Tory fury as civil servant Sue Gray – who carried out Partygate probe – quits ‘to become Keir Starmer’s chief of staff’
- Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is on verge of recruiting Sue Gray as chief of staff
- He has been looking to hire a civil servant with strong experience of Whitehall
Tories vented anger today as the civil servant who headed the Partygate probe quit amid reported she is becoming Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.
Cabinet Office enforcer Sue Gray is reportedly about to be confirmed in the key role as the Labour leader prepares for potentially entering No10.
Sir Keir has been hunting for a mandarin with experience at the highest levels of Whitehall. Veteran Ms Gray is understood to have resigned, although Labour has yet to announce her appointment.
The manoeuvring has already sparked a backlash from Conservatives who were incensed by the way the probe into Whitehall lockdown breaches was handled.
Former Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries – a close ally of Boris Johnson – tweeted: ‘Sue Gray move to Starmer’s office not surprising… The Gray report was a stitch up of PM and CSs.’
The Labour leader is hoping to recruit Cabinet Office enforcer Sue Gray (pictured) as his new chief of staff
Sir Keir, pictured speaking during PMQs on March 1, is known to be keen to have a civil servant with experience at the highest levels of Whitehall by his side
Sir Keir is thought to have set his sights on Ms Gray after being turned down by the Treasury mandarin sacked by Liz Truss, Tom Scholar.
A Government source said: ‘He’s been fishing in the civil service pool for some time.’
The news is likely to renew concerns about the politicisation of the civil service.
A No 10 spokesman said: ‘I can confirm Sue Gray has resigned from the post of second permanent secretary in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
‘This was accepted by the department’s permanent secretary and the Cabinet Secretary with immediate effect.
‘We will not be commenting further on individual personal matters. But you asked me specifically when, that took place this afternoon.’
Now in her sixties, Ms Gray has spent most of her career in Whitehall aside from an unlikely spell running a pub in Northern Ireland during The Troubles with her country music singer husband.
Working in the Cabinet Office in recent decades, where she now runs the Union and Constitution Directorate, she has been respected by politicians on all sides.
Former PM Gordon Brown wrote in his memoir that she could be relied upon for ‘wise advice when – as all too regularly happened – mini-crises and crises befell’.
And David Cameron’s policy chief Oliver Letwin was said to have once explained: ‘Our great United Kingdom is actually entirely run by a lady called Sue Gray, the Head of Ethics or something in the Cabinet Office.
‘Unless she agrees, things just don’t happen. Cabinet reshuffles, departmental reorganisations, the whole lot – it’s all down to Sue Gray.’
However she only came to the attention of the wider public when she was drafted in to investigate lockdown-breaking gatherings in Downing Street.
Her initial report published in January last year blamed a ‘failure of leadership’ at the top and said some events during the pandemic ‘should not have been allowed to take place’.
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