.

But he also sought to put pressure on Sir Keir, telling Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News: "This is where Keir can help out his new chief of staff by just publishing all the messages and things he might have had with her at that point in time.

"I've dealt with Sue Gray in the Northern Ireland Office as a civil servant.

"I see her as a woman of integrity as well. So I have no issue with that.

"I think Keir can clear this up in seconds by saying this is what we talked about at that time, there's nothing to see here."

Today was the first time Sir Keir has taken questions about when conversations began with Ms Gray, who is expected to await the decision of the Acoba before starting the role.

Parliament's anti-corruption watchdog can advise waiting periods before civil servants take on other jobs and the Prime Minister ultimately makes the final decision.

On Saturday, Ms Gray received backing from a former Conservative Cabinet Office minister as Francis Maude said he had never the "slightest reason to question either her integrity or her political impartiality".

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

The victim was pronounced dead at Harold Wood station in east London

Murder investigation after person killed in ‘unprovoked’ attack at London station

Israel Palestinians

Israel ready to halt war during Ramadan if hostage deal reached, says Biden

Oleg Orlov

Moscow court jails human rights activist for 30 months for Ukraine war criticism

Richard Tice said he turned down two Tories who tried to join the party

Reform UK leader Richard Tice says he rejected two Tory MPs who tried to defect in the last year

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s father accused of punching photographer in the face in Sydney

"Any form of prejudice or racism" is unacceptable and does not show "who we are as a country", Mr Sunak said.

Rishi Sunak says he's 'living proof' the UK isn't racist after Lee Anderson refused to apologise for Islamist claim

Michael Tomlinson repeatedly refused to answer Nick Ferrari's question

Nick Ferrari cuts off minister who refuses to answer his questions nine times over Lee Anderson's 'Islamophobic remarks'

Rishi Sunak Launches Single-Use Vape Ban At A School In Darlington

Vape tax and another National Insurance cut could come in next week's Budget

The scam was reportedly worth £3million

British Airways supervisor 'on the run in India' after 'running £3m immigration scam' from Heathrow check-in desk

The men will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court today

Three men charged in terror probe into 'extreme right wing activity'

Taylor Swift's father Scott Swift, 71, has been accused of assaulting a photographer

Taylor Swift's father Scott accused of ‘punching’ photographer ‘in the chops’

Biden is hopeful of a ceasefire by the end of the week

Biden 'hopeful' of ceasefire in Gaza by the 'end of the week' as hostage proposal sent to Hamas

Joe Biden eating ice cream with Seth Meyers

Joe Biden critics slam US President for eating ice cream as he answer questions on Gaza ceasefire

The British Transport Police has launched a manhunt

Manhunt after two boys attacked with ‘corrosive substance’ at London Tube station in latest incident to rock the capital

Australia Double Fatality

Police asked not to march at Sydney Mardi Gras parade after alleged murders

The MoD said the change came after 'listening to feedback'

Furious military wives force Army U-turn over plans to allocate accommodation based on number of children