Shadow culture secretary condemned suggestions from Boris Johnson’s allies that Sue Gray’s plans to join Sir Keir Starmer‘s office show the partygate scandal was manufactured to bring down the former prime minister.
Lucy Powell told Times Radio: “I think that’s just a ludicrous claim by Boris Johnson and stands in stark contrast to what he said at the time the report was published, and all the while that the report and the investigation was taking place, when the prime minister – and indeed the rest of the Conservative government – were at pains to tell the country how independent and impartial, and how formidable, Sue Gray was as a civil servant, which she absolutely was.”
Ms Powell said it was an attempt by Mr Johnson to “vindicate himself further”.
Ms Powell insisted “there’s no suggestion whatsoever” that Sue Gray would reveal any information to Labour she has been privy to as a senior Cabinet Office official.
Asked whether Ms Gray’s knowledge of ministerial appointments and conflicts of interest made her attractive to Labour, Ms Powell told Times Radio: “Absolutely not. And, of course, there’s no suggestion whatsoever that Sue would reveal any of that information.
“It’s not what she’s coming in to do.”
Dave Penman, the leader of a union which represents senior civil servants said it is “extraordinary” that anyone is trying to “trash” Sue Gray’s reputation for integrity over her potentially taking a top job with the Labour Party.
Mr Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, pointed out Ms Gray got the job as partygate enforcer after Cabinet Secretary Simon Case had to step down from the investigation when he became embroiled in claims of partying during the pandemic.
He told Sky News: “She was asked when Simon Case had to recuse himself and what she did – which is what civil servants do – is to go after the evidence.
“She produced a report which was welcomed at the time, including by the prime minister.
“Those who are criticising, and I am not saying there is anything wrong with that, (but) they are just trying to smear it on the basis of what happened a year later in relation to Sue’s potential appointment with the Labour Party. It is just extraordinary that they are trying to use that.
“What we are talking about here is someone who has given her life to public service.”
Sue Gray’s plans to join Labour as Sir Keir Starmer’s chief of staff “doesn’t pass the sniff test”, a Tory MP said this morning before being cut off on air.
Alexander Stafford, a former parliamentary aide to Boris Johnson, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Of course it’s dodgy. How can somebody who only a matter of months ago condemned one prime minister, then go and work for the Leader of the Opposition in such a close capacity?
“This really doesn’t pass the sniff test, it really undermines the work that she’s done, undermines the civil service and really puts in question Sir Keir’s complete judgement.”
He claimed it discredits the “partygate allegations” but sidestepped questions on whether Ms Gray herself had anything to do with lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.
Mr Stafford also declined to say whether there should be a fresh inquiry into Mr Johnson’s decision to allow parties to take place, leading presenter Nick Robinson to end the interview early after growing impatient with Mr Stafford’s refusal to answer his questions.